The Taliban have been heightening its attacks on the Afghan judiciary and government employees as well as members of the security forces. The spike of attacks by the militant groups is coming as a suggestion that the group is attempting to further escalate violence after the group named a new leader Mullah Haibatullah. This is while the Afghan government and the United States had expressed hopes that the death of the Taliban leader would help to persuade the group to denounce violence and come to the table of peace negotiations. However, not only the optimisms came true, but the Taliban has further intensified violence. In recent instances of Taliban attacks, the militants organized attacks on a courthouse and a local attorney office in Ghazni and Logar respectively, leaving a dozen of people dead and injured.
Attempting to escalate violence, the Taliban is apparently shifting their approach to use tactics aimed at spreading fear among the public. Despite the calls on the Taliban to join peace talks and stop violence at least for the month of Ramadan, the group has refocused on organizing attacks on government institutions, security personnel travelling as civilians and other people serving the state. The Taliban’s abduction of the around 200 passengers travelling on the highway to the Northern provinces came as a shock to the whole nation. The militants then killed about a dozen of the passengers while the fates of some others remain unknown. While according to reports on Wednesday June 08, 2016, militants kidnapped almost 50 bus passengers in Kunduz.
On the other hand, the sharp increase in Taliban attacks on the judiciary is an avenge by the Taliban for execution of a number of the group’s members who were convicted of terrorist activities. The executions marked a change of policy by the government of Afghanistan against the militant groups. The government’s previous policy of leniency towards the militant groups did not work as the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners in past years did not help persuading the Taliban to join peace talks or ease attacks across the country. The very same prisoners released from government prisons used to join the Taliban on the battlefields. In response to the government’s tougher stance against the Taliban and execution of its members, the group has threatened to consider those relevant with the decision as legitimate military targets.
Nonetheless, the government’s stance against the Taliban is helpful for the overall campaign against the insurgency. In many provinces that have been vulnerable to Taliban’s large-scale attacks, the Afghan National Security Forces have been on the offensive, repelling the Taliban’s assaults and taking the war into the enemy’s ground. So far this year, the Afghan security and defense forces have managed to repel the Taliban’s ongoing offensive and foil the group’s attempts to have major gains on the ground and capture important towns and districts. The government’s determination to suppress the insurgency and put aside leniency towards the militant groups who refuse to join peace talks has undoubtedly helped the Afghan National Security Forces to better manage the anti-insurgency campaign. With the government demonstrating greater will to fight the militants, the security agencies have now clearer guidelines and a more robust plan to fight the insurgency.
The death of the Taliban leader has not helped resuming the peace process or easing the Taliban’s campaign of violence. However, the killing of the Taliban leader was not something new coming into the calculations of the peace and war efforts. Despite the national unity government’s leniency towards the Taliban and Kabul’s outreach to Pakistan for helping the peace process through the four-nation peace initiative, the Taliban refused to join the peace talks and instead intensified offensives against Afghan National Security Forces. The people of Afghanistan paid the price of the government’s failed policy of appeasement towards the Taliban. Not only the policy did not help the peace process, but the Taliban continued to target civilian-populated areas and kidnapping civilian.
The Taliban is determined to wage war. The government needs to respond decisively and will full strength. The increased attacks are clearly indicating that the peace process is virtually ended and cannot resume for an unforeseen period of time. The government needs to refocus on winning the war through a more robust anti-insurgency campaign rather than focusing on a failed endeavor to make peace with the Taliban. With the Afghan National Security Forces leading a robust campaign against the Taliban, the militant group’s spring offensive is failing.
Afghanistan needs to consider the anti-insurgency campaign a long-term endeavor that could possibly take years and even decades. The Afghan government needs to develop resiliency against the pressures of the militant groups to become sustainable in the long run. There are high chances that the Taliban – or at least the core hard-line part of the group – do not join peace as the group has never been prepared to denounce war and violence. Only military wins by the government would help persuading the militant groups to negotiate a peace deal.