The Taliban carried out more than a dozen attacks on Afghan army bases, officials said Tuesday hours after ending part of the ceasefire and questioning the peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents.
The intra-Afghan negotiations are set to begin on March 10, according to a US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha on Saturday. However, a dispute over a prisoner swap has raised questions about whether to continue.
The agreement includes a commitment for the Taliban to release up to 1,000 prisoners and for the Afghan government to release around 5,000 insurgent prisoners – something the militants said was a prerequisite for talks, but which President Ashraf Ghani rejected before the negotiations began ,
The series has highlighted the difficult road ahead, and the Taliban's decision to end an armistice on Monday makes matters even more complicated.
A Department of Defense official spoke overnight about attacks on government forces in 13 of the country's 34 provinces, on condition of AFP anonymity.
A government statement said two soldiers were killed in one of the attacks in southern Kandahar province.
Five security forces were killed in an attack in Logar province near Kabul, which was not on the list of the Department of Defense official, the provincial governor's spokesman Didar Lawang told AFP.
The end of the ceasefire that started on February 22nd ends a welcome respite for ordinary Afghans who have borne the brunt of the deadly violence.
However, experts said the move was not surprising since both sides are trying to use their leverage to force the other's hand.
"Of course, the violence will increase, it had to happen. No wonder Ghani opposes the release of prisoners: 1 of his few levers," tweeted Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Kabul-based analyst Ahmad Saeedi told AFP that the surge in attacks reflected the insurgents' belief that "they must keep the battlefield hot to win on the negotiating table, as they did with the Americans."
"So far, so good"
The Ashraf Ghani government sent a delegation to Qatar last week to make "first contacts" with the insurgents, but Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Tuesday that the militants would only meet Kabul's representatives to release their prisoners discuss.
Obvious differences between the Doha Agreement and a joint US-Afghanistan declaration published in Afghanistan underscore the barriers that negotiators face.
The US-Taliban agreement provided for the release of prisoners, while the Kabul document required only both sides to determine the feasibility of the release of prisoners.
In a statement, the UN mission in Afghanistan "continued to use reduced violence to maintain and improve an environment conducive to the start of intra-Afghan negotiations".
Since the signing of the agreement, the Taliban have publicly demanded "victory" over the United States.
Speaking to Fox News, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed the militants' comments.
"So I've seen a lot of comments. Just watch what's really going on. Pay less attention to statements, less to what people say," said Mike Pompeo.
"Watch what happens on site. A lot of work has been done on detailed levels as to how this will continue. So far, so good."
Under the terms of the agreement, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan within 14 months, subject to Taliban security guarantees and insurgent pledges to conduct talks with Kabul.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)