Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Afghans’ Three-day Sigh of Relief Ends

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Afghans’ Three-day Sigh of Relief Ends

With three-day lull in conflicts following the declaration of ceasefire by Afghan government and the Taliban, the insurgent fighters resumed their offensives despite the ten-day extension from the government. The presence of the Taliban armed militants with their white flag in Kabul and their interaction with Afghan soldiers and civilians received mixed reaction from the public.
Some people deemed this issue a window for peace talks and believed that the truce would reduce misunderstandings and generate optimism between Afghan government and the Taliban. The Taliban members and Afghan soldiers exchanged flowers on Eid Day rather than bullets, which was an unprecedented event in the country’s history especially after the downfall of the Taliban’s regime in 2001. The over friendly approach of the Taliban with Afghan soldiers even caused a serious concern for the Taliban’s leadership. In a purported video message posted on social media, Mullah Omar’s son Mullah Yaqubreprimanded the Taliban commanders for their friendly approach with government officials.
However, a number of Afghans, mainly women, were shocked with the presence of the Taliban insurgents in Afghan capital of Kabul and said that their images were the reminiscent of 1990s – when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan – as well as of violence and bloodbath. Some Afghan women released their concern on social media saying that the Taliban’s presence in Kabul would only unleash the memories of war and they would never ever forget the militants for killing their family members. According to them, the Taliban will exert their misogynistic view once again in case of wielding power. Meanwhile, some feared that the Taliban members would seek hideouts in Kabul to organize attack against the government.
Generally speaking, the sudden emergence of scores of the Taliban members in Kabul filled public air with fear and disappointment. People were shocked with their bold and brazen act of emerging with their arms and flags only miles away from presidential palace.
The Taliban’s unanimous commitment to ceasefire within the three days of Eid through not firing a single bullet indicates that they are united under a central command notwithstanding reports of division within their ranks.
However, the return of the Taliban’s fighters to the battlefield and their persistence on holding out against peace talks with Kabul government will minimize the optimism bred by truce. With the declaration of spring offensives, the Taliban carried out massive attacks against Afghans, which inflicted heavy casualties upon Afghan soldiers and civilians. In other words, the heavy casualties of Afghan combatants and non-combatants in the wake of the Taliban’s intensified attacks show that the casualties will continue unabated similar to the past three years.
The Taliban are willing to hold talks with the US perhaps with the hope to persuade Washington to withdraw its soldiers from Afghanistan. The Taliban’s preparation for holding talks with Washington comes as US soldiers have intensified their air strikes against them in recent months. Hence, it is believed that since the Taliban consider the presence of US soldiers in Afghanistan a great threat to themselves and their air strikes will increase their casualties, the Taliban have given the US the green light for talks.
The US officials are also ready to sit with the Taliban around the table. Earlier this month, Gen John Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan claimed that “channels of dialogue” had opened with the Taliban.
The question is that will the Taliban stop violence and bloodshed if the US soldiers withdraw from Afghanistan? With the end of the US-led NATO’s combat mission and their withdrawal from the country in 2014, the Taliban intensified their attacks rather than reducing them. Based on this fact, the Taliban do not pursue peace talks with bona fide intention.
In brief, President Ghani’s initiative to cease fire with the Taliban on Eid Day has been praised by the stakeholders of peace talks, including the US and Pakistan. It is said that declaring ceasefire by Kabul government shows its strong determination for peace talks. In the meantime, the warm welcome of Afghan people to the Taliban shows their strong desire for peace. The war-weary Afghans, who heaved a sigh of relief within the three days of Eid, received the Taliban with open arm so that they could persuade them, through their friendly attitude, to hold talks with Kabul government and stop violence and bloodshed forever, the desire which has remained elusive so far.

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

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