The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide truck bomb attack against the German Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of the northern Balkh Province, on 10 November. The blast killed four Afghan nationals and caused considerable damage to the diplomatic facility. This was the third attack targeting Westerners this month; two US soldiers were killed in a confrontation with the Taliban in northern Kunduz Province on 3 November, and two days later the group kidnapped an Australian NGO worker in Kabul.
We do not believe that the Taliban will view the incoming US administration differently from the current Government in Washington, and so it will not alter its approach after Trump’s inauguration. Taliban attacks against Western interests, as well as efforts to expand its control of territory, are intended to pressure the US and NATO to withdraw their troops from the country. The group also hopes to increase its public support by presenting itself as resisting the international military intervention. Indeed, the Taliban said that the attack in Mazar-e-Sharif was launched in retaliation for the deaths of 32 civilians in a NATO air strike in Kunduz a week earlier.
The Taliban’s strategy is also intended to strengthen its position ahead of any future talks, which the group considers the best means to secure its ultimate aim of significant political influence in the country. Our last Report noted that Taliban representatives held preliminary talks with Afghan and US officials in Qatar in early September and October. These initial discussions were likely intended to begin establishing a framework for the resumption of more formal dialogue efforts. However, the change of US administrations will likely delay official talks, and so these are unlikely to begin until next year at the earliest. In the meantime, there will be a persistent risk of major attacks against Government, security and foreign interests in Kabul and other urban centres.