Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 19th, 2018

The Mournful Taliban Heighten Militancy

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The Mournful Taliban Heighten Militancy

Since the Taliban are reeling from the death of their leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, they have intensified their attacks in Afghanistan. Their newly appointed leader Mowlavi Haibatullah Akhundzada, the radical clergy, came out a great obstacle before peace talks and surpassed his predecessor. The Taliban have sustained heavy casualties, by the operations carried out by Afghan soldiers and US forces and will seek to revenge the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour and Khalifa Omar Mansour, who was killed last month in a US drone strike in Nangarhar.
Last year was a bloody year for Afghan nation as the Taliban declared their spring offensive. As a result, in September 2015, the Taliban overran Kunduz, their first takeover of a major city since their fall from power in 2001. Akhtar Mansour, who called peace talks “the enemy’s propaganda” orchestrated heavy attacks against the nation to strengthen his position. Currently, Haibatullah intends to gain the charisma of Mullah Omar through intensifying attacks under the “Omari Operation” which was declared earlier by the late Mansour. Therefore, he has also centralized his attacks on Kunduz and captured Khan Abad district, which is around 30 kilometers east of Kunduz city, on Saturday, but has been, reportedly, recaptured by Afghan soldiers. Earlier this month, the Taliban launched a major offensive in volatile southern Helmand province, surrounding the capital Lashkar Gah, a town of 200,000 inhabitants, but were stopped by Afghan forces supported by American air strikes.
Last year, the first since NATO ended combat operations, civilian casualties hit a record 11,002, with 3,545 deaths and 7,457 injuries. It was estimated that 60 percent of casualties were caused by anti-government forces including the Taliban and other groups such as the self-styled Islamic State (IS) group. Based on the UN’s report, at least 1,601 civilians have been killed and 3,565 others wounded in the first half of the current year, showing a record surge of four percent compared to the same period in 2015. In addition, children sustained almost one-third of the nearly 2,000 casualties caused by the escalated militancy in the first three months of 2016 and there was a five percent rise in women being killed or wounded, which reflects an increase in fighting in built-up areas as the Taliban intensified its insurgency.
The Taliban have warned earlier that they would “employ large-scale attacks on enemy positions across the country” during the offensive dubbed Operation Omari in honor of the movement’s late founder Mullah Omar, whose death was announced last year.
The death of Mullah Omar and appointment of Akhtar Mansour as his successor resulted in splinter group between the Taliban. A group of Taliban, led by Mansour Dadullah, pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan. Subsequently, Dadullah was killed along with his fighters by Akhtar Mansour’s people about ten months back in southern Zabul province. Last week, a video message revealed by loyalists to Dadullah shows that they have appointed Mullah Emdadullah Mansour as Dadullah’s successor to fight against US forces in Afghanistan. Moreover, Mullah Emdadullah promised revenge for the death of his predecessor.
The Taliban suffer from both the death of their leaders and tug of war between their own groups. Being filled with a sense of revenge, they intensified their attacks against Afghan government. The sporadic clashes between the Taliban splinter faction and emergence of the IS group are also a headache for Haibatullah’s fighters.
Encountering these challenges, the Taliban resorted to indiscriminate killings and spilling the blood of Afghan non-combatants, including women and children, which is a great cause of concern. They have constantly violated humanitarian law and slew the wounded in action and civilians in the worst possible way. In other words, the Taliban’s ideology lacks humanity and moral standards and their acts of violence outrage humans’ conscience.
It is believed that a leader with radical ideology will harm the Taliban more than ever before as Akhtar Mansour was killed for being called “an obstacle before peace talks”. The Taliban have always played a delusive role in peace talks which went beyond the tolerance of Afghan officials and prompted them to take serious actions. The peace talks did not go with the satisfaction of Afghan authorities and the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which consisted of Afghanistan, Pakistan, US and China, to bring the Taliban to negotiating table also came to standstill after the death of Akhtar Mansour as Pakistan called it violation of its territory and condemned the attack. Additionally, Islamabad’s role regarding peace talks was not acceptable for Kabul which aroused a sense of mistrust between the Afghan-Pak officials for being orchestrated in the Taliban’s safe haven located in Pakistan – according to Afghan’s authorities.
Although the peace negotiation was ended without fruition, Pakistan’s Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said recently that Pakistan believed that a politically negotiated settlement through an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process is the most viable option for achieving durable peace in the war-torn country adding that terrorism remained a common threat to both Pakistan and Afghanistan. “In our view, close cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is important for eliminating the scourge of terrorism from our region,” he remarked.

It is believed that resuming peace talks will not bear the desired result as the Taliban played a foul game. After all, the gap between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be hardly bridged while the good relationship will be built on trust. They have to rebuild the trust and combat terrorism with strong force rather than pushing for peace talks.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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