The US watchdog said on Friday that the violent attacks in Afghanistan’s war jumped to record levels in the last quarter of 2019 that underscored the conflict’s continued toll despite relative calm in Kabul.
The nation’s capital and other urban areas have enjoyed a rare stretch of more than two months without the sorts of a large-scale bomb attack that frequently rock the city and cause mass causalities.
According to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), “enemy-initiated attacks” rose sharply last year, with the fourth quarter seeing a total of 8,204 attacks — up from 6,974 in the same period in 2018.
Last year, in September, the first round of presidential voting was held that saw the highest number of casualty-causing attacks since recording began in 2010.
The Pentagon has also continued to up the tempo of operations, with American warplanes dropping more bombs on Afghanistan in 2019 than at any other time in at least a decade, according to the US Air Force.
Washington and the Taliban are continuing to wrangle over a possible agreement that would see US troops begin to leave Afghanistan in return for security guarantees.
The US has for months been calling on the militants to reduce violence, but both sides have said little in recent days about the status of talks and the Kabul government wants the US to push for a full ceasefire.
On January 19, US and Taliban began a new round of peace talks in Doha that “all allies” of the country, as well as the “people of Afghanistan,” were “insisting on a ceasefire” before the next step in the peace process.
Last month, the Afghan government disclosed a list of delegates for the peace negotiating team once the US and the Taliban finalize their peace deal.
In August, peace talks between Washington and the Taliban had to reach a deal on the withdrawal of thousands of American troops collapsed after President Trump cited an attack that killed a US soldier as his reason for pulling out of negotiations. The talks did not include the Afghan government.
The Taliban had never agreed to end their violent campaign against Afghan and foreign forces while negotiations were taking place. Sixteen US troops have been killed this year.
In 2001, US-led forces overthrew the Taliban government in Afghanistan because the militants had given safe haven to the Al-Qaeda network to plan the attacks on the US on September 11.
A possible US-Taliban agreement is expected to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks between the Taliban and the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
The Taliban have for long rejected to hold any official and direct talks with the Afghan government before it reaches an agreement with the US on its troop withdrawal from the country.