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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Kabul police chief fired as wave of violence hits Afghan capital

Kabul's police chief has been fired, the Afghan interior ministry said Sunday, following a mortar attack that hit the presidential palace last week and an uptick in small-scale bombings in the nation's capital.

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Kabul’s police chief has been fired, the Afghan interior ministry said Sunday, following a mortar attack that hit the presidential palace last week and an uptick in small-scale bombings in the nation’s capital.

Interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told AFP that authorities dismissed Ammanullah Wahidi — who oversaw security in Kabul and surrounding districts — and at least two other mid-ranking security officials over “the recent rise in insecurity” in the capital.

More security changes likely to follow

Another top security official confirmed Wahidi’s removal.

“The people are worried and the president is upset over these attacks,” the official told AFP on the condition of anonymity. “There will be more changes in the security leadership of Kabul soon.”

After more than a year of direct negotiations, the U.S. government and the Taliban signed a peace agreement on February 29, 2020, that sets a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Under the agreement, the United States will draw down U.S. forces to approximately 8,500 troops within 135 days and complete a full withdrawal within fourteen months.

In return, the Taliban pledged to prevent territory under their control from being used by terrorist groups and enter into negotiations with the Afghan government in March 2020. The agreement was signed following a seven-day reduction in violence, a period which required the Taliban to adhere to a “significant and nationwide” reduction in violence, and also required that U.S. and Afghan forces refrain from targeting Taliban-controlled areas of the country.

Read more: Afghan Endgame: Time running out for Kabul government

Despite this new agreement, there is still no official cease-fire in place. Throughout 2019 and into 2020, violence continued across Afghanistan as the United States increased airstrikes and raids targeting the Taliban, while the Taliban continued to carry out attacks on Afghan government targets, make territorial gains, and target Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) bases and outposts. The Taliban have also carried out high-profile attacks across the country, including in Kabul. After the reduction in violence period ended, the Taliban quickly resumed attacks on Afghan security forces and civilians.

Prospects for negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban remain uncertain. The onset of negotiations is also subject to delay or disruption due to a disagreement on the timing of the release of five thousand Taliban prisoners. The Taliban expects the prisoners to be released before talks can begin, while the Afghan government plans to release the prisoners after the negotiations start.

The Afghan government itself remains divided after a contentious election, further complicating prospects for the talk. In February 2020, the Independent Election Commission declared President Ashraf Ghani the winner of the September 2019 presidential election; his main rival and current Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah rejected the results, declared himself the winner, and held a parallel inauguration ceremony in March 2020.

Independence day celebrations marred with violence

Over the eighteen months, the Islamic State in Khorasan has also continued to expand its presence in several eastern Afghan provinces, continues to carry out major attacks in Kabul, and is responsible for an increase in suicide attacks targeting civilians.

During Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday, at least three people were killed and 19 injured after more than a dozen mortars were fired at the city’s heavily fortified green zone, home to a number of foreign embassies along with high-profile government installations.

The palace was hit, and several members of the president’s elite security detail were among the injured.

The attack came as the city has been rocked by a series of attacks using sticky bombs — homemade devices attached to vehicles with magnets that are regularly used to target security forces.

On Saturday officials said at least four magnetic bombs had exploded in the city killing at least one security official and wounding six others, including civilians.

Read more: Ashraf Ghani orders resumption of offensive operations as Kabul bleeds

No group has claimed responsibility for the increasing number of blasts in the capital caused by the devices, but the interior ministry has continued to pin the blame on the Taliban.

Arian — the interior ministry spokesman — said more than 100 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including sticky bombs, had been detonated across Afghanistan in the past two weeks.

On Sunday at least seven civilians were killed in eastern Ghazni province after an IED struck their vehicle, according to the governor’s spokesman Wahedullah Jumazada.

Read more: Peace Process in Deadlock: Taliban reject Kabul offer

A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk