A spokesman for the governor of Badakhshan said Taliban forces launched a lethal assault against the Afghan National Army (ANA) on Tuesday morning, the first day of Ramadan, killing three government soldiers in the province, the Khaama Press reported.
The three dead soldiers were in Badakhshan to spend the holidays with their families, provincial spokesperson Nik Mohammad Nazari told the media. The Taliban militants reportedly captured the soldiers, two of whom were cousins, before executing them.
Roughly concurrent with Tuesday morning’s abductions and executions was another Taliban attack killing ten ANA personnel and wounding another three. Late Monday evening, Taliban soldiers staged the operation in Balkh Province in the North and reportedly abducted an additional five ANA troops, Tolo News reported. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for that attack but local government officials have not commented on it as of press time.
This week’s attacks come as the combatants in Afghanistan’s ongoing civil war are expected to meet in Turkey for a summit on the peace process on April 16. The Taliban are reportedly still undecided about whether to even attend, Tolo noted.
Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander, noted the Taliban’s hesitance likely stems from the unclear position of the Biden administration on U.S. withdrawal from the country.
“The Taliban has said that things will not move forward unless the issue of withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan is made clear, therefore, I think that the Turkey conference will not be held unless these issues are made clear,” he said.
Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. committed to a full withdrawal date of May 1, 2021, and reduced the troop presence to 2,500 by the end of his term. The Biden administration, however, signaled it does not expect to meet that deadline.
While vice president, Joe Biden promised U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan in 2014, but the Obama administration did not meet that commitment and instead left 8,600 soldiers in the country when Trump took office.
Despite the likely withdrawal delay, President Biden and his cabinet insisted they seek to end the Afghan conflict and maintained they share the same agenda as Trump’s administration on the issue. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in March encouraged Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to be more “constructive” in dealing with the Taliban.
U.S. hesitance to withdraw by May 1 reportedly stems from concerns about the Taliban failing to meet their own commitments in the peace process. In particular, administration officials remain concerned about the Taliban reportedly still harboring international terrorists, a practice the militant group promised to end. The Taliban insists it honored that commitment.
Intra-Afghan peace talks began in September 2020 in Qatar, brokered by the Trump administration. The conflict continued throughout the negotiations.