Afghanistan. During the first half of the year preparatory peace talks were held between representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States on the possibilities for a new peace process for Afghanistan. As expected, the Taliban opposed the talks and announced that they were not prepared to negotiate until all foreign soldiers had left the country and the attacks on the Taliban militia ceased. With reference to the sensitive security situation, the US, contrary to the wishes of the Taliban, announced that the country would increase its efforts in Afghanistan and that a larger number of US soldiers than previously planned would remain in 2017 as well.
According to countryaah, the current population of Afghanistan is 38,928,357. There were continued attacks directed at the civilian population, but also against political and strategic goals, such as journalists and officials in the police force and the state administration. Government forces fought battles against both Taliban and Islamic State (IS) members, who took control of several areas and created great uncertainty and concern. In May, Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone attack in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. The Taliban then appointed Haibatullah Akhundzada as new leader of the movement, which occupied several important provincial cities during the year. Later in the summer, it was announced that the IS leader in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mawlavi Shahidullah Shahid, had also been killed in a US drone attack.
During the year, there were reports that the number of deaths in the Afghan army increased sharply compared to the previous year. According to the UN, the number of civilian victims also increased, which was mainly due to more fighting and attacks taking place in populated areas and cities. The United Nations Organization for Afghanistan, UNAMA, announced that nearly a third of the victims were children. The Taliban were behind the largest proportion of deaths, but even the domestic army and foreign forces were involved in several deadly attacks.
During the spring, several terrorist acts took place, including what was described as the worst attack in the capital Kabul so far, where suicide bombers attacked a popular protest with participants from the Hazar group. The attack killed at least 80 people and 260 were injured. President Ashraf Ghani announced that the government would bring in the hard gloves against the Taliban, and the president approved for the first time since taking office in 2014 that six prisoners with links to the Taliban movement should be executed.
In June, the Afghan Parliament approved the president’s proposal for a new defense minister and head of the intelligence service, two key posts that have been vacant for months. Later in the autumn, three government ministers were forced to resign following a vote of no confidence in Parliament. Among the outgoing ministers were other Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani.
In just a few weeks in August, about 30,000 people were forced to flee in the southern Helmand province, which was surrounded by Taliban. US forces were sent to Helmand to support the Afghan army fighting back Taliban attacks on provincial capital Lashkar Gah. During the year, a large number of Afghan soldiers and Taliban police officers were killed in the Helmand province. The humanitarian situation was strained and there were no supplies. At the end of the year, most of the Helmand province was said to be under Taliban control. Helmand is the country’s leading opium producer and an important source of income for the Taliban movement.
At a donor conference in Brussels in October, Afghanistan was promised multibillion aid. The conference, jointly organized by the EU and the Government of Afghanistan, involved 75 countries and 26 international organizations and bodies. In return, the Afghan government presented an ambitious reform program for the next four years. In conjunction with the conference, the regime also signed an agreement in principle with the EU to return refugees who have refused their asylum applications in EU countries. A separate agreement was signed with Sweden according to which Afghanistan undertakes to receive Afghans who have not received their asylum applications. The agreement was met by harsh criticism from the children’s rights organization Save the Children, which said it was against international conventions to send children back to Afghanistan where they were at risk of serious human rights violations.
According to thereligionfaqs, Afghans are the second largest group of asylum seekers in both the EU and Sweden. In the neighboring country, according to the UN, there were 1.3 million registered and 700,000 unregistered Afghan refugees during the year. Because of an increasingly tough refugee policy in Pakistan, many were forced back to Afghanistan, where aid organizations warned that the country would not be able to receive all returnees. The number of people fleeing the country increased during the autumn from 1.2 to 1.8 million.
In an American air raid in the city of Kunduz in October, at least 30 civilians were killed, including many children. The attack was reportedly misdirected and an investigation was initiated to find out what had happened. A week later the Taliban attacked the German consulate in Mazar-e Sharif in the north. Six people were killed and at least 120 were injured in the attack, which was said to be a revenge campaign for the Americans’ air strike in Kunduz.