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Taliban attacks rip apart Afghan peace deal

Taliban attacks rip apart Afghan peace deal

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Afghanistan remains mired in conflict as the Taliban continue to inflict heavy casualties on Afghan forces across the country. In the latest attack on Monday, 27 police and security personnel were killed in north and south Afghanistan. The Taliban have carried out many more attacks in other parts of the country in the last one month.

The incessant attacks on Afghan police, security personnel, and government officials are putting strain on the US-Taliban peace agreement that was signed a month ago. The deal, signed in February in Doha, did not include the Afghan government. Under the deal, the US hopes to bring back some of the troops before the Presidential elections in November, while the Taliban will severe ties with international terror groups including the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaida.

Despite the deal, the Taliban have neither announced a ceasefire nor stopped attacks. In fact, many important aspects of the deal have not been implemented because of differences between various groups of Afghans. The Taliban have declined to talk with the government's 21-member negotiating team as according to it, the team does not constitute all Afghan parties.

Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 kidnapped Afghan security forces have not made any headway. The two parties have not come to an agreement yet, though the exchange of prisoners was kept for March 10, and later pushed back to March-end. The Afghan government has said that the release of prisoners could not happen as the Taliban delegation did not turn up for talks. Also, there is no clarity from the Taliban that the released prisoners will not join the battlefield.

Political disagreements between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and arch opponent Abdullah Abdullah have only added to confusion and delays in the peace talks. In fact, the US had tried to break the ice between the two rivals but to no avail. Out of a sense of frustration, the US announced a cut of $1 billion in aid for 2020 and threatened to reduce another $1 billion aid for 2021 if Ghani and Abdullah did not patch up.

Abdullah was earlier the Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan and had contested the presidential elections in September 2019. He refused to accept defeat, alleging fraud in the elections. In March this year, both Ghani and Abdullah took the presidential oath in different ceremonies, almost at the same time in adjacent government buildings. Despite American intervention, the two politicians remain bitterly opposed to each other.

The peace deal has brought no respite to Afghanistan. The very first attack was carried out by the Islamic State (IS) against Abdullah, killing 32 people, just after the deal. Then came the IS attack on the minority Sikh community during prayers that killed 25 people. The assailants struck again when they launched a bomb attack on the Sikhs the next day during cremation.

The peace deal between the US and Taliban, both sworn enemies since the war on terror began in 2001 after the attack on the twin towers in New York, has come in for criticism. The Taliban have been describing the deal as a victory for them and have not made efforts to reduce violence against the Afghan government. It has, however, agreed to talk peace with other Afghan groups.

US President Donal Trump has been criticized for pushing a deal that leaves out its key ally—the Afghan government and other representative Afghan voices. Trump has been panned for capitulating to the unreliable Taliban in order to add a foreign policy feather to his cap.

From an American point of view, the US has been pushing for a peace deal in a bid to extricate itself out of the 18-year old war. The US also wants various Afghan groups to sit down amicably and find peaceful solutions to end the long-running conflict.