INTERNATIONAL

Taliban attacks Afghan bases, throwing peace talks in doubt

33 attacks in 16 out of 34 Afghan provinces in just 24 hours

The Taliban carried out dozens of attacks on Afghan Army bases, officials said on Tuesday, hours after ending a partial truce and throwing into doubt peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents.

The intra-Afghan negotiations are due to begin March 10, according to a U.S.-Taliban deal signed in Doha on Saturday, but a dispute over a prisoner swap has raised questions about whether they will go ahead.

The agreement includes a commitment for the Taliban to release up to 1,000 prisoners and for the Afghan government to free around 5,000 insurgent captives — something the militants have cited as a prerequisite for talks but which President Ashraf Ghani has refused to do before negotiations start.

The row has highlighted the tough road ahead, with the Taliban’s decision to end a partial truce on Monday complicating matters further.

Six civilians killed

In the last 24 hours the Taliban conducted 33 attacks in 16 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said. “As a result, six civilians were killed and 14 wounded. Eight enemy were also killed, 15 wounded,” he said on Twitter.

Two soldiers were killed in one of the attacks in southern Kandahar province, a government statement said.

An attack in Logar province near Kabul killed five security forces, the provincial governor’s spokesman Didar Lawang told AFP.

The halt to the limited truce, which began on February 22, ends what was a welcome reprieve for ordinary Afghans, who have born the brunt of the deadly violence.

Kabul-based analyst Ahmad Saeedi told AFP the uptick in attacks reflected the insurgents’ belief that “they have to keep the battlefield hot to be able to win on the negotiating table, as they did with the Americans.”

Release of captives

Ghani’s government last week sent a delegation to Qatar to open “initial contacts” with the insurgents but Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen on Tuesday said the militants would not meet Kabul’s representatives except to discuss the release of their captives.

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