Rise In Violence As Afghan Government And Taliban Engage In Peace Talks

The end is in sight after a 20 year long war. The intra – Afghan negotiations began earlier this year and the stakeholders include the Taliban, the Afghan government, political factions and civil society activists. The peace talks began earlier this year in September in Qatar. The Afghan government has demanded the Taliban cease all insurgent attacks, however the Taliban have refused until the peace agreement is finalized. Instead of a decline of violence and a trajectory of peace, the negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government has actually led to a sharp rise in violence in Afghanistan.

A statement released by the Afghan interior ministry outlined that in the last three months, the Taliban ‘killed 487 civilians and injured 1049 others’ through suicide attacks and bomb blasts. Most recently, on December 20th an Afghan law maker was targeted by a car bombing in which nine were killed. Despite, no one claiming responsibility for the attack, it is pertinent as it is one of the many bombings occurring in Afghanistan today. In provinces of Logar, Nangarhar, Helmand and Badakhshan, there have been reports of bombings which have killed and injured authorities and civilians.

The rise in violence is reminiscent of the aftermath of the U.S. brokered peace deal with the Taliban. The peace deal was signed in Doha on February 29, 2020. Most notably the provisions outlined the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO soldiers from Afghanistan and willingness to end the economic sanctions placed on the Taliban. The government of Afghanistan was not involved in this peace agreement. The U.S. deal was formulated to pave a way for peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan authorities. However, despite the peace agreement titled, Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan attacks from the Taliban spiked in the country.

Tension and violence rose as the Taliban demanded the release of their prisoners from the Afghan government. The refusal of this demand led to the  ‘bloodiest week in 19 years’ according to Afghan authorities. Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the NSC tweeted the “Taliban carried out 422 attacks in 32 provinces, martyring 291 ANDSF members and wounding 550 others. Talibans commitment to reduce violence is meaningless, and their actions inconsistent with their rhetoric on peace.”

There are heavy criticisms of the ongoing peace process, in which people fear that the Taliban are not interested in creating  long lasting peace. Instead, their main objective is to overthrow the Afghan government once the U.S. troops are withdrawn. This fear is echoed by Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, where he stated that NATO must not jeopardize the peace talks by withdrawing troops from the country too early.

The intra – Afghan peace talks are a breakthrough from the violence and conflict of the past. However, whilst the international community and Afghan authorities are committed to the peace talks, it is important to remain slightly critical. The main objective is to change life on the ground, in order for there to be a safe environment for the civilians. Yet, the concern of the Taliban stalling to ensure international forces withdraw is a pertinent one. The Taliban’s actions with the increased violence and bombings give no indication that they are willing to change, or, that they are on the path to peace.

Yet fundamentally, despite the actions of the Taliban, international actors and other stakeholders are determined to transform Afghanistan. The U.S. peace envoy for Afghanistan believes the  ‘agreement demonstrates that the negotiating parties can agree on tough issues.’ Hence, there is hope in the willingness to make decisions on a legal and administrative level. Thus, the future is set to significantly change for Afghanistan.