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article imageOp-Ed: Taliban resumes attack against government but US deal holding

By Ken Hanly     Mar 3, 2020 in Politics
On Monday a partial truce ended in Afghanistan as the Taliban has ordered resumption of attacks against the Afghan government. The Afghan government had refused to agree to a prisoner swap that was part of a peace deal with US forces.
Resumption of attacks appears related to government rejection of prisoner release.
Afghan government did not take part in peace negotiations
The Afghan government was not involved in the peace negotiations between the TaIiban and US in Doha. There were to be talks with Afghan parties later but as of now there have been no timetable for talks to even begin. Ironically the prisoner swap in the agreement was meant to be a confidence-building move. There would have been many more Taliban prisoners released than Afghan government and its allies prisoners however.
The Taliban have said that they will not hold direct talks with Afghan government members until the prisoner swap is completed. Thus the prisoner swap has been a barrier to talks rather than building any confidence. The Afghan government objected to the US promise of the release arguing that the US did not have the authority to do so. No doubt the US will attempt to pressure the Ghani government to carry out the terms of the swap.
Taliban not attacking the US or other foreign forces
Zabihullah Mujahid a Taliban spokesperson said to the AFP: "The reduction in violence... has ended now and our operations will continue as normal. As per the (US-Taliban) agreement, our mujahideen will not attack foreign forces but our operations will continue against the Kabul administration forces."
The Taliban is not attacking US or any other foreign forces nor are they attacking the Taliban. The Afghan government may hope that the US and others will help protect it from Taliban attacks but since the Afghans are refusing to carry out the prisoner swap it is unlikely the US will come to its aid. The Taliban attacks will put pressure on the Afghans to comply with the terms of the peace agreement or lose even more territory and power to them. The Afghans would probably be better off if they busied themselves negotiating arrangements for their own talks with the Taliban while carrying out the prisoner swap. As it is the foreign troops might as well have been withdrawn.
US to stick to the deal for now
Esper told reporters
on Monday that the US would get moving and show full faith and effort to carry out the terms of the agreement with the Taliban. Under the agreement that US will reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan from 12,000 to 8,600 within 135 days of the agreement and will withdraw fully within 14 months. The first withdrawal is within ten days. The withdrawals are contingent upon the Taliban keeping their parts of the bargain. However, the US obviously does not see the present attacks by the Taliban on the Afghan government as breaking the deal. It could even be seen as a lever to force the Afghans to accept the deal and set up its own talks with the Taliban instead of carrying on with a war it is losing.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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