February 2, 2023
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International Recap: Taliban attacks increase in Kabul

The Taliban drove an ambulance packed with explosives into a crowded street Jan. 27 in Kabul, Afghanistan, and detonated the devices, killing 95 people and injuring 158 more.

The ambulance attack came only days after a 15-hour siege on an Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. Twenty-two people died in the siege, including 14 foreigners. Four Americans were among the foreign victims of the attack.

Taliban activity has recently increased in Kabul over the past few months, with a total of at least 122 deaths as of Jan. 28 from terrorist activity that can be traced back to the extremist group.

President Donald Trump announced in August 2017 that the U.S. would send more troops to Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East to try to finally end lasting conflicts in the area. Three thousand additional troops were deployed to the country this past August, which may have some influence on escalating tensions.

Douglas Ollivant, former director of the National Security Council for both the Bush and the Obama administrations and current managing partner of Mantid International, told PBS NewsHour that the Taliban is able to execute their attacks because Afghanistan is still as unstable as it was 16 years ago.

“The Taliban are still strong as they are because nothing has fundamentally changed,” Ollivant said. “They want to be back inside the government, and the government seems unable to repel them, and we seem unable to help the government in repelling them.”

Analysts attributed the escalation of violence in Afghanistan to the ongoing violence between extremist forces and American troops. Frances Z. Brown, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former member of the National Security Council, told The New York Times that increased violence should have been expected.

“If you start on the path of escalating pressure, you have to be ready for the other side to escalate,” Brown said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesperson for the Taliban, said the recent attacks were in response to Trump’s promises of a more aggressive military campaign in the Middle East.

The Islamic Emirate has a clear message for Trump and his hand kissers, that if you go ahead with a policy of aggression and speak from the barrel of a gun, don’t expect Afghans to grow flowers in response,” Mujahid said.

An additional attack on an Afghan military academy on Jan. 29 killed 11 soldiers and injured 16 more. The Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, the Khorasan Province, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, said that the attack was against the academy’s security and not the military itself.

Meaghan McElroy can be reached at mmcelroy@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meaghan_mcelroy