n the surface, it seemed that the Taliban would reduce violence to extend the room for peace and stability, but they increased their militancy, which led to heavy casualties of Afghan soldiers and civilians. The escalated insurgency has narrowed the room for optimism about fruitful talks since the Taliban have come to the table without genuine intention.
Saturday’s suicide attack on Kauther Educational Center in Dasht-e-Barchi, a Hazara-dominated area, shows the Taliban’s lukewarm response to peace. Afghan presidential palace said the Taliban group carried out the attack, although the group denied responsibility, according to BBC.
Not to mention Saturday’s attack, the Taliban are widely engaged in killing civilians, including women and children, as they intensified their attacks in recent months despite holding talks with the Afghan government in Qatar. The Taliban’s intensified attacks, on the one hand, are likely to push the intra-Afghan dialogue to a stalemate and on the other hand, fill Afghans with disappointment and hatred.
Peace talks were the only gleam of hope for the people of Afghanistan, who suffered severely within the last two decades to support democracy and constitutional principles, mainly human rights and freedoms as well as the principle of non-discrimination.
If the Taliban are not genuine in the talks, they have to stop negotiations and continue their insurgency so that Afghans no more be in limbo. It is self-evident that the Taliban also sustained heavy casualties in the wake of their intensified attacks. However, their leaders enjoy luxury life outside the country and the life and death of their fighters are likely to carry no significance for them. They simply focus on their self-interests.
It is self-explanatory that the people of Afghanistan are highly frustrated with the ongoing war, especially the Taliban’s indiscriminate attacks. The life of civilians has turned too cheap. In other words, in addition to killing civilians, the Taliban put pressure on ordinary people. For example, they increased taxes in areas under their control and installed checkpoints to collect money from drivers. In short, people bear the brunt of Taliban’s escalated insurgency and acts of cruelty and injustice.
If the Taliban do not reduce violence, their leadership has to order their fighters not to target civilians, who have nothing to do with war. Killing civilians have no religious or legal justification.
Meanwhile, peace talks are not supposed to compromise the rights and liberties of ethnic minorities. Talks will be accepted if the Taliban honor Afghanistan’s constitution, in which there is no room for racial, religious, or sexual discrimination. With this in mind, the Taliban need to stop killing Hazara people, who have paid heavy sacrifices for supporting democracy. Peace will remain elusive unless the Taliban practice upon the maxim: live and let live.
The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has been highly optimistic about the outcome of the peace talks and believed that violence would decrease once the intra-Afghan dialogue is started. He persisted on releasing the Taliban’s prisoners, which was counterproductive. That is, releasing the Taliban’s hardcore fighters backtracked as they returned to battlefields and the level of violence increased. A large number of Afghans feel hatred towards Khalilzad since the agreement he signed with the Taliban brought no positive result in the country. He simply signed a “withdrawal agreement”, which will not bring in peace. Worst, the US is unwilling to pressure the Taliban to reduce violence and sign an agreement with the Afghan government.
The Taliban should make it clear whether they seek to fight or make peace. Fighting amidst peace talks create ambiguity. If they practice goodwill in the talks, they have to declare ceasefire and reduce violence.
Whether the US President Donald Trump reduce the number of his soldiers or resort to complete withdrawal, he lost in Afghanistan. Despite his political bragging and calling himself “a problem solver”, Trump could not put an end to decades of war in Afghanistan. In such a case, he will waste the blood and treasure invested in the country for the last two decades.
Considering the ongoing violence and militancy in the country, Khalilzad’s mission also failed. His optimism seems to be baseless or he simply sought to show that he made great achievement for Afghan people in general and for the Trump administration in particular. However, despite the peace talks, optimism and bombastic words in this regard, the security situation is worse than a decade ago and Afghans are more disappointed and fearful since the US troops will leave Afghanistan in the lurch.