Taliban step up pressure with
suicide strikes By Mina Habib
The Taliban have orchestrated a campaign of
suicide attacks to counter claims that they are
losing ground and are ready for peace talks,
according to experts.
This year has seen
an intensification of suicide bombings, with seven
strikes killing some 400 Afghans, many of whom
were non-combatants, according to security
The attacks targeted a
supermarket in the upmarket Wazir Akbar Khan
district of Kabul, the capital's City Center
shopping area, a government office in the Imam
Saheb district of Kunduz province in the north, a
branch of Kabul Bank in the southeastern city of
Jalalabad, the town of Spin Boldak and a
dog-fighting arena in
Kandahar province in the
south, and a crowded part of Khost, a town in the
"This past month has been
almost like the [1992-96] civil war, when rockets
would land every day and kill or injure dozens of
innocent people," Shokrollah, who works in a shop
in Kabul, said, adding that every morning, he
worried about being caught in a bombing on his way
Amanullah Iman, spokesman for the
Attorney General's office, said suicide attacks
had increased by 40% in the past three months,
with 756 acts of terrorism or violence and nearly
2,300 individuals - including foreign nationals
including Pakistanis and Arabs - arrested in
connection to these incidents.
Ahmadzai of the Independent Human Rights
Commission of Afghanistan said that of the 2,380
civilians killed in the past 11 months, 70% died
in suicide attacks.
Wahid Omar said that the fact that recent Taliban
attacks targeted civilians reflected their
inability to engage Afghan and North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO) troops in battle.
"The point of terrorism is to kill many
people in order to create an atmosphere of
intimidation and fear," he said. "If the Taliban
are very powerful, why don't they take on the
foreigners? If they want to fight the national
army and police, they should fight them face to
face and should not target defenceless civilians.
This is proof that they have lost their capacity
Ministry, meanwhile, believes the Taliban are
focusing more on suicide attacks tactics in order
to raise their profile.
"The enemies are
trying to get media coverage by changing their
tactics. They want to make the news and influence
the people's spirit and way of thinking."
Bashari said suicide attacks were by
nature difficult to prevent, and the police's main
asset in forestalling them was information
provided by the public.
Ahmad Sayedi argues that the attacks are a direct
response to announcements by coalition forces that
the Taliban are in retreat and some of its leaders
are willing to negotiate.
"By carrying out
these attacks, the Taliban want to say that
anything the foreign forces or the Afghan
government say is untrue," he said.
believe the bombings have multiple aims - sowing
fear among the population, highlighting the
government's inability to cope, diminishing
reports that the foreign forces were gaining
ground, and raising morale in the Taliban's own
Political analyst Jawid Kohistani
said a February 20 Taliban summit in Kharotabad in
the Pakistani city of Quetta decided that attacks
should be carried out in nine provinces of
Afghanistan, as a way of rebuffing reports that
insurgent leaders were prepared to cooperate with
the government's High Peace Council.
Attacks were planned for Khost, Nangarhar,
Helmand, Kunduz, Ghazni, Kabul, Kandahar, Herat
and Baghlan provinces, and a number of suicide
bombers were recruited in preparation.
Kohistani said some of the planned attacks
were still to take place be carried out, according
to Kohistani, who added that the secondary goal
was to show that the Afghan government was weak
Another political analyst, Wahid Mozhda,
argued that the Taliban's latest tactics showed
worrying similarities to the methods used by
al-Qaeda. He said that many of the more pragmatic
Taliban leaders had been killed in combat and
supplanted by more extreme figures with closer
ties to the al-Qaeda movement.
tactics used by al-Qaeda, which are common in Iraq
and Pakistan, are now being employed in
Afghanistan," Mozhda said.
spokesman Zabiullah Mojahed claimed that the
insurgents never deliberately attacked civilians.
"Innocent people are never our principal
targets, and we are sorry that some defenceless
individuals are killed," he said.
said the January suicide attack in Kabul's Wazir
Akbar Khan district was intended to kill foreign
military personnel. As for subsequent bombings in
February, the one in Kunduz targeted
paramilitaries recruited by the Americans, and
blasts in Khost and in Kabul's City Center
occurred when the bombers were intercepted by
security forces before reaching their targets, he
"There has been no change to the
Taliban's ethics," Mojahed said. "They are
fighting for God. Our country has been occupied
and we will never stop attacking and resisting."
Although the Taliban regard suicide
attacks as a legitimate way of hitting a powerful
enemy, many religious scholars say they are not in
keeping with Islamic law.
who have lost relatives in the attacks are urging
the government to pursue the perpetrators more
"Why does the president [Hamid
Karzai] not order their execution?" asked Mohammad
Sediq Sahel, who lost his son in the Wazir Akbar
Khan attack. "Is he in league with these
criminals, or what?"
Similar anger was
expressed by a woman who lost her husband in the
City Center attack.
"They are all puppets
of Pakistan, enemies of the people of Afghanistan,
and they should be executed as soon as they are
arrested," said the woman, who asked not to be
named. "I have three children, I am illiterate and
my husband was the family's only breadwinner. My
life is ruined - I have no hope for the future."
Mina Habib is an IWPR-trained
contributor in Afghanistan.