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The Azadi Briefing: Deadly Bombing In Taliban's De Facto Capital Deals A Blow To Militants

Relatives attend the funeral of an Afghan man who was killed in the suicide attack in Kandahar on March 21.
Relatives attend the funeral of an Afghan man who was killed in the suicide attack in Kandahar on March 21.

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

A deadly suicide bombing struck Afghanistan’s southern city of Kandahar on March 21.

The attack outside a bank killed at least 21 people and wounded around a dozen others, hospital sources in the city told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Taliban officials put the death toll at three.

The Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) extremist group, a rival of the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Many of the victims appeared to be people queuing outside a branch of the New Kabul Bank in central Kandahar to collect their salaries.

Why It’s Important: The high-profile attack undermined the Taliban’s claim that it has restored security in Afghanistan since seizing power in 2021.

“Such acts also took place under the previous government and it was a disaster,” said Gul Ahmad, whose brother was killed in the attack, referring to the Western-backed Afghan government.

“Now similar attacks happen, too. I request and I beg the current [Taliban] government to bring security to the country,” Ahmad told Radio Azadi.

That IS-K managed to carry out a major assault in the heart of Kandahar, the de facto capital of the Taliban government, is also a blow. The Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, is based in the city.

The suicide bombing has also highlighted the enduring threat posed by IS-K, which continues to carry out attacks against the Taliban and religious minorities.

What's Next: The Taliban is likely to continue to be the target of attacks by IS-K as well as several resistance groups that have waged a low-level insurgency against it.

IS-K has been weakened by years of fighting with the Taliban, but it poses the biggest threat to its rival.

What To Keep An Eye On

The new school year officially began in Afghanistan on March 21. It is the third school year in a row that teenage girls were barred from returning to their classes.

Many girls across Afghanistan lamented the education ban on girls above the sixth grade, which was imposed in March 2022.

Niayesh, who was in the eighth grade when the Taliban seized power, said she is dismayed at the ongoing ban.

"I'm disappointed," Niayesh told Radio Azadi. “I still want to go to school just like my brother.”

Bahar, who is now in the sixth grade, expressed optimism. “I hope all schools will open so that we can study until the 12th grade," she said.

Why It's Important: The Taliban appears unlikely to reverse its restrictions on female education, despite condemnation inside and outside Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s repressive policies have threatened to make its government an international pariah.

The militant group is unlikely to gain international recognition without reversing some of its most draconian policies, including its ban on teenage girls attending school and women going to university.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

Please note that the next newsletter will be issued on April 19.

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday. You can always reach us at

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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