Coordinated attacks in eastern, northern Afghanistan shatter tenuous cease-fire
A string of coordinated suicide bombings and attacks Monday against government forces in eastern and northern Afghanistan, as well as a devastating strike in the country’s capital, shattered a tenuous cease-fire between Kabul and the Taliban.
The attacks in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar and Ghazni provinces, as well as a strike against government position’s in the country’s northern province of Kunduz, left 33 people dead and scores injured, provincial government officials said.
The attacks came less than a week after American commanders in the country agreed to abide by an unprecedented weeklong cease-fire with the Taliban, called for Thursday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
The deadliest of Monday’s series of attacks took place in Kunduz, where Taliban gunmen struck a security outpost in the province’s Qala-e Zal district, killing 15. The attack took place as Afghan troops were settling in for their predawn Ramadan meal, Kunduz provincial council member Aminullah Ayaddin told Radio Free-Europe.
Elsewhere, a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan’s Ghazni province struck a minibus, killing six, RFE reported.
Afghan forces and their American counterparts agreed to halt operations against the Taliban until June 14, the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan. The Kunduz attack effectively ends the cease-fire, which officials in Kabul, the Pentagon and NATO headquarters in Brussels had hoped would mark a turning point in the 17-year war.
While American forces have thus far refrained from taking action against the Taliban, U.S. troops continue ongoing operations against Islamic State’s Afghan faction, known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria Khorasan Group or ISIS-K, and remaining al Qaeda elements.
Outside of Kunduz, militants also reportedly launched a mass attack against government forces in Jalalabad City, the provincial capital of Nangarhar province. Provincial officials could not confirm casualty counts from the attack, and the Taliban has yet to claim responsibility for the Jalalabad strike.
U.S. and Afghan forces are in the midst of a massive offensive dubbed Operation Hamza against ISIS-K in Nangarhar, a known Islamic State redoubt in the country. Gen. John Nicholson, the head of all American forces in Afghanistan, said his forces planned to ramp up operations against the Islamic State in the country during the anticipated lull in fighting against the Taliban.
In response, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul, targeting Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. Roughly 12 people were killed and more than 30 were wounded in the attack, which took place as ministry employees were leaving work early for the Ramadan holiday, Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai told local media outlets Monday.