GP Insights # 119, 10 August 2019
On 07 August 2019, a car bomb reportedly exploded in Kabul killing and injuring more than 140 people. This was part of a series of bomb blasts and suicide attacks in Afghanistan in the recent past. The Taliban insurgents later took responsibility for the suicide attack. Earlier this week, the Taliban had also threatened to interrupt the presidential elections scheduled in September over the question of legitimacy.
The latest attack comes at a time when there were positive reports of progress in peace talks between the US and Taliban in Qatar. Also, the UN had notified that July was the deadliest month since 2017in Afghanistan so far where more than 1,500 civilians were killed and injured.
What is the background?
The Taliban-US meeting is the seventh since October in Doha in order to end the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan. While the Americans are trying to strike a peace deal with the Taliban ahead of the 2020 US presidential election and gradually withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban has repeatedly been creating havoc in parts of the country alongside continuing negotiations.
The latest round was said to focus on four key issues: A guarantee by the Taliban that it will not allow fighters to use Afghanistan to launch attacks outside the country; withdrawal of the US and its allied forces; a permanent ceasefire; and an intra-Afghan dialogue which both parties - Taliban and the government.
The announcement of troop withdrawal by the US towards the end of 2020 came soon after Pakistan Prime Minister’s US visit. This could mean that the Islamic republic might have held a consensus over the issue.
What does it mean?
The statements from the United States seem to pose an element of optimism over the success of its peace plan and the eventual withdrawal of American troops. However, there has been a complete absence of any attempts from the US for a ceasefire. This could have been the reason for the Taliban’s continued infliction of terror in the region even when the peace negotiations are in progress. The Trump administration’s rush to reach a consensus before the 2020 US Presidential elections have been a success for the Taliban. This very well goes to explain the latter’s consistent threats on Afghan forces and the recent attack on a vice-presidential candidate in July this year. Persisting terror campaigning could also mean that neighbouring Pakistan has been continuing to sponsor terror and provide a haven to the Taliban insurgents.
Second, if the US succeeds to strike a deal with the Taliban, this would pave the way for subsequent talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government over the country’s political future as promised. The deal might also let the Taliban go slow on its concerned threat to disrupt the September 2019 Presidential polls while giving enough time for negotiations with the Afghan government.