US Bombing their way to a Peace Deal in Afghanistan

On September 19, US forces conducted 30 strikes, one of the 30 strikes by US drones targeted and killed at least 30 people resting after a long day of labour collecting Pine Nuts shells in the eastern province of Nangarhar. Around 200 people had come from local villages and neighbouring provinces to collect Pine Nuts harvest from Spin Ghar Mountain foothills, located in Wazir Tang, Khogeyani District of Nangarhar, an area contested regularly between the Taliban, the ISIS and the Government. The local traders commissioning the Pine Nuts labourer had “obtained an authorization letter from the government informing them of their activities in the contested area”, said Waheed Mozhdah a political analyst based in Kabul.

Pine Nuts collecting is a seasonal job, where the labourers usually earn from 350 to 1500 Afs (equal to 5-25 USD) per day.

On September 23, US forces conducted 42 strikes, twelve targeted different locations in Helmand Province. On the night of 23 September in an attack in Helmand province, the government forces killed at least 70 people. The government forces raided and bombed a house where a wedding ceremony was ongoing.

The residence of Helmand province protested the killing of civilians. The government confirmed the attack and claimed to have killed the Al-Qaeda operatives.

Abdul Majid Akhundzadah, a member of the provincial council of Helmand province said: “last night Afghan National Security Forces raided a wedding ceremony in Musa Qala district, 40 civilians and 6 militants killed”.

“We are saddened and devasted to hear that civilians have lost their lives in an incident in Helmand despite President Ghani’s repeated call for extra cautions in conducting military operations. Helmand Governor has been instructed to send an investigation team to the area.” tweeted Sediq Sediqqi spokesperson for the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

In both the attacks the government is claimed to have targeted foreign fighters, in particular in the Wazir Tangi area the target was ISIS.

Violence at its Highest level in Afghanistan

The number of US strikes in Afghanistan rose drastically in August, with official military data showing that US forces carried out more than 800 strikes compared with 537 the month before. The number was even greater in the following month, in September the US Forces in Afghanistan bombed terror and security targets with a total of 1,113 strikes.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism,  “the rising number of strikes is probably linked to US efforts to put pressure on the Taliban as both sides negotiated a possible peace deal.”

As a result of the recent uptake in the violence by both sides, the Afghan forces backed by the US artillery and Airpower, the Taliban and other terror groups’, figures released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) show record-high levels of civilian casualties in the third quarter of 2019. In the first nine months of 2019, UNAMA recorded 8,239 civilian casualties (2,563 killed and 5,676 injured). In the latest quarter, UNAMA documented an unprecedented number of civilian casualties, verified civilian casualties from 1 July to 30 September increased by 42 per cent in comparison to the same period in 2018, 4,313 civilian casualties (1,174 deaths and 3,139 injured.

There is also the increase from 1 January to 30 September of civilian casualties caused by aerial and search operations undertaken by pro-government forces.

Previously, BBC findings show that August was the deadliest as the peace negotiations were ongoing at the time.

In early September the U.S President Donald Trump tweeted a few days after the cancellation of peace talks, “the Taliban has never been hit harder than it is being hit right now. Killing 12 people, including one great American soldier, was not a good idea. There are much better ways to set up a negotiation. The Taliban knows they made a big mistake, and they have no idea how to recover”.

On the other hand, the Taliban said in a statement “our struggle for the past eighteen years will prove to the US that we will not be convinced until we will end our occupation of the country as a whole and that the Afghans will be left to their ends. We continue our Jihad and firmly believe in the ultimate victory”.

“The war is imposed on us and we are ready to fight it for 100 years”, the spokesperson for the Taliban delegation in Doha Stanikzi said.

“We held productive negotiations with the US negotiation team and finalized an agreement, and both sides began making preparations for the announcement and signing of the agreement” The Taliban further added in a statement.

“Now, as President of the United States has announced the suspension of negotiations with the Islamic Emirate, this will harm America more than anyone else. It will damage its reputation, unmask its anti-peace policy to the world, even more, increase its loss of life and treasure and present its political interactions as erratic” the statement further added.

The US-Taliban peace talks ended in September when Donald Trump tweeted to call off the meeting with the Taliban Delegation who were planning to meet at Camp David.

Last week a prisoner’s swap has taken place between the Taliban and the Afghan government aiming at confidence-building measures to ensure reduction in violence and restart of the peace negotiations.