Pushing against the spirit of commitment for peace

Thursday, 2020-06-25 17:00:27
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Afghan security forces arrive at the site of the attack in Kabul, on May 12, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – Last week was the “deadliest” in the 19-year conflict in Afghanistan, during which the Taliban group carried out 422 attacks in 32 provinces, killing 291 security personnel and wounding 550 others. President Ashraf Ghani condemned the violence, which he blamed on the Taliban. The government sees the violence “as pushing against the spirit of a commitment to peace”, he noted.

In the most recent violent act on June 23, 15 Afghan security personnel were killed and seven others were injured in attacks by the Taliban. Earlier, on the evening of June 22, Taliban gunmen launched an attack on a security checkpoint in Kunduz province, wounding nine militia members and six Afghan soldiers. In a similar attack in the province, six policemen died and one was injured.

On the occasion of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire starting from May 23. However, as soon as the ceasefire ended, the group attacked an Afghan border station on May 29, killing at least 14 security officers.

These moves came as Kabul and the Taliban signalled that they were moving closer to the launch of long-overdue peace talks. President Ashraf Ghani announced that he would complete the release of Taliban prisoners, a key condition for the rebels to start the peace process aimed atending the nearly 20-year-war.

In addition, the attacks also raised concerns about the “premature death” of the peace agreement signed in Qatar in February between the US and the Taliban. This agreement is considered a commitment to pave the way for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban. Under the agreement, the US will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan in May, 2021 if the Taliban meets conditions contained in the deal, including severing ties with terrorist groups.

Commander of the U.S. Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie said on June 18 that the US has reduced its troop level to 8,600 in Afghanistan, fulfilling its first phase pullout obligations under the US-Taliban deal. He said the US has fulfilled its part of the agreement. McKenzie also called full withdrawal an “aspirational” commitment, but also one which was conditional.

However, the fate of the agreement is currently very fragile. On one hand, the agreement threatened to become “a mess of paper” as instead of fulfilling its commitmentsto “security” and “toward peace”, the Taliban has launched hundreds of attacks all over Afghanistan. On the other hand, a condition of the agreement stipulating the Taliban's severance of relations with terrorist groups is also at risk of being ruled out. According to a recently-released United Nations report, the Taliban affirmed that it would maintain close ties with the Al-Qaeda network, despite the peace deal with the US.

It is clear that violence in Afghanistan has increased in spite of the US-Taliban deal for peace in the country. A recent report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) indicated that conflicts taking place in the first three months of this year in Afghanistan caused 1,300 civilian deaths and injuries, including 152 children and 60 women. The number of civilian deaths increased by 20% compared to the first three months of 2019.

Establishing a sustainable peace in Afghanistan is now a burning desire for its people. In order to facilitate the process of moving towards the start of negotiations within Afghanistan, during which the parties will seek a genuine solution to restore peace, the bloody violence in this South Asian nation must be stopped immediately.