The Taliban on Friday assassinated the director of Afghanistan’s Government Information Media Center, days after a failed bid on the country’s defense minister
The Taliban on Friday assassinated the director of Afghanistan’s Government Information Media Center, days after a failed bid on the country’s defense minister. The group later took responsibility for the attack.
The targeted killing came as the insurgent group and the government forces are involved in fierce battles across the country, with the former surrounding many provincial capitals in the south and west of the country. For almost two weeks, fierce fighting has been going on in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern province of Helmand.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, said that their fighters had killed Dawa Khan Menapal, head of the government’s press operations for the local and foreign media. Menapal had served as a deputy spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
This week saw the resumption of targeted attacks--which had been slowed down significantly in the last three months-- against senior government functionaries, indicating the group’s desire to eliminate senior leaders in the country.
The war between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government forces has intensified over the past few months as US and NATO troops complete their pullout from the war-torn country.
The Taliban are now trying to seize provincial capitals after already taking smaller administrative districts. However, the government forces have also intensified airstrikes against the group.
As the Taliban pushes into cities, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has estimated that close to a million people have been displaced by the recent military offensives.
Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at Woodrow Wilson Centre, a Washington-based think tank, wrote in a Foreign Policy brief this week, “The urban offensives also have demographic implications. If the Taliban seize cities, the insurgents would bring an even more sizable share of the population under their control.”
Talks between the warring Afghan parties produced no breakthrough to end fighting, partly because of the Taliban’s over-reliance on military ways to achieve leverage over the government.
“The Taliban is not interested in negotiation seriously right now because of what is happening on the battlefield,” Vanda Felbab Brown, the director of the Initiative on Non-State Armed Actors at Brookings Institution, was quoted as saying by The New York Post. So far, what the group has put on the table is “surrender terms,” she added.
However, despite the several shortcomings of the Doha process, it is important to keep talks alive, said Andrew Watkins, the senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group. He stressed that the Taliban might return to the negotiation table if the Afghan government manages to hold onto defend major cities and keep the conflict stalemated.