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Taliban resume peace talks after deadly assault on military base

By Mansoor Faizy

KABUL: There is a rush for a negotiating settlement after 18 years of war within the US administration to end the prolonged hostility with the Taliban group. To discharge the obligation, US installed Zalmay Khalilzad, a veteran diplomat with dual (Afghan-American) citizenship as special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation. He just concluded his peace mission in Pakistan and fled to Qatar to hold talks with the Taliban group.

Talks held between US officials and Taliban’s Qatar-based members on Monday, in which the Taliban in the same day infiltrated an Afghan intelligence base in Wardak province, killing dozens of personnel. It was one of the deadliest attacks against the intelligence services in the past 18-year of intense fighting between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban insurgents. 

The attack came hours before the Taliban insurgent said their members sat in talks with US diplomats. “Following American acceptance of the agenda of ending invasion of Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the future, talks with American representatives took place Monday in Doha, the capital of Qatar,” the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

The resumption of peace talks moved forward after a short stalemate that Taliban cited differences over agenda. The Taliban also rejected Saudi Arabia meeting in the face of pressure on the group to meet with Afghan peace team—a team that always been ignored by the Taliban group. Afghan negotiating team was in the United Arab Emirates where Taliban were meeting US, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia officials, but totally brushed off meeting Afghan delegation. But it is imperative for the Taliban group to bear in mind that peace talks won’t succeed sans Afghan government inclusion. The standpoint of the National Unity Government is also crystal clear as it emphasized on dignified peace.

The Monday morning attack has float with conflicting casualties as some senior officials put the number of dead between 40 and 48, while as many as 60 others wounded; but Mohammad Sardar Bakhtyari, the deputy chief of Wardak’s provincial council said 50 intelligence personnel were killed.

The Humvee attack of the Taliban, which was packed fully with explosives material that left in grieves hundreds of families, is totally induction of the group’s reluctance to shun violence, which is an alarming signal that the Afghan security forces must stay alert.

This is totally a sign of deadly violence that could be grow further even in the wake of peace talks and US efforts to sit Taliban down for talks with the Afghan government. Unfortunately, violence has continued unabated across the country, and in capital city Kabul as well, despite cold winter and fresh peace efforts.

The attack also put acid over what Khalilzad—the US peace envoy that facilitating peace talks, said that they are heading in right direction with more steps to be taken by Pakistan in future to have a tangible result. He made several trips to regional over the past couple of months, and according to him, all of it to be result-orientated. When he was coming Kabul from China, he termed meeting with Chinese officials fruitful that means momentum for talks is already shaped. From Afghan side, Hamdullah Mohib, the youngest National Security Advisor and Omar Daudzai, President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy for regional affairs on consensus around peace and head of the high peace council’s secretariat, have also made foreign trips to reach regional consensus over peace efforts. It has been reported that today (Wednesday) Daudzai will fly to China in his quest for peace.

Continuously rejection of Taliban no to meet Afghan peace delegation is not something huge, or conquering a fight or a debate, rather it cast shadow over their independence of making decision. Fighting and negotiating at one time is another failure of their leadership. The Afghan security forces is more capable than the Taliban fighters. Check 2018 Taliban casualty record which is much more comparing to Afghan security forces. Nevertheless, war brings nothing but devastation, and still there is room for the Taliban to reintegrate into civil society through gripping abundance of opportunity at the moment.

Mr. Mansoor Ahmad Faizy is Editor-in-Chief in Afghanistan Times Daily, and a member of Rana Think Tank. You can follow him on twitter @Mansoorfaizy001

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