Taliban Suicide Bombings Illustrate Terror Influence as Ramadan Comes to an End

The Taliban conducted sequential suicide bombings on an Afghan military convoy and its first responders on Thursday, June 30th.  The attacks occurred in the western outskirts of Kabul, where buses were carrying newly graduated cadets back into the city after completing training.

In the company area of Kabul City near the neighboring Wardak province, a single suicide bomber targeted police busses filled with recently graduated Afghan police recruits. Twenty minutes after the attack, a second terrorist detonated a car bomb, specifically targeted the first responders on the scene.

In an online twitter statement, a Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed that his notorious terror group had coordinated the attack.

Following the attacks, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul condemned the terror group’s operation as a “cruel and complete disregard for human life during the holy month of Ramadan….”

In total, the Taliban suicide bombers claimed the lives of over thirty people, both security personnel and civilians, while wounding another forty.

The Taliban have conducted several mass casualty operations in 2016, one of which occurred ten days prior to the June 30th bus bombing. Many of these large scale attacks on Afghan and other security forces and officials is part of the major Taliban operation, codenamed “Operation Omari.” The operation is named after former Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, who was killed back in July 2015. Following his death, the group announced that it would be using suicide bombers to target both Afghan and foreign forces and that the group is backed by “thousands of fully armed martyrdom seekers”

The rise in Taliban attacks during June is not surprising to some analysts who have seen similar actions in the past; however, the success with which the group is having with its operations is in fact concerning.

In addition to these Taliban attacks, Afghan authorities have began engaging in combat with Islamic State in the east of the country. The extension of the jihadist group’s battlefield into Afghanistan occurred in the last year, and the group was reported to have little to limited success in the country.

Statements from Afghan President Ghani in March outlined the defeat of the group and their quelled existence in the eastern region; however, some individuals dispute the President’s claims regarding the lack of progress of IS in Afghanistan. Notably, the Daily Caller outlined the increase in former Taliban militiamen taking up arms for Islamic State. Such actions have not been uncommon among Taliban leaders, who have faced numerous issues due to fragmented control over the Afghan-based group in the last year.

The solidification of security in Afghanistan has long been a U.S. project since its intervention in the country back in 2001. After ousting the Taliban regime, United States forces have been working endlessly to establish a democratic form of government that is able to secure its borders and the civilians in them. Yet, after fifteen years of troubleshooting, the United States has began to draw back its influence in the country and its attempts to aid in maintaining security.

Presently, one of the talking points set to be discussed during the NATO Summit this July is the involvement of the United States and other countries in Afghanistan. NATO plans to meet in Warsaw in the coming weeks to discuss the future of Afghan support, which has been previously coordinated through the Resolute Support Mission, a program designed to assist, train, and advise Afghan security forces. Ultimately, the program that was instituted in 2015, aims to remain in place until beyond 2016, with funding continued until 2020.

Additionally, the efforts of The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) to end sectarian and insurgent fighting in the country have lead to proposed peace deals with jihadist groups and former Taliban allies. China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States have aimed to open up cease-fire discussions with a number of terrorist and sectarian groups, including the Taliban. Such conciliatory efforts were made to Hezb-I-Islami in May of 2016, and no discussions have been had so far with the Taliban, after the group declined several invitations.

Between efforts to decrease US and foreign military involvement and proposals for peace-talks in which amnesty concessions are given, the United States’ hand in Afghanistan appears to be a rather mixed  and contradictory approach to increasing security and combating terrorism. These efforts, in addition to the recent threat and surge of Islamic State forces in the region, only appear to stagnate the process of government building, self-sufficient security, and the larger effort to rebuild the broken Afghan state. Come July 8th, NATO has a significant discussion on their hands with regard to the future of Afghanistan, as the Taliban’s consistency to maintain influence has proved unwavering.