The Taliban has warned of more attacks targeting top Afghan government officials after an attack targeting the acting defense minister in Kabul and as insurgents continue their fight for control of cities across the country.
The attack targeting acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi “is the beginning of the retaliatory operations against the circles and leaders of the Kabul administration who are ordering attacks and the bombing of different parts of the country," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on August 4 in a statement on social media.
A blast followed by a gun attack that targeted Mohammadi killed eight people and wounded 20 others on August 3. An Interior Ministry spokesman said gunmen entered Mohammadi's compound after the blast and all four attackers were killed.
The Taliban said the Kabul raid was in response to stepped-up air strikes against the insurgents by Afghan and U.S. military forces.
The Taliban statement came after the Afghan military launched a counterattack in the southern city of Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand Province, according to AFP.
The army told the city's 200,000 people to evacuate on August 3 as they prepared their offensive.
Fierce fighting also has occurred around Herat, near the western border with Iran, and Kandahar in the south.
The United Nations said on August 4 it had received reports of mounting civilian deaths and damage to critical infrastructure in Helmand and Kandahar.
"Hospitals and health workers are becoming overwhelmed by the number of wounded people," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told a press briefing.
The UN also urged donors to fund the Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan, which Dujarric said had received less than half of the needed $1.3 billion to date.
Amid the violence, thousands of Afghans have shown support for the nation's security forces by gathering in the streets and on rooftops in major cities for several nights to chant Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest).
The demonstrations are meant to boost the morale of the army and pro-government militia and express defiance toward the Taliban. The cry of Allahu Akbar is often heard from Islamist militants during an attack, but many Afghans want to reclaim the phrase from the extremists in support of peace.
In Washington, Pakistan's national security adviser said that Afghanistan's government and the Taliban must compromise and reach a peace settlement.
"There will have to be some compromise given the ground reality. But the violence will have to stop," said Moeed Yusuf as he wrapped up a week of talks in the U.S. capital.
He said that the Afghan government must stop looking for a military victory and include a broader range of Afghans in any future talks.
Yusuf said that his U.S. counterpart, Jake Sullivan, and others in the Biden administration did not make specific requests of Pakistan but discussed how quickly all actors can be brought together for “a sincere conversation."
He dismissed talk of Islamabad exerting leverage over the Taliban.
"Whatever limited leverage we had, we used," he said.