The Taliban's "Spring Offensive" codenamed operation "Badr" has been off to a dramatic start in northern parts of the country on Saturday when in Taloqan city of Takhar province the supreme police commander of the northern Afghanistan, Mohammad Daud Daud, was killed along with the provincial police chief while the provincial governor sustained injuries. General Mohammad Daud Daud was one of the most high-profile jihadi commanders who served as the supreme police commander of the northern Pamir zone occupying important positions in the government since the fall of Taliban in 2001. The spectacular attack happened as a high-level meeting involving the police chiefs, the provincial governor and officials from international forces was in progress. German General Markus Kneip, the highest ranking NATO commander in northern Afghanistan was wounded while three of his soldiers were killed.
Takhar province and the Taloqan city have been relatively calm away from the hustle and bustle of Taliban activities elsewhere in the north. Taloqan was the scene of a series of demonstrations only recently after the operations carried out by foreign forces led to death of four local people. As a result of police firing on demonstrators, more than 10 people were killed and about 60 injured. The government and the international forces headquartered in neighboring Kunduz province maintained that the infiltrated Taliban militants into the province were the main drivers behind the demonstrations.
The Saturday attack in Taloqan, the targets and its timing are all highly significant in the backdrop of recent developments concerning the Taliban and other militant groups' increasing assertiveness in northern parts of the country. The main target of Saturday's attack seemed to be General Mohammad Daud Daud, the influential former northern alliance commander who had close relationship with Ahmad shah Massoud within the Jamiat-e Islami Party and its related guerrilla networks. In their "Badr" spring offensive, the Taliban have already made it clear that they are determined to make more inroads into the northern parts of the country and establish their presence in areas previously unreachable to them. Spreading suicide bombings and terror attacks throughout northern Afghanistan is firmly on the agenda of the Taliban for the current year.
On the other hand, Taliban have been showing increasing eagerness to eliminate the influential figures among the former Northern Alliance, of which Mohammad Daud Daud stood as a prominent figure. The leadership of Taliban seems to believe increasingly that the international community and the regional powers have been left with no choice but to finally accommodate the Taliban politically and diplomatically. They will be doing whatever in their power to prevent the rise and consolidation of any political and military bloc comprised of the former northern alliance figures. Eliminating Mohammad Daud Daud is a step in this direction with the aim of targeting those who will offer countervailing force against Taliban in any attempted settlement in the future. More targeting of such influential figures from the north are on the agenda of the Taliban and their allies.
The Taloqan attack once again proves the veracity of warnings and the concerns aired by many who genuinely feel for the country and the future of its people. The remaining bastions of peace and calm in the northern regions of the country are being infiltrated by Taliban and their allies. The latest news concerning the secret negotiations taking place between American diplomats and Taliban representatives being facilitated by Germany has had the only result of further emboldening the Taliban and making them more determined to continue with terror and bombings.
In a way, the Taloqan attack further demonstrates the futility of the peace negotiations and the blunder of those, both within the government of Afghanistan and foreign countries, who have pinned hopes on talking the Taliban out of this war. As discussed, the Taliban and their leadership are bent on making their political opponents certain that they will be the unequivocal winners of a war being waged on their own turf. The Saturday's Taloqan attack can very well be the start of a new chapter of increasing insurgency and destruction in the northern areas with Sar-i-Pul and Jawzjan already rife with militant activity.
In the absence of a shift of thinking in Kabul government and the countries with power to affect developments such as the U.S. and the U.K., the insurgency cannot be tamed and the Taliban defeated. As long as the government in Kabul shows signs of faltering and is unwilling to fight its own enemies, Taliban and other militant groups will only find greater motivation and conviction to press ahead with the cycle of death and destruction. As the international community's commitment to stand against the onslaught of Taliban and other insurgent groups falter, the Kabul government too increasingly displays weakness and failure to grasp the underlying realities.
The state of government in Kabul and the capability of it and its security forces to bring effective military pressure on militant groups especially beyond 2014 are in doubt with these groups expanding their areas of presence and operation.
The Taliban, their allies will not seriously contemplate peace as long as they see the government in Kabul struggling to find its feet. If the Afghan government continues to be weak, riddled with corruption and offer inefficient and ineffective governance, these groups will continue with the war. On the other hand, an Afghan government that will gradually put its house in order and firm itself up can eventually make large segments of Taliban to join it even if it means bringing Taliban leaders to power.
Whether or not the current talks about talks will take off and metamorphose into substantive negotiations and later a meaningful reconciliation process, all hinge on these factors and many more. In the process, the country needs to focus on improving the readiness of its armed forces and more importantly, grasp the realities while ensuring the rights and aspirations of an ethnically diverse country. The people of Afghanistan are sick and tired of wars and conflict and cannot afford this last chance to be snatched away from them in the name of negotiations.