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Afghanistan condemns Taliban ‘sabre-rattling’ in Helmand

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KABUL: A recent string of militant attacks on the Helmand province and the fighting which entered its 11th day has given the Afghan government’s negotiating team the jitters, prompting their scorns for the group’s ‘sabre-rattling’.

The Afghan delegates say the Taliban attacks on Helmand and Badakhshan have impinged upon the peace talks in Qatar and that the Taliban’s goal has been to influence the negotiations.

“The intensity of the Taliban attacks and the casualties inflicted on our military and civilians every day certainly have detrimental effects on the peace negotiations,” said Fauzia Kofi, a member of Afghanistan’s negotiating team.

“This issue has been raised many times at the negotiating table and the Taliban want to show their strength with more attacks,” she stated.

But they must come in terms with the fact that the war brings nothing but destruction and genocide. We hope unnecessary demonstrations of power will be avoided, she added.

Another member of the peace delegation, Sharifa Zermati, said that neither side would ride to power through war.

This is as the Taliban have intensified their attacks in six provinces in two weeks. There have been reports of civilian and military casualties in Helmand and Badakhshan provinces.

Reports from Badakhshan indicate that the Taliban have ramped up their attacks on Faizabad city and Khawan district of the province.

The escalation happens in the backdrop of the Afghan government’s continuous demand for ceasefire during the prelude to peace talks. But the Taliban have brushed off the demand.

Tamim Asi, director of the Institute of War and Peace Studies and a former deputy defense minister, believes the Taliban are miscalculating their leverage in the peace talks and that intensifying the attacks will thwart the negotiations. “The surge in violence shows that the Taliban’s main strategy is war and that peace is merely a tactic for them. This is a huge miscalculation from their part, because the escalation of violence will lead to the failure of peace talks and push Afghanistan into a new and very dangerous chapter of civil war,” he said asking the militant group to reduce their hostilities and bargain at the negotiating table.

The uptick in violence has made the Afghan negotiating team ambivalent on continuing the talks in Qatar.

It has also prompted a bevy of criticism about the acquiescence of the international community and the Afghan government against the Taliban.

However, the Afghan Ministry of Defense says the situation in Helmand is changing. “Overall, the situation in Helmand is improving. Areas infiltrated by the Taliban have been cleared and now under our control,” said Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman of the Defense Ministry.

“The insurgents have entrenched in people’s houses,” he said.

Fresh reinforcements have been dispatched to Helmand, he stated.

The Helmand war has displaced more than 35,000 people and has drawn criticism from human rights groups. Government sources have accused the Taliban of violating their commitments not to attack major cities, but the group has not commented.

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