Situation in Afghanistan from bad to worse

KABUL, Oct 6 (KUNA) — The situation in war-devastated Afghanistan continues to slip from bad to worse despite efforts by the government and other international players to call dissidents, whether Taliban or those loyal to former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to join the government and engage in negotiations.

According to UN figures, violence in Afghanistan rose by 33 percent in 2007 compared to the previous year.

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Afghan Defence Ministry Spokesman General Zahir Azimi had admitted in press reports that suicide bombings in provinces — especially the southern zone of Afghanistan and even in Kabul — had contributed to the heavy death toll among military personnel and civilians.
The country’s fortified capital witnessed the worst such attacks on military and police personnel only last week. Thirty military personnel were killed when a bomber, disguised as Defence Ministry staffer, detonated himself inside the bus. Two days later, another attack was carried out in the same fashion on a police bus, killing at least 15 people, including two school boys.

Azimi said the ministry adopted additional security measures to bar terrorists from attacking civilians and policemen. However, militants are coming up with new techniques.
Rough estimates indicate that around 5,100 people were killed in suicide attacks, fighting, roadside landmines and IED blasts and airstrikes by the NATO and coalition troops during the first nine months of this year — an alarming 55 percent increase over the same period last year.

Although in most cases it is civilians that are vulnerable to attacks, the death toll among Afghan policemen has also considerably increased.

According to the Afghan Interior Ministry, around 600 policemen have been killed so far this year in Taliban attacks all over the country.

The ministry’s spokesman Zmaray Bashari told KUNA that the Taliban were now resorting to roadside bombings and suicide attacks instead of direct fighting with local and foreign troops.
Worst of all is the new trend of kidnapping of foreigners, as well as locals working with NGOs, raising the sense of insecurity among foreigners and locals and hampering reconstruction and welfare activities in the provinces.

The kidnapping of 23 Koreans, two Germans, and five Afghan health workers in Kandahar; three Red Cross officials in Maidan Wardak; and five de-miners in Paktika are the fresh examples.

According to analysts, while secret deals for the release of the captives by their respective governments and the Afghan government embolden the militants, payment of ransom had also encouraged gangs of thieves and robbers in the provinces to abduct foreigners or locals working for NGOs or the Afghan government and get handsome earnings in exchange for their release.

The kidnappings and attacks on civilians and police signify the worsening security situation in Afghanistan. Sensing the danger, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked all the dissidents to come and join the government and resolve their problems through negotiations.
It is believed that the Afghan government, which was averse to talks with those involved in violence only a few months back, was pushed by some its international backers to resolve the dispute through talks.

Addressing a news conference last week, President Karzai’s spokesman Humayun Hamidzada renewed the government’s offer for talks with the Taliban, which was rejected by the latter until such a time as the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Although none of the two sides have confirmed a breakthrough in negotiations, sources said some behind the scene efforts were underway to achieve some sort of reconciliation with at least the moderate Taliban elements.

The same issue was raised by Karzai’s spokesman during his weekly press conference, when he said that the Taliban were “not a single entity. There are several groups, and some of them are seriously considering the government’s talks offer.” The continuing war and insurgency in Afghanistan is badly affecting the lives of common Afghans. Reconstruction activities in many parts of the country have almost came to a halt. Schools are closed, many people have little or no access to such facilities as health, communications, electricity and clean drinking water.

“Peace, not war, can solve our problems and pave the way for access to facilities and employment,” said citizen Abdul Ghani, 45, who had come from the southern Ghazni province seeking treatment for his wife at a Kabul hospital.