On July 22, a suicide bomber detonated his vest in a crowded market in the Almar district of Faryab province in Afghanistan. Though reports on the number of casualties vary, a local official said that 15 were killed and 38 were injured, and he implied that the death count may rise.
An Almar policeman stated that the suicide bomber was a man in his early twenties who blew himself up near an armored military vehicle. Some reports say that only civilians were injured, while Faryab governor Abdul Sattar Barez said that one Afghan soldier was among the dead.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though it is believed to be the work of the Taliban. An overnight military operation had targeted the Taliban in the Almar district, and Afghan forces in the neighboring Zawzjan province were attacked overnight by Taliban forces as well.
The Taliban has been engaged in formal peace talks with the Afghan government, and many believe that the next round of talks will begin very soon. Despite these talks, however, the group’s willingness to negotiate with the government does not imply a cessation in violent activity in the near future. Its goal is to control the Afghan government, and it is ready to use any means necessary to do so.
In fact, Taliban violence has actually increased dramatically this year. Compared to the casualty numbers from the first six months of 2014, the number of Afghan soldiers killed in the first half of 2015 increased by more than 50 percent. The Afghan government has reported that its soldiers are fending off Taliban attackers while taking in plenty of new recruits, but soldiers, police officers, and local officials all contradicted the government’s assertions. The Taliban is repeatedly demonstrating its ability to kill soldiers at will and no reinforcements have been coming to their aid, leading to low morale and high desertion rates.
All of this is happening while President Obama plans to completely withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. US military commanders and Afghan officials have asked Obama to remove troops at a slower rate than he originally planned, but he still wants to virtually eliminate US presence in the country after next year. The US entered Afghanistan in 2001 to remove the Taliban from power, and if it departs in 2016 with the Afghan forces in their present shape, all of its past efforts will have been in vain. The dire situation of the Afghan military will only worsen; as it currently stands, it is struggling to keep up with Taliban attacks and maintain an active presence throughout much of the country. Without US support, it will likely crumble, leading to the collapse of the Afghan government.