According to Global Terrorism Index 2020 Afghanistan remains the country most impacted by terrorism and was subjected to 26 of the world’s 50 worst terrorist attacks last year.
The report stated that while terrorism deaths in the country declined in 2019 for the first time in three years, the Taliban remained the world’s deadliest terrorist group.
The annual Global Terrorism Index, now in its eighth year, is developed by leading think tank the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) and provides the most comprehensive resource on global terrorism trends.
“Whether the peace talks in Afghanistan have a substantial impact on terrorist activity remains to be seen,” read the report.
According to the report, the global economic impact of terrorism in 2019 amounted to US$26.4 billion, a fall of 25 percent from 2018 but Afghanistan was the country with the highest economic impact, equivalent to 16.7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Just ten countries accounted for over 80 percent of all deaths from terrorism in 2019, the most deaths in a single country were recorded in Afghanistan, accounting for 41 percent of all deaths.
This represents a slight improvement from 2018 when Afghanistan accounted for 45 percent of global terrorism deaths.
“The fall in deaths in Afghanistan is particularly noticeable given its recent history,” read the report.
“Since the peak of violence in 2018, deaths have fallen by just over 22 percent in a year. This reduction was driven by a decline in terrorist deaths attributed to the Taliban and the Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State (IS-K) which fell by 18 and 61 percent respectively.”
The report stated that IS-K has faced significant territorial losses in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces following attacks by coalition forces but despite the fall in terrorism deaths, 2019 was still the second deadliest year on record for Afghanistan.
The Taliban were the deadliest terrorist group for the second consecutive year while IS-K was the second deadliest group in the country.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until 2001 when US Forces and NATO toppled the regime, which was thought to be harboring Al-Qaeda. After the regime was overthrown, the Taliban regrouped across the border in Pakistan and has since led an insurgency against the government of Afghanistan and the US-led Resolute Support Mission.
But, as highlighted by the report, the Taliban has steadily regained territory across Afghanistan.
As of January 2019, it was estimated that the Taliban controlled territory home to approximately 10 percent of the population.
The report states that the Taliban is active solely in Afghanistan but that the Taliban’s Pakistani affiliate group, Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was responsible for 73 deaths and 30 attacks in Pakistan in 2019, demonstrating a Taliban-related presence outside of Afghanistan.
“In January 2019, the Taliban committed their deadliest terror attack of the year when a suicide bomber and armed assailants targeted a National Directorate for Security (NDS) base in Maydan Shahr district, Wardak, Afghanistan,” the report read.
At least 129 people were killed and 54 people were injured in the attack.
Despite a decline in terrorist deaths from 2018 to 2019, Afghanistan remains the country most impacted for the second consecutive year.
Afghanistan accounted for 41 percent of deaths from terrorism globally, with the Taliban being responsible for 87 percent of these fatalities.
The report stated that during 2019, deaths from terrorism declined by 22 percent, falling to 5,725.
“While this reduction in the number of deaths provides some optimism, it is the second-highest number of deaths recorded from terrorism in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion.”
In 2019, terrorism was widespread in Afghanistan with terrorist incidents recorded in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and deaths recorded in every province except Panjshir. The largest number of deaths from terrorism were recorded in Kunduz province with the majority of deaths attributed to the Taliban.
In 2019, there were 500 deaths in Kunduz province, a 77 percent increase from the prior year.
According to the report, recent losses of territory and fighters, IS-K is believed to still have sleeper cells in cities such as Kabul and Jalalabad.
“The presence of the Khorasan Chapter continues to challenge the Taliban. In 2019, the Khorasan Chapter was active in seven provinces, compared to the Taliban who conducted terror attacks across all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
“Sixteen clashes were recorded between the Taliban and the Khorasan Chapter in 2019, mostly in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces,” which are located along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border and have served as operational bases for the IS-K since the group’s inception in 2015.
In 2019, Afghanistan was not only the country most affected by terrorism it also had the highest economic cost of terrorism, equivalent to 16.7 percent of its GDP, read the report.
No other country in 2019 experienced a cost of terrorism greater than four percent of its GDP.
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Biden to keep Khalilzad as peace envoy for now
Former president Donald Trump’s peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will retain his position, for now, three sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
This move is not typical as traditionally an incoming administration replaces all politically appointed officials – especially those dealing with foreign policy issues.
Khalilzad, a diplomatic veteran, has worked on the peace process for more than two years and has been the key official from Washington to meet with both the Afghan government and the Taliban as well as all other stakeholders and regional leaders.
No further details were released and according to CNN the State Department did not comment when asked about Khalilzad staying on board.
However, in a statement issued late Friday, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib that the United States intends to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement.”
He also said Washington would assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.
Sullivan also expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this “historic opportunity for peace and stability.”
Washington to review US-Taliban deal, Sullivan tells Mohib
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib on Friday evening and said Washington intends to review the US-Taliban deal signed in February last year and to assess whether the Taliban is adhering to its commitments.
In a statement issued by the White House following the discussion between the two NSAs, Sullivan said the US will support the peace process with “a robust and regional diplomatic effort, which will aim to help the two sides achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent ceasefire”.
Sullivan also made clear “the United States’ intention to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement, including to assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.”
According to the statement, Sullivan also expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this “historic opportunity for peace and stability.”
In addition, Sullivan and Mohib discussed the US’s support for protecting the gains made by Afghan women, girls, and minority groups as part of the peace process.
Sullivan also “committed to consulting closely with the Afghan government, NATO allies, and regional partners regarding a collective strategy to support a stable, sovereign, and secure future for Afghanistan,” the statement read.
Attacks are against the values of Islam, Atmar tells OIC chief
Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar held talks on Wednesday with Yousef al-Othaimeen, the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Saudi Arabia and discussed the current peace talks being held in Doha, Qatar.
In a statement, the Jeddah-based organization said discussions were held on the peace process, and on how the OIC can support the talks.
Al-Othaimeen reiterated the OIC’s commitment to supporting the Afghan people, and development projects in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Atmar praised the OIC for its role in forging unity among Islamic countries in support of the peace process and for issuing special resolutions to form a consensus among Islamic countries to resolve the crisis in Afghanistan.
At the meeting, Atmar called the war in Afghanistan illegitimate from the point of view of Islam.
“The crimes that are being committed in Afghanistan today are completely incompatible with the beliefs of Muslims and Islamic teachings; Attacks on female judges, killings of Kabul University students and attacks on maternity hospitals are certainly not justifiable in Islam,” he said.
Atmar also stated that if the opposition is truly committed to peace, the Afghan government would not see any obstacles to national reconciliation and the success of the peace process, and would be ready to pave the way for political participation on all sides in accordance with the free will of the Afghan people and internationally accepted standards.
“We want the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to continue its previous demands to end the bloodshed and resolve the political crisis in Afghanistan through holding follow-up meetings, expert consultations and sending special groups to consult with the teams,” he said.
In response to the Foreign Minister’s remarks, the Secretary-General of the OIC said that he commends and supports the flexible and adaptable position of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan towards peace.
Al-Othaimeen pointed out that killing, violence and intimidation are contrary to the essence of Islam and that people should be made aware that Islam is not a religion of terror and violence, but a religion of unity and convergence.
He praised the role of religious scholars in this regard, saying that scholars in Islamic societies have an important position not only from a religious point of view but also from a political point of view.
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