An attack carried out by the Taliban in Ghazni, Afghanistan has claimed the lives of at least 14 people and wounded another 180 people. Al Jazeera reports that this attack on a government security compound 150km outside of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, occurred amid a high-profile summit between Afghan leaders and representatives of the Taliban in Doha, Qatar to find peace in the country. According to the Associated Press, the car bomb was detonated near the office of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency, as well as a private high school. The incident has caused some to question whether there can ever truly be peace with the Taliban.
The Taliban took responsibility for the attack via spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, who confirmed that the target was the intelligence service’s office. U.S. Peace Envoy Zalmay Khalizad, who is leading the intra-Afghan negotiations, tweeted in response to the attack, “Getting reports of a horrific attack in Ghazni in which schoolchildren were again victims. It is unfathomable to endanger children in this way. I strongly condemn this attack. Peace has never been more urgent and is the only path to ending terror and violence.” Previously, Khalizad had told Al Jazeera that “substantive progress” was being made between the Taliban and Afghan representatives. However, the Taliban’s representatives are only authorized to operate in a personal capacity. Director Hashim Wahdatyar of the Institute of Current World Affairs explained to Al Jazeera, “Taliban does not want to sit with the Afghan government because it thinks that peace talks with the government will affect the morale of its fighters in the battlefield.”
However, as long as the deeds of the Taliban and the words of its representatives contradict, peace seems improbable at the negotiating table and impossible in the eyes of the Afghan public. Al Jazeera reports that social media was dominated by images of the at least 60 children that were harmed by shards of glass after the attack. The attack delegitimizes the Taliban’s negotiations of peace both with the Afghan government and the United States, which has also been engaged in several rounds of talks with the Taliban to pursue peace in the region, including the smooth removal of U.S. troops still stationed in Afghanistan. As these attacks continue to occur, it is unclear whether the Taliban is truly ready to commit to peace or whether their participation in negotiations is simply meant to give them a guise of cooperation.
The current summit in Doha is the third to occur between the Taliban and Afghan government, the two previous meetings having occurred in Moscow last February and May. According to Al Jazeera, the issues discussed at these meetings included the creation of a new constitution and an interim government. Current peace talks in Doha between the U.S. and the Taliban were paused for two days to allow the intra-Afghan peace talk to occur. However, the Taliban has kept up violent activities throughout these negotiations. The Associated Press reported that the Taliban planted a mine in western Ghor province the day before the car bombing that killed seven children. Al Jazeera reports that a week before that, the Taliban detonated another car bomb during morning traffic that killed 16 and wounded 105.
The Taliban should cease these attacks immediately to ensure trust in the negotiating process with the United States and Afghan government. Meanwhile, the U.S. should put more pressure on the Taliban to combat, rather than carry out, terrorist activity if they wish to achieve their objectives such as U.S. troop pullout. Above all, an end to the nearly 18-year-long conflict in Afghanistan that has claimed countless lives should be prioritized as talks continue to occur between these three parties going into next week.