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Pashtun Taliban Insurgency - 2016

The Taliban made unprecedented battlefield gains since 2014, when, after more than a decade, the US-led foreign military coalition wound up its combat mission in Afghanistan and transferred national security responsibilities to Afghan forces. The United Nations estimated that by mid-2016 the Taliban controlled more Afghan territory than at any other time since the US-led intervention following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

No region in Afghanistan is immune from violence. The potential for either opportunistic or targeted hostile acts exists throughout the country. Kidnapping of Westerners is a serious threat throughout Afghanistan. Serious large-scale terrorist incidents, including suicide bombings and attacks using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, occur regularly throughout Afghanistan. Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere, anytime and are particularly common in Kabul, and the southern and eastern provinces.

Attacks have targeted hotels and residential compounds used by westerners, embassies, government buildings, NATO bases and facilities of international humanitarian groups. There have also been attacks on supermarkets and restaurants frequented by foreigners, police stations, schools and medical facilities. Partly constructed and high rise buildings in Kabul, have been used by militants as staging points for a number of attacks in the past.

Kidnapping is a serious and ongoing threat. Due to the high number of incidents, Afghanistan was among the top three countries identified as global kidnapping hotspots in 2015. There is a high level of serious crime in Afghanistan, including in the capital, Kabul. Armed robbery, rape and carjacking occur. The level of weapon ownership is high. Lawlessness exists in rural areas. Banditry and kidnapping by armed groups is common.

The stability of the Afghan government and the performance of the ANDSF going into 2016 would have a significant impact on the future threat environment in Afghanistan. Collectively, terrorist and insurgent groups l present a formidable challenge to Afghan forces as these groups strive to maintain their relevance and prominence throughout the winter months. Both Taliban and ANDSF operations were expected to continue throughout the winter but likely at a lower intensity. The insurgencys strategy continued to be to exploit vulnerabilities in ANDSF force posture by conducting massed attacks against checkpoints, stretch the reach of the ANDSF into rural areas, isolate areas by staging smaller attacks in the surrounding areas, and impede ground lines of communication ahead of attacks against district or provincial centers.

Afghanistan on January 18, 2016 hosted a meeting of delegates from the United States, China and Pakistan on how to initiate direct peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives. A joint statement issued after the meeting in Kabul of the so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) said, The group discussed and made progress on a roadmap towards initiating peace talks with Taliban groups that reflects the shared commitments of the QCG member countries.

A landmark face-to-face meeting between the two sides took place in July 2015, but the process was broken off after Kabul announced that longtime Taliban leader Mullah Omar had been dead for more than two years. The insurgents confirmed the death, setting off a spate of infighting among the group's factions.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in 2015 publicly blaming Pakistan for using the Taliban to wage war on his country. The Afghan government expected Pakistan to use its influence with Taliban groups, whose leaders are in Pakistan, to bring the level of violence down, and to use force against groups that refuse to come to the table for negotiations. Afghanistan hoped that some Taliban factions would agree to a peace deal, and that the remaining factions would be too weak to threaten the government.

Pakistan said its influence with the Taliban was limited and the use of force would be counterproductive until all other measures have been exhausted.

The Taliban controlled more territory in Afghanistan by early 2016 than it did anytime after it was ousted from power in 2001. This made it more difficult to persuade the Taliban to enter peace negotiations with an Afghan government that seemed to be on the defensive. The Taliban insisted that nothing less than the withdrawal of all foreign forces and implementation of Sharia, or Islamic law, will be acceptable to it. The Taliban also started calling President Ashraf Ghanis government a stooge of the US.

Afghanistan's Taliban militants cast further doubt on prospects for peace talks with the Kabul government. In a March 05, 2016 statemen, the Taliban said their leadership had not yet decided to engage in talks with Kabul. They said they believed talks could not be productive until all foreign forces had left Afghanistan, sanctions on insurgent leaders had been removed and Taliban prisoners had been freed.

On 12 April 2016 The Taliban announced the start of its spring offensive in Afghanistan. The insurgent group said in an online statement on Tuesday that it will intensify its offensive on international forces and government officials in the country. The statement says the offensive will include attacks on military positions and assassinations of commanders in urban areas. Every winter, Taliban activities subside as mountainous areas are covered with snow, but the group said it will intensify its offensive with the arrival of spring.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. government watchdog, reported in October 2016 that more than 5,500 Afghan forces were killed in the first eight months of 2016 while around 10,000 were wounded. The totals for the full year are likely to be much higher because the war has intensified since August.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, told the Security Council in New York December 2016 that conflict-related incidents had killed more than 3,000 civilians this year.

Hostilities in Afghanistan have left around 30,000 people dead and as many wounded, mostly insurgents, according to official estimates. As of 25 December 2016, counter-insurgency operations conducted by Afghan police and military forces around the country had left more than 18,500 "enemy" fighters dead and wounded 12,000 more, according to defense and interior ministry officials.

In addition, an unprecedented 550,000 people fled their homes because of the intensified and expanded war. Afghan and U.N. officials say more than 1 million Afghan refugees, including undocumented families in neighboring Pakistan and Iran have returned home in 2016, setting a record. When internally displaced people are counted in, more than 1.5 million Afghans have been on the move since January, according to UNAMA officials.

Analysts held out little hope that 2017 will be much better without a peace and reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban.



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