Afghanistan back in IS grip

Afghan security forces are seen at the site of a second blast in Kabul, Afghanistan April 30, 2018. REUTERS

The Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for the twin suicide bombing attacks in Kabul on Monday, which claimed the lives of over 29 people, nine of them journalists. The first explosion occurred when a motorcycle rider detonated himself near the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency. Half-an-hour later, a man posing as a journalist blew himself up at the site of the first explosion, killing medical emergency workers and journalists reporting the first bombing. A few hours later, a suicide bomber in a car hit a convoy of foreign troops at Kandahar. Around 12 Afghan children, who were nearby, were killed. Since early this year, major attacks have occurred with greater frequency and the security forces seem unable to stop them. This is partly because the strength of the Afghan security forces has declined by 10% over the past 12 months, the US government watchdog, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), said in its latest report. Taliban and other groups now control or influence 14% of Afghanistan’s 407 districts.

Violence in Afghanistan is expected to grow in the coming months for several reasons. Last week, the Taliban announced the start of its annual "spring offensive" and the attack at Kandahar could have been aimed at marking the start of another phase of heightened violence in Afghanistan. Besides, competition between the Taliban and the IS has been spiralling in recent months. Both groups are carrying out high-profile attacks in Kabul and other cities, which are aimed at impressing their supporters and potential funders. Although the IS’ influence is restricted to a small area in Nangarhar province, it is in a neck-and-neck race with the Taliban when it comes to bestiality.

Besides, general elections are scheduled to be held in October and attacks targeting candidates, voters and polling booths can be expected. Afghanistan will also be holding its first-ever district council election, which will see more candidates in the fray and campaigns in every nook and cranny of the country. Election-related violence has begun already. A week ago, IS targeted a voter registration centre in Kabul and killed at least 57 people and injured over a 100 others. The Taliban has rejected President Ashraf Ghani’s call to participate in the elections and has called for a boycott. This is unfortunate since Afghans are keen to participate in the democratic exercise. General elections, which were to be held in June 2015, have been postponed several times on account of poor security, delays in electoral reforms etc. It would be unfortunate if the surge in violence forces the Afghan Election Commission to postpone it again.

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Afghanistan back in IS grip

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