Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, August 15th, 2020

Taliban’s Engagement in Civilian Casualties Outrages Public Conscience

The indiscriminate attacks and suicide bombings, including Monday bombing in the heart of Kabul which killed and wounded dozens of civilians, carried out by the Taliban have filled the air with strong hatred. Afghans also lost their trust in meaningful peace talks, ongoing between the Taliban and the US representatives in Qatar’s capital.
Afghan civilians, including women and children, have sustained heavy casualties within the last few years as a result of the Taliban’s intensified attacks. According to the UN figure, civilian casualties jumped by 11 percent from 2017 with 3,804 people killed, including 927 children, and another 7,189 wounded. The last year surge in violence coincided with a significant increase in the number of deaths caused by the “deliberate targeting of civilians”, based on the UN report.
Anti-government armed groups, mainly the Taliban and ISIS group, accounted for 63 percent of the casualties, the report said.
The Taliban have been involved in systematic killings of civilians. They carried out indiscriminate attacks across the country to put pressure on the government. They have frequently violated the humanitarian law and the Islamic tenets.
The Monday attack suggests two facts: First, the Taliban still target civilians without an iota of mercy and brazenly claim responsibility for attacks which result in heavy civilian casualties. They resort to targeting civilians whenever losing the war in the battlefield. Second, it shows the Taliban’s foul play at the negotiating table. Despite the ongoing peace talks, the Taliban have intensified their attacks and declared their spring offensive. They also turned down the demand of Loya Jirga, grand council, representatives for ceasefire and holding direct talks with the Kabul government. 
On the one hand, the engagement of the Taliban’s political office in the negotiation and, on the other hand, the organization of deadly attacks by the Taliban’s military commanders show a gap between the Taliban’s political leadership and their rank and file. Perhaps the Taliban militants seek to sabotage the peace talks and push their leadership not to declare ceasefire.
Both the Taliban ideologues and mercenaries are most likely to push for violence and militancy. That is, they follow their ideology and economic interests through insurgency.
The Monday’s deadly attack in Kabul also leads to a speculation that the Taliban have always sought to disrupt friendly relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whenever the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan start to thaw, the Taliban carry out massive attacks to trigger the blame game between the two countries. The Taliban military leadership would be the main whistle-blower. It is because if Pakistan uses her leverage, she would be able to push the Taliban to reach a peaceful agreement at the peace table.
Few days back, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to support “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-owned” peace talks. Afghan-Pak leaders reaffirmed their commitment to playing their role responsibly in terms of regional peace and stability. Hence, the relations between the two sides have been cemented in the wake of President Ghani’s state visit to Pakistan. But the Taliban would find their interests at stake with an Afghan-Pak strong tie.
With this in mind, Afghan-Pak officials have to be cautious not to resume their harsh rhetoric against each other as a result of the Taliban’s suicide bombings. Instead, the two sides have to put much pressure on the Taliban either to declare ceasefire or have to face the consequences.
It should be noted that Pakistani officials have constantly said that dialogue, not military deal, would be the only viable option to end the conflict. But despite the seventh round of peace talks ongoing between the Taliban and the US negotiators, peace and stability remain elusive. If the Taliban continue their insurgency, the Kabul government would also adopt the tit-for-tat policy. Hence, Islamabad should nudge the Taliban to capitalize on the current opportunity and reach an agreement with their interlocutors.
The fear of failure in peace talks emerge among the public in recent days. If the ongoing peace talks reach a stalemate, militancy would be multiplied in Afghanistan, which would have a huge bearing on regional stability. In such a case, the Afghan government and its international allies would intensify their attacks against the Taliban network and would target them even outside the Afghan soil.
The Taliban have to stop the foul play at the peace table and stop targeting civilians. In short, spilling the blood of civilians would only increase public hatred against the Taliban.