On May 12, gunmen disguised as police raided the maternity ward of a Doctors Without Borders medical clinic located in Kabul, Afghanistan. Officials announced that 24 people – including infants – were killed and more than 20 were injured in the attack. This attack was neither surprising nor new to the locals in this predominantly Shiite neighborhood. In the past, the Dashti Barchi neighborhood has been targeted by Islamic State militants on several occasions. But it is still unclear who or which group was responsible for the raid, or the motive. On the same day, Afghanistan suffered from a suicide bomber attack at a funeral of a police commander, which ended up killing 24 people and injuring 68.
The head of Doctors Without Borders’ programs in Afghanistan, Frederic Bonnot, said that the gunmen went through the maternity ward, targeting women in their beds, and defined their attack as ‘methodical’. The Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh has blamed the Taliban for the attack even though the group has denied any involvement. However, the U.S. government stated that the Islamic State was responsible for both attacks on the maternity ward and at the funeral. According to the U.S. officials, the reason behind these attacks were to harm the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban and to encourage a sectarian war similar to the war in Iraq and Syria.
Regardless of whether it was the Taliban’s doing or not, the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, announced that he asked Afghan forces to resume offensive operations against the Taliban and other militant groups. In a statement he made he did not defy the group he blamed the attacks for but talked about the increasing terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. Patricia Gossman, an associate director at the Human Rights Watch, voiced concerns on the harm done to the patients and medical staff as well as all Afghans, including children who are denied care when hospitals cannot function, especially in the midst of a pandemic when medical facilities are needed more than ever.
The COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan are increasing day by day. After many years of war and continuous terror (and now with a global pandemic added into the mix), Afghan people need security and stability. The decision made by the Afghan President to resume offensive operations may end up encouraging militants to increase attacks. However, there has not been a decrease in the attacks since the beginning of the peace talks. Thusly, the United States should share their intelligence and capabilities with the Afghan troops who are fighting to secure their land and people, instead of asking Afghanistan to follow the “peace deal” with Taliban.
Since 2017, attacks on health care facilities by ISIS and the Taliban have increased. These attacks violate the international humanitarian law that protects patients and medical personnel from attack. The increased Taliban attacks create doubt about the sincerity and seriousness of the Taliban in making peace with Afghan leaders and American officials. With the upcoming U.S. elections, the peace deal in the U.S. seems like it will push the Afghan government to take steps for peace talks with the Taliban, to ensure that President Trump will keep his promise to bring back the troops.
A successful peace deal would be ideal in Afghanistan’s situation, however, the increase in Taliban terrorist attacks since the deal made with the U.S. casts doubt on any possibility of peace. Unfortunately, generations of Afghans are born into a war, instability, and poverty. With a lack of access to healthcare and basic needs, millions suffer. The U.S. should show solidarity with the Afghan government, and not a group that they have declared a terrorist group for the past decade.