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Watchdog Says Violence Surges In Afghanistan Despite Peace Talks

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a blast in Kabul on October 27.

Violent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians spiked by 50 percent in the third quarter of the year even as the government and the Taliban launched unprecedented peace talks in September, a U.S. government watchdog said on November 5.

Two temporary cease-fires over the summer did little to reduce the violence as the Taliban launched attacks on provincial capitals and security installations.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported 2,561 civilian casualties in the third quarter including 876 deaths, up 43 percent from the April to June period.

"The Taliban is calibrating its use of violence to harass and undermine [the Afghan government and security forces], but remain at a level it perceives is within the bounds of the [U.S.-Taliban] agreement," SIGAR cited the U.S. Department of Defense as saying.

"Overall enemy-initiated attacks this quarter were also characterized as 'above seasonal norms'," SIGAR's quarterly report to the U.S. Congress added.

Afghan forces conducted 1,111 ground operations, more than double the number conducted in the same period last year, SIGAR said.

The report's publication comes amid calls to boycott the ongoing peace talks following back-to-back attacks on education centers in Kabul claimed by the Islamic State group, but which some government officials insist were carried out by the Taliban.

Talks between Afghan government negotiators and the Taliban have seen little progress since they started on September 12 in Qatar, with negotiations stalled over the basic framework of negotiations and an agenda still undecided.

Both sides have routinely accused each other of escalating violence and killing civilians.

The fighting between the warring sides takes a toll on civilians almost on a daily basis. The United Nations has documented 2,117 civilian deaths and 3,822 injuries in the first nine months of this year.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy who negotiated a separate deal with the Taliban in February, has repeatedly warned that "continued high levels of violence can threaten the peace process and the agreement and the core understanding that there is no military solution" to the Afghan conflict.

With reporting by AFP and dpa
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