Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s administration and the government in charge of the provincial capital of Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace, offered the terrorist group incentives like the ability to visit relatives this week to embrace a truce proposal of up to one year.
Less than a day after Ghani said Kabul is prepared to extend a ceasefire for one year if the Taliban leadership ready to embrace the truce, the jihadist group killed 30 Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in the western province of Badghis on Wednesday.
The assault marking the first major attack since the end of an unprecedented ceasefire over the weekend for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which the Taliban proved to be the most prolific Islamic terrorist group in the world, killing 324 people and wounding 404 during the 30-day period.
Except for last weekend, Ghani’s U.S.-backed ceasefire has been unilateral with Taliban leaders brusquely rejecting Kabul’s offer to extend a Ramadan truce for up to an additional year.
The Washington Post notes:
The insurgents’ terse announcement came as thousands of Taliban fighters continued swarming into cities and towns to celebrate the three-day Eid holiday, mingling cordially with civilians, hugging policemen and posing for selfies. Many remained armed, however, raising concerns about whether their presence would turn menacing after the current truce expired at midnight.
In Kabul, the capital, a group of insurgents milling in the streets was heard shouting, “Death to America” after the truce extension was rebuffed, according to a video posted on social media by Afghan journalists. In Paktika province, another post said Taliban fighters meeting with local residents had fired shots and torn up Afghan flags.
The Taliban’s ceasefire ended on Sunday, but Ghani and even some provincial government’s have been trying to lure the Taliban into extending the truce, to no avail.
To convince the Taliban to embrace the ceasefire extension, Brig. Gen. Rahmatullah Atrafi, the deputy police chief in the capital of Kandahar province, told Pajhwok News that the terrorists would be allowed to continue visiting the region unarmed.
“If the Taliban want to visit their relatives’ homes, meet individuals and officials, they can come without the fear to be chased,” he said, indicating that “a joint commission of police and army had decided that whenever the Taliban wanted to come to the city they should put their weapons down and their representatives would be present at the site.”
Hundreds of U.S.-led coalition troops and likely thousands of Afghan forces paid the ultimate price in pushing the Taliban out of Kandahar earlier in the war. “Some have criticized his ceasefire, which allowed the Taliban to freely enter government-held areas, including the capital, Kabul,” Reuters acknowledges.
Although Lt. Gen. Scott Miller, who has been nominated to lead U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, conceded this week that Pakistan, Russia, and Iran continue to lend support to the Taliban, a top Department of State official told lawmakers that those three countries are pivotal to bringing the terrorist group to the peace negotiation table, particularly Islamabad.
Alice Wells, the principal deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday:
Countries like Russia and Iran do have an important role to play in the future stabilization of Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s neighbors are going to have to support any peace process that emerges between the Afghan and the Taliban. And that’s why we’ve worked very hard in a variety of diplomatic formats to ensure that the region is part of this process, informed by the process, and is informed by the principles of peace that have been put forward by President Ghani … Pakistan has a particularly crucial role to play.
Wells noted that the Trump administration’s pressure on Pakistan to stop providing sanctuary to the Taliban has failed so far.
She pointed out that while Taliban leaders have rejected Ghani’s peace offer, the group’s foot soldiers appear receptive to it.
What we learned from this [weekend’s] ceasefire that was very interesting was just how much then [Taliban] foot soldiers and the commanders inside of Afghanistan do desire peace … I think where we are right now is a Taliban leadership, many of whom enjoy sanctuary outside of the country and don’t feel the pressures of day to day war, have not yet been convinced to come to the negotiating table despite what has been an extremely forward-leaning offer of peace put forward by President Ghani in February.
That month, Ghani offered the Taliban a ceasefire and official recognition as a political group, a proposal that the Trump administration has endorsed.