Fighting between the Taliban and Afghanistan military has resumed after a three-day ceasefire to mark the Islamic holiday of Eid-al-Fitr came to a close, with their representatives meeting briefly in Qatar to voice their commitment to peace talks.
As the United States presses to accelerate the negotiations while Joe Biden’s administration seeks to withdraw the last of its 2,500 to 3,500 soldiers, the ceasefire was called by the Taliban and quickly agreed to by the Afghan government.
Fighting resumed in Helmand on Sunday as the ceasefire came to an end, having been marred by a mosque attack that left a dozen people dead and more injured.
The capital of Kabul spent much of the three-day holiday that followed the fasting month of Ramadan in the dark, after attacks claimed by the so-called Islamic State group knocked out power grids in several provinces.
In posts on its affiliated websites, Isis claimed additional attacks over the last two weeks that destroyed 13 electrical grid stations – leaving nine provinces including Kabul with disrupted power supplies, according to a government spokesperson.
Isis also claimed responsibility for the mosque attack, saying its fighters planted an explosive device in “a worship place for disbelievers Sufis”, killing the “apostate Imam”. The statement claimed 40 worshippers were injured.
The bombing north of the capital on Friday is reported to have killed 12 worshippers in total, injuring another 15 at least. The Taliban had earlier denied involvement and blamed the government intelligence agency.
There was also concern that local warlords, demanding protection money from the government to safeguard stations in areas they control, may have been behind some of the destruction.
And on Sunday violence between Taliban and government forces resumed, with clashes on the outskirts of Helmand’s capital Lashkar Gah, which has seen fighting since US troops began their withdrawal.
The seemingly unstoppable violence in Afghanistan has residents and nations fearful that the exit of US forces and the 7,000 remaining Nato soldiers stationed there could lead to further chaos.
Washington has said it wants its last soldier out of Afghanistan by 11 September at the latest, but the withdrawal is progressing quickly and an official has said it is likely to be completed by early July.
On Saturday, China's foreign minister Wang Yi expressed concern about the rapid withdrawal of US and Nato forces in a phone call with Pakistan counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, calling the withdrawal hasty and warning it would “severely” impact the peace process and regional stability.
He called on the United Nations to play a greater role.