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Taliban Declines to Participate in Peace Talks amid Battlefield Success

The Taliban has said it will not engage in peace talks with the Afghan government because it is winning in Afghanistan.

Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Taliban chief, made the announcement in a statement issued last week in which he called for his jihadist followers to “prepare for decisive strikes against the enemy” and win back estranged Taliban militants.

Currently, the Taliban is “in a much better state than at any other time,” stated Mullah Mansour, noting that the terrorist group’s “great conquests in various provinces of the country and this victorious process is still continuing” and urging his fighters to remain “vigilant of future enemy plots.”

The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which includes the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China, has been engaged in efforts to persuade the Taliban to participate in face-to-face peace negotiations.

However, the recent statement from the Taliban is testament that the QCG efforts have stalled.

“Diplomats with the group, know as the QCG, have expressed the hope that the Taliban’s refusal to talk is a leverage tactic, and that Pakistan would be able to bully and cajole the insurgent movement’s leaders resident in Pakistan into changing their decision not to participate,” opined Tom Hussain, an Islamabad-based journalist and Pakistan affairs analyst, in a March 22 article for Al Jazeera.

“It certainly would be characteristic of Afghan politics if that were to happen,” he continued. “However, the existing situation in Afghanistan provides no incentive whatsoever for the Taliban to negotiate with the Kabul-based government.”

Echoing Hussain, the Associated Press (AP) reports that the recent battlefield victories by the Afghan Taliban, a troubled government in Kabul, and increasing suspicions of Pakistan’s intentions in brokering peace talks have made the prospects of such negotiations unlikely.

“Even if Pakistan wanted to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table, its leverage as a safe haven for the Taliban has weakened as the insurgents’ southern Afghan heartland has expanded, providing them with more places to hide at home,” notes AP.

The Taliban regime was dethroned during the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Ever since, the terrorist group has fought against the Afghan government and U.S.-NATO forces.

The Taliban stepped up its insurgency after President Obama and NATO declared an end to their combat mission in December 2014.

“That pullout left inexperienced and poorly trained Afghan forces to battle insurgents largely on their own,” points out AP. “When the Taliban launched their annual warm-weather offensive last year, Kabul responded with large-scale military operations, but the Taliban gained ground.”

Afghan security forces and civilians have suffered record casualties since the end of the international combat mission was declared.

Earlier this month, the Kabul-based independent Afghan Analysts Network (AAN) reported that the Taliban had once again gained control of many districts in Helmand, Afghanistan’s largest province and traditional Taliban stronghold that had been liberated by U.S.-NATO troops.

Afghanistan’s Helmand province lies on the Pakistan border, next to Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban. Helmand has been one of the deadliest provinces for international troops.

According to AAN, the Taliban controls parts of many districts in Helmand and all of other districts, with the exception of urban centers, namely district capitals.

AAN concluded that Taliban jihadists have become better armed and organized, adding that the group has established “well-equipped and mobile commando-like” units.

“As a result, neighboring Pakistan, which has acted as a traditional go-between, has lost some of its leverage over the insurgents and may no longer have the authority to bring the Taliban into the talks,” reports AP.

In Helmand alone, the Taliban controls at least five of the province’s 13 districts. That means the Taliban controls more than one-third of Helmand province, the center of the terrorist group’s opium production, which generates millions in revenue.

“After nearly 15 years, the Taliban show no signs of slowing their insurgency in Afghanistan,” reports the private intelligence firm Stratfor.

It adds:

The Taliban are opposed to peace talks for two main reasons. First, the group has had significant battlefield success… Second, the group’s demands have not been met. The Taliban want a complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, the release of Taliban prisoners and the removal of Taliban names from a U.N.-sponsored blacklist.

In Kandahar province, which also borders Pakistan, Taliban terrorists killed Afghan National Army (ANA) Gen. Khan Agha on March 24.

Khaama Press reports that Agha became the second army general to be killed in southern Afghanistan since the beginning of February.

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