In 2019, enemy-initiated attack trends in Afghanistan defied its usual seasonal pattern; while in most years, such attacks decrease in cold-weather months, they remained consistently high, says a U.S. State Department Country Report on Terrorism in Afghanistan.
The report talks about the continued aggressive and coordinated terrorist attacks in Afghanistan by the Taliban, the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-K) and the Haqqani Network (HQN) who continue to exploit the ungoverned spaces and the border regions.
In 2019, the Taliban and the affiliated HQN increased terrorist attacks targeting Afghan civilians, government officials, and members of the international community. Additionally, IS-K continued to attack civilians and especially targeted religious minorities.
The State Department’s report says attacks attributed to terrorist activity continued to increase in 2019. While the majority of attacks occurred in Kabul, Jalalabad, and other major population centers, incidents also targeted Highway 1 (Afghanistan’s national Ring Road highway).
Militants conducted high-profile attacks through complex assaults involving multiple attackers wearing suicide vests to target Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), Afghan government buildings, foreign governments, and soft civilian targets to include international organisations.
According to NATO’s Resolute Support mission reporting, between January 1 and September 30, insurgent and terrorist attacks were responsible for 1,618 civilians killed and an additional 4,958 wounded.
In offensives in late 2019, the ANDSF and the Taliban also managed to significantly degrade the IS-K in Nangarhar province, denying them territory.
Despite that, President Ashraf Ghani’s government struggled to assert control over the remote terrain, raising the possibility of trafficking and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
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Afghanistan continued to face significant challenges in protecting its borders, particularly those with Pakistan and Iran. The report also mentions that Pakistan remained a “safe harbour” for regionally focused terrorist groups like the Taliban and its affiliated HQN, as well as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its affiliated organisations like Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that target India.
The report also mentions the landmark July 6-8 intra-Afghan dialogue, hosted in Doha, Qatar in 2019, and organized by Germany, that brought together representatives of the Afghan government, other Afghan leaders, civil society groups (including women’s groups), and the Taliban. Participating in their personal capacities, the attendees agreed on the conditions necessary to reach a sustainable peace, and a roadmap for achieving peace.
The U.S. partners with Afghanistan in a bilateral counterterrorism effort through Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, and along with 38 other nations it is also part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission.