Only last week, we wrote in these columns condemning a horrific attack on a Shia mosque in the Afghan city of Kunduz that killed at least 55 people, and expressed our concerns over the escalation of violence in the country. We are now saddened and worried to be writing about yet another bloody assault in Afghanistan, this time in the city of Kandahar, which killed at least 41 people and injured scores more. This attack, like the last one, is aimed at the Shia community, and has been claimed by the Islamic State (IS).
The fact that the IS are continuing their operations within Afghanistan, and even went so far as to brazenly attack a mosque in what is considered to be the heartland of the Taliban, has cast huge doubts on how steadily the current government can hold on to the reins of the country. The new Taliban-led administration had vowed to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan after decades of war, and had also assured the world that terrorists would not be able to operate on Afghan land. If recent events are anything to go by, they are being hard pressed to keep to their commitments, even in their own backyard. IS seems determined to spread sectarian violence and further destabilize Afghanistan.
This latest attack also exposed the extent of the humanitarian crisis currently facing the country. Afghan doctors spoke to AFP about how they urgently require blood for the injured and are struggling to treat them within a crumbling health sector. Only last month, the WHO chief warned that Afghanistan's health system is on the brink of collapse, and that cuts in international funding had forced health providers to decide "who to save and who to let die."
Although the UN has announced the release of USD 45 million from an emergency fund to support Afghanistan's struggling health system, the international community must do more to ensure such funds reach the people who need it the most. The Taliban now also have a window to prove that they are capable of governance and not just conflict, and prevent the situation from spiralling further. However, we are disappointed to see that no statements have been released, nor any steps taken, by the current administration to provide any reassurance to the minority communities in the country who are currently living in fear.
Our hearts go out to the people of Afghanistan, who have already endured so much. The time is now for global leaders, major donors and regional allies to put pressure on the Afghan administration to end the violence that has erupted within the country. If this situation is not contained, its repercussions could reverberate across the entire region and create further instability and conflict in the near future.