The head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation — its agency for relations with the Taliban — warned on Tuesday that violence in the country has increased during peace talks with the jihadist organization.
Abdullah Abdullah, who leads Afghanistan’s peace talks with the group, nonetheless branded ongoing talks in Doha, Qatar, between Kabul and the Taliban “historic,” lamenting only that they were not working fast enough to bring peace to the country.
The Afghan government has been at war with the Taliban since the United States invaded the country in 2001, following the al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001, and toppled the jihadist regime. President Donald Trump jump-started talks between the two groups in September meant to result in the complete end of America’s 19-year presence in the country as soon as possible.
The greatest hurdle to a peace agreement between the Taliban and the legitimate government of Afghanistan is that the Taliban still considers itself the actual government of the country, referring to itself as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” The Taliban has yet to abandon its claim to running the country and is demanding the total imposition of Sharia, the Islamic law, in the country, although the Afghan constitution already identifies the country as an Islamic state. Taliban leaders are also demanding the freedom of all imprisoned jihadis belonging to the group.
Negotiations have reportedly resulted in a cessation of attacks on American and NATO troops in the country (after September 11, 2001, America invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which requires NATO members to send forces to the aid of the invoking country). Abdullah warned on Tuesday, however, that the same could not be said for attacks on Afghan forces.
“The talks are underway, the steps which are taken are preliminary and historic steps, but the Afghan people expect these talks to be accelerated and violence to be reduced,” Abdullah said, according to Afghanistan’s Khaama Press, “because in the view of current circumstances, violence has not only [not] reduced, but it has increased compared to the past.”
Abdullah made his comments at an event for an organization that works to support civilians caught up in the Afghan war.
While behind-the-scenes negotiations have taken place throughout 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Doha for the official launch of peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban in mid-September. Doha hosts the Taliban’s political office. At the launch of the talks, the Taliban’s delegation — featuring at least four terrorists who had spent time at the American military facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — made clear demands for a say in the future of the country.
“Negotiations about the government and the release of remaining prisoners are the topics that will be on our agenda,” Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem Wardak said. There remained about 7,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghan custody at the time of his statement.
Another Taliban negotiator said the group wants “a government in which the Holy Quran is ruling, the hadith of the messenger (Muhammad) is ruling, the Hanafi school is there, and the occupation is over.”
Pompeo expressed optimism for the talks in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News in September, stating that he believed an American exit from Afghanistan was possible as early as spring 2021. Such an exit would depend on the Taliban vowing not to cooperating with international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda which have intentions of harming the United States. Saudi al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden spent time in Afghanistan before organizing the September 11 attacks.
“The conditionality is really three-fold. One, there is an obligation they have with respect to foreign terrorist groups — primarily al-Qaeda, but all four terrorist groups — they are not permitted, and the language is very clear that they are not permitted and that they have to break with them,” Pompeo told Breitbart News. “Second, they have to engage in these conversations in a way that is substantive and not just physically sit in the room … third, they have a responsibility as part of that to ensure that outside actors don’t act as spoilers for this.”
Trump himself hinted that America may be out of the country even sooner this weekend.
“We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid responded to the message by calling it “positive,” saying in an official statement, “the Islamic Emirate [Taliban] welcomes these remarks and considers it a positive step for the implementation of the agreement signed between The IEA [Taliban] and the U.S.”
Mujahid added that the Taliban “hopes for good and positive relations with all countries, including the US, in the future.”
Violence against U.S. troops in the country on the part of the Taliban decreased since the talks.
“The Taliban attacks are not taking place against the foreign forces … we are happy with that, but, on the other side, the war continues against Afghans,” U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said last week.
Afghanistan recorded the single deadliest day since peace talks began about a week after the first Doha meeting last month, killing at least 57 Afghan forces in at least four provinces. Attacks on Afghan troops have continued and, according to Abdullah, “increased” in the past month. The U.S., while not at the forefront of the hostilities, has nonetheless condemned it. American Charge d’Affairs in Afghanistan Ross Wilson condemned the attacks on Tuesday as “not consistent with the U.S.-Taliban agreement.” While the diplomats rejected the attacks, the U.S. military came to the aid of Kabul with new airstrikes on Taliban targets this week. The U.S. military confirmed on Monday “several targeted strikes in Helmand [province] to defend ANDSF [Afghan] forces under attack by Taliban fighters.”
The Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, urged the Taliban to “immediately stop their offensive actions in Helmand Province and reduce their violence around the country.”