Last week in Central Asia and the Caucasus, Afghan forces targeted the Taliban with airstrikes as the militants carried out deadly attacks on security forces around the country. The Islamic State (IS) attacked Kabul city, killing several civilians. Furthermore, rare protests took place during the visit of Pakistan’s prime minister to Afghanistan. Armenia’s opposition parties continued to protest against the government for signing the ceasefire which ended the recent six-week war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, in Georgia, the results of parliamentary elections spurred demonstrations for a third week in a row.
In Afghanistan, Afghan forces fended off Taliban attempts to capture territory, while continuing to carry out lethal airstrikes against them. Similar to the week prior, Afghan military airstrikes resulted in dozens of Taliban fatalities in Kandahar, Faryab, Badakhshan, and Urozgan provinces. In Qaysar district of Faryab province, fierce clashes took place between Afghan forces and the Taliban after a car bomb placed by the militants exploded in the police headquarters. In Maimay and Jurm districts of Badakhshan, the Taliban killed 40 police officers during clashes. Maimay was briefly captured until Afghan forces claimed it back two days later. In Pashtun Zarghun district of Herat province, the Herat-Pashtun Zarghun highway which had been occupied by Taliban militants was seized by Afghan forces following days of clashes. Meanwhile, the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, which was recently announced by the current US administration, continues to be discussed (Washington Post, 21 November 2020).There has been a decrease in Taliban-reported attacks between 19-21 November, which could signal the imminent announcement of a breakthrough in the deadlocked intra-Afghan talks in Qatar (France 24, 20 November 2020).
In a separate development, the Islamic State (IS) fired more than 20 rockets in Kabul city last week, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 30 others. Although the group claimed responsibility, the Afghan Interior Minister accused the Taliban of conducting the attack (RFE/RL, 21 November 2020). Targeted killings of civilians were also reported last week. The Taliban is suspected to be behind several of the recent attacks on scholars, journalists, and other public intellectuals (The Guardian, 21 November 2020). During the week prior, a journalist was killed by an IED which had been attached to his vehicle. He had previously received death threats from the Taliban to stop reporting their military activities (Human Rights Watch, 12 November 2020).
Meanwhile, in Kabul, Paktia, Khost and Herat provinces, large protests were held condemning the visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister to Afghanistan. Protesters accused Pakistan of sheltering Taliban members while at the same time claiming to support Afghanistan in the peace process.
In Armenia, discontent towards the joint agreement ending the war in the de facto Republic of Artsakh continued. The opposition — led by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Prosperous Armenia, the Republican Party of Armenia, and the Homeland Party — organized several protests in Yerevan and Gyumri cities last week. They contested the authority of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to sign such an agreement. As the opposition continued to demand his resignation, the president of Armenia also urged the prime minister to resign and form an interim government to organize parliamentary elections to solve the political crisis in the country (RFE/RL, 17 November 2020). However, Pashinyan instead introduced a roadmap to overcome the crisis. The plan emphasized the importance of peace and stability in Artsakh. It also called for the return of the displaced, as well as financial and psychological support for war veterans and families (News Am, 18 November 2020). Shortly after this, Pashinyan replaced five ministers out of twelve, including the Minister of Defense (Azatutyun, 23 November 2020).
Meanwhile, according to the agreement signed on 9 November, Azerbaijan took control over the Aghdam region, which had been under the rule of the de facto Artsakh Republic since 1994. People in the region left their homes and settled in Armenia and in other regions of Artsakh guarded by Russian peacekeepers (Caucasian Knot, 20 November 2020). During the week, the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev, visited Jabrayil and Fizuli provinces where Azerbaijani forces took control during the fighting. He announced upcoming development projects in the region during his visit (APA, 16 November 2020).
Lastly, in Georgia, the political crisis continued as the results of the parliamentary elections on 31 October continued to be disputed by the opposition. Last week, the opposition organized a protest in Tbilisi during the visit of the US Secretary of State. They silently stood along the central Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi while the American diplomat’s car was passing. The secretary visited Tbilisi to congratulate the ruling Georgian Dream party on its win. Currently, the ruling Georgian Dream party remains the only political party in the country that has accepted the results of the elections, as the opposition claims the election was marred by irregularities and corruption (Eurasianet, 18 November 2020).
© 2020 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.