A bomb was set off last Tuesday in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, and it is thought to be part of a series of increased radical insurgent violence in the country. Preliminary reports from a local hospital have counted 16 dead and 38 injured, but numbers are expected to rise as those searching the blast site scour the rubble. Officials have commended the rescuers response, but noted delays in information due to confusion from a mass of smoke and the large amount of rubble on storefronts and homes still to be cleared. A Taliban spokesman has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Recently in Afghanistan, the Taliban have committed a series of bombing attacks in an attempt to regain the control they once held in the country. In the past, the Taliban have held authoritarian rule over Afghanistan, imposing strict conservative interpretations of religious law on the region, such as subjugating women’s rights, including girls’ access to education. Over the past year, there have been hundreds of casualties as the group has recently increased its efforts to regain power in Afghanistan. Furthermore, ISIS has also claimed responsibility for attacks in the country, including a bombing in Kabul last month that left around 30 people dead.
The Afghan capital of Kabul has especially been hit by the new campaigns, but violence is not confined to one specific part of the country. Last Monday, in clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces in the Ghanzi province, multiple Afghan police officers were killed trying to liberate a highway blocked by the group. The provincial government also reported Taliban activity in other parts of the province, including an arson attack on a police building.
Afghan security forces anticipate even more violence due to the upcoming parliamentary elections in October, and a U.S. governmental report also confirms that fighting in the country has increased. The elections for the Afghan parliament have been repeatedly pushed back due to concerns over safety and logistics. There are questions over voter turnout and access due to the lack of government control in many districts, which leave many unable to reach voting centers or get proper voter identity cards. In late 2017, U.S. officials claimed that insurgents such as the Taliban controlled about half of Afghanistan.
Finding a solution to allow for a free, fair, and speedy election will help strengthen a legitimate and stable democratic government in Afghanistan. A more democratic government would then be able to use its electoral mandate to help unify the country. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has even invited the Taliban to run in the elections, given that they denounce terrorism. He sees this as a solution towards peace where the Taliban can air their concerns in a democratic, peaceful, and productive fashion. The Taliban, however, rejected participating in Afghan elections as they see the country as occupied by foreign forces. They claim that past elections were corruptly decided by the United States, citing the 2014 U.S.-brokered political solution between the top two presidential candidates to form a power sharing unity government.
The United Nations and other international actors must support the Afghan governments attempts at carrying out transparent and fair elections. It is imperative that Afghan voters are given safe access to the ballots, in order to generate a high voter turnout and more successful elections. Political dialogue and popular elections are important in bringing new solutions to the country, and will help lead Afghanistan to greater political stability.