n this file photo taken on August 27, 2017 US Marines keep watch as unseen Afghan National Army soldiers participate in an IED (improvised explosive device) training exercise at the Shorab Military Camp in Lashkar Gah in the Afghan province of Helmand. - The Trump administration is getting ready to pull back thousands of troops from Afghanistan as part of a peace deal with the Taliban to begin negotiating directly with the Afghan government. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP)

On the Eve of Afghan Peace, Suicide Bombing Restarts War in Kabul

On Feb. 11, Afghans woke up to a suicide bombing after 89 days of calm in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The bombing restarted war in Kabul just as the United States was reporting progress in talks and potentially signing a deal with the Taliban in the near future.

The Bombing

While Afghans were rushing to work in the midst of snow on Tuesday morning, February 11, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the Afghan military school of Marshal Fahim University, throwing Kabul into chaos. The explosion sent a shockwave across the homes of the six million inhabitants of the city.

The Afghan Interior Ministry said that the bombing claimed lives of two civilians and four military personals and wounded 13 people, including five civilians. Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, added that a car packed with explosives was seized from the site of the bombing in Kabul. According to Rahimi the Taliban are behind the attack. The Taliban neither rejected it nor accepted it.

Potential US-Taliban Peace Deal?

In the evening, news of a potential deal between the United States and the Taliban circulated. The New York Times reported that President Trump had conditionally approved a deal with the Taliban, beginning of a gradual U.S. troop withdrawal and talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. CNN published news that the U.S. was announcing a deal with the Taliban this week.

“I can’t thank anyone nor can I get excited about such news,” said Orzala Ashraf Nemat, Ph.D., who directs Afghanistan Evaluation Research Unit based in Kabul.  “We lost six humans in one incident. Six families were shattered. A father, a husband, a wife, a kid was lost. They receive zero support.”

After releasing a shiny statement and condolences for victims of the suicide bombing, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah tweeted about a call U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made with them in which Pompeo informed them of “notable progress made in the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban.”

Ghani: ‘A Welcome Development’

“Secretary [Pompeo] informed me about the Taliban’s proposal with regards to bringing a significant and enduring reduction in violence,” President Ashraf Ghani tweeted. “This is a welcome development and I am pleased that our principal position on peace thus far has begun to yield fruitful results.”

US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives have held several rounds of talks in Doha, Qatar beginning in late 2018, however the peace talks have faced stagnation over violence. The U.S. and the Afghan government had demanded a ceasefire as a part of the deal, but the Taliban took issue with the definition of a reduction of violence.

Simultaneously with peace efforts to end the 18-year long insurgency in Afghanistan, the Taliban and the Afghan government—along with U.S. airpower—continued the harsh battle across the country. Peace efforts have had an enormous cost in blood for Afghan civilians, as the Taliban see violence as their leverage and the U.S. and Afghan government consider airstrikes as their leverage in getting favorable terms for peace.

‘The World Must See The Price Of Afghan Blood’

“The world must see the price of Afghan blood,” said Director Nemat. “Price of Afghan is not considered. It has become a number and headline. Every day, the war takes our lives and kills our youths.”

Afghanistan;s Independent Human Rights Commission documented 10, 772 civilian causalities in 2019, during which the U.S. and the Taliban were talking over a deal. According to the Afghan human rights watchdog, 2,817 civilians were killed and 7,955 others were wounded. The causalities included 2,696 children.

Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission documented 10,772 civilian causalities in 2019, during which the U.S. and the Taliban were talking over a deal. According to the Afghan human rights watchdog, 2,817 civilians were killed and 7,955 others were wounded. The causalities included 2,696 children.

The 2019 civilian causalities were added to a long list of civilian casualties in the Afghan war. From 2009 to 2019, 86,823 civilians were killed and wounded in the war, according to the annual report by the Afghan human rights watchdog. 28, 979 civilians, including children, were killed, and 58, 844 others were wounded. The report disclaimers that the causalities might be much higher.

‘Nobody Hears The Voice Of The Victims’

“It is such pity that when we talk about peace, nobody hears the voice of victims,” said Director Nemat. “The victims are not part of the peace deal. As long as the person who lost loved once to war is not part of a deal, we will not achieve sustainable peace.”

In addition to the victims that have been excluded from peace talks, the Afghan government has been left off of the talks. The Taliban refused to meet representatives of the government who were waiting next door in Doha, Qatar, in December 2018.

After the Taliban’s government was toppled by the United States in 2001, the insurgent group has been pushing a deal with the U.S. since then. They finally sat to hold direct talks with U.S. diplomats in July 2018. U.S. diplomats and Taliban representatives were about to sign a deal that President Trump called off talks over a Taliban-car bomb that killed a U.S. service member in Kabul in September, 2019.

President Trump discussed Afghanistan with his close aids on the way to the ceremony Monday of receiving the remains of two U.S. soldiers who were killed in a joint Afghan-U.S. operation in eastern Afghanistan on February 8, 2020. Trump’s approval of a peace deal is dependant on the Taliban’s commitment to reducing violence. After signing a deal, the Taliban would reduce violence in a seven-day trial—failure to do so could reset everything back to the start.

If the Taliban reduce violence, the U.S. has promised to cut the amount of troops in the country from current levels of 12,000 to 13,000 down to 8,000. It would be the beginning of another round of tough talks between the Afghan government, politicians and the Taliban, as they seek a way to share power and govern a country that has been burning in war for almost half a century now.