Afghan Defense Ministry Claims Progress; Taliban Disputes High Death Toll

Abdullah urges Taliban to take opportunity for peace

Hope springs eternal for the Afghan Defense Ministry, which has been reporting progress against the Taliban, accompanied by claims of gaudy death tolls. Today, they punctuated a similar claim of progress, saying they’d killed 258 Taliban in the past 24 hours.

Unsurprisingly, the Taliban issued a statement almost immediately dismissing that death toll, saying it wasn’t that high. They didn’t offer an alternative death toll, but the government has been offering similarly high tolls nearly every day of late, fueling a lot of skepticism.

The reports are that heavy fighting was seen in 13 provinces in the past 24 hours. In Afghanistan that is not unusual, and both government and Taliban tends to offer limited accountings of what happened, emphasizing casualties on the other side while not offering figures on their own.

These increasingly violent exchanges come amid efforts to get the peace process going in a more serious manner. Abdullah Abdullah, the chief negotiator for the Afghan government, says he sees a “real opportunity” for peace, and both sides should make the most of it.

The hope is that a nationwide ceasefire would be reached some point soon as part of the groundwork for the peace talks. The last ceasefire in Afghanistan cover the Eid al-Fitr holiday, but was not extended beyond that.

Efforts toward a peace deal have gone slow in recent months, with the US abandoning the May 1 pullout date lead to a lot of mistrust and reticence over talks that followed.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.