The Taliban recently announced the commencement of their spring offensive in Afghanistan, much to the dismay of those working to cobble together a peace process. They made good — or bad — on their promise on April 19 by detonating a huge IED in the centre of Kabul and followed it up with an invasion of government buildings in the vicinity of the bombing where they, as is customary, fought to the death. The attack killed at least 64 and wounded over 347, many of them seriously and according to reports most were civilians. They were quick to claim the attack which used “hundreds of kilogrammes of explosives” and tore a hole in the illusion of security in the Afghan capital that is so beloved of the Afghan government which in a startling statement in the aftermath of the bombing portrayed it as a sign of weakness and imminent failure on the part of the Taliban. Self-delusion does not come much deeper than that.
The bombing also calls into question just how much, if any, influence Pakistan has over any faction of the Taliban, be they in or out of Pakistan. The government has called on the Taliban to call off their spring offensive — or face the consequences. What these may be is unspecified, but unlikely to be anything other than armed. A government official said that he was “utterly disappointed” by the announcement from the Taliban but it can hardly have come as a surprise. A recently published map (BBC) shows graphically just how much of Afghanistan is under the complete or partial control of the Taliban and it is more than 50 per cent. The latest peace process is encapsulated in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) made up of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US. For this group to succeed, there would need to be a commitment to joining talks by the Taliban and an agreement on the cessation of hostilities. The Taliban do not appear inclined towards either. Considering that they have never been comprehensively beaten militarily, it is difficult to see what ‘consequences’ might put a dent in them. As ever we await developments.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2016.
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