Against the backdrop of stepped up attacks by the Taliban across Afghanistan, the Afghan Ministry of Defence issued (Aug 2) a statement that 455 Taliban terrorists were killed and over 200 injured in different operations undertaken (Aug 1-2) by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) in the provinces of Nangarhar, Paktia, Paktika, Logar, Kandahar, Herat, Faryab, Jowzjan, Balkh, Samangan, Helmand, Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan and Kapisa. Earlier, the ANDSF claimed to have repelled (July 30) the Taliban’s offensive on four provincial capital cities of Herat, Helmand, Takhar and Kandahar provinces. US Army air strikes were reportedly conducted in support of ANDSF in Herat.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) Special Forces launched a clearing operation against Taliban insurgents in Khogyani District of Nangarhar province in which Special Forces destroyed four Taliban bases, arms and ammunition, and explosives. During the operation, three Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) cadres who had plans to attack the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, Idris, a Pakistan national, Osama and Ismail, were killed while they were moving to Peshawar for treatment. Meanwhile, Taliban Shadow Governor of Nangarhar Sheikh Neda Mohammad cut off the drinking water supply to a security post located in Shin Khora area of Sherzad District and also placed IEDs surrounding water storage areas to put pressure on security forces to surrender.
Inputs continue to indicate Pakistani assistance to the Taliban. About 170 Pakistani terrorists have occupied a vacated ANDSF camp in Kamdesh District of Nuristan Province, and are facilitating the transit of about 50 Pakistani terrorists daily who are entering from Pakistan to join Taliban cadres. In a related development, Taliban commanders in Kabul Province were planning to carry out attacks in Khak-e-Jabar District, using reinforcements from Nangarhar Province. About 200 Al-Qaeda terrorists of Pakistani nationality, led by one Abdul Rehman Sindhi entered Maywand District of Kandahar Province.
Separately, the Afghan MoFA, in a communication (July 24) to all its Diplomatic Missions globally, informed that since President Biden’s announcement (April 14) of complete US/NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, 4,050 ANDSF personnel have been killed, 7,280 wounded and 1686 captured by the Taliban, along with 2,000 civilians killed and 2,230 wounded; foreign terror outfits continued to operate under the Taliban banner and the outfit was receiving extensive support from Al-Qaeda (AQ), Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), ETIM, IMU, and Jundullah, particularly in Northern Afghanistan; Pakistani terror outfits including LeT, JeM and Al Badr were mobilizing their terrorists for fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan; Pakistani ISI was regularly deploying its proxies under the banner of AQ and Haqqani Network (HQN) in Afghanistan; Pakistani outfits were directly involved in fighting in Eastern Provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan, with LeT deploying 7,200 fighters; 5,000 Taliban terrorists have recently been trained by Pakistani military at LeT training camps in
Hyderabad, Punjab Province of Pakistan; 800 LeT and Al-Badr terrorists have recently been deployed to fight in Eastern and Northern Afghanistan; Central Asian terrorists including Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Chechens and Uyghurs have been fighting in Northern Afghanistan alongside the Taliban, especially in Badghis Province. The Pakistani Establishment, with support from AQ, was reportedly making efforts to get the Taliban and Da’esh to work together in Afghanistan.
Significantly, the UN Security Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team’s Report underlined (July 22) that the threat from terror groups such as Da’esh and AQ is expanding in Afghanistan, including Nuristan, Badghis, Sar-e- Pul, Baghlan, Badakhshan, Kunduz, and Kabul, where fighters have formed sleeper cells. Indications were that the Central Asian group Khatiba Imam al-Bukhari (KIB) received financial support in Afghanistan through hawala channels from its leadership in Idlib. This incentivizes the Afghan affiliate to grow its numbers and undertake more high-profile attacks using suicide bombers. KIB leader Dilshod Dekhanov, an Uzbek national, recently requested that the Taliban leadership unite all Central Asian groups in Afghanistan under his leadership.
Meanwhile, the State Ministry of Peace Affairs disclosed (July 29) that over 24,000 Taliban militants and at least 5,500 civilians were killed or injured during April- July. During this period, the Taliban launched 22,000 attacks. It was underlined that the influx of over 10,000 fighters from outside Afghanistan indicated that foreign hands were behind the war in Afghanistan. Incidentally, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, in its latest report (Aug 1) too pointed to an 80% increase in civilian casualties in the first six months of 2021.
It is learnt that over 600 schools have been closed by the Taliban, adversely affecting many students. Further, as a consequence of Taliban violence, 13 million Afghan citizens had lost access to public services, while 50,000 public servants including women were being prevented from discharging their functions. In a bid to hamper ANDSF communciations, the Taliban was destroying telecom network infrastructure, including 11 sites of Salaam Telecommunication Network in nine districts of Paktia Province. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, (UNAMA) office in Herat came under rocket attack (July 30) by the Taliban, while the runway at Kandahar airport was also damaged by them.
Separately, in captured areas of Ghazni Province, the Taliban were forcing men to grow beards and avoid using smartphones. In a related development, Hazara leader Ustad Mohammad Mohaqiq accused (July 29) the Taliban of executing Hazara civilians in areas under the outfit’s control. Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, over 20,000 families had been displaced from Kunduz, Baghlan, Takhar, Jowzjan, Helmand, Laghman, Paktia and Ghazni Provinces in the month of July. Afghan Ministry of Finance also stated (July 31) that Taliban’s take-over of the country’s 6 dry ports had led to a decrease in national revenue since the past two months. The ongoing instability had adversely affected supplies across the country, resulting in food shortages and inflation.
Separately, Iran reduced (July 25) electricity supply to Herat from 65 MVA to 25 MVA leading to closure of about 100 factories due to shortage of power. Two hospitals were constructed at Torbat-e-Heydarieh city and Torbat-e-Jam city along the Iranian border for the treatment of injured Taliban cadres in South-Western Afghanistan. The hospitals are reportedly operated by the IRGC-Quds Force and other Iranian medical staff. A large number of injured Taliban cadres from South and South-West Provinces of Afghanistan have been shifted to these hospitals for treatment.
On their part, Afghan Diaspora across the world have held protests against Pakistani support for the Taliban and interference in Afghanistan. These demonstrations have been reported from London and Copenhagen (July 23), Berlin (July 24), Brussels (July 25), Stockholm (July 28), Vienna (July 31) and in Canada (Aug 1). About 200 Afghan nationals also staged a demonstration (Kabul, July 30) denouncing Pakistan for ‘sponsoring terrorism.’