KABUL – The decision to call off peace negotiations with the Taliban may be a tactical move by the United States but it won’t reduce the current high level of violence in Afghanistan, experts said on Tuesday.
The two sides were on a verge of finalizing a peace deal after nine rounds of talks when US President Donald Trump canceled the talks abruptly after the insurgent group admitted killing a US soldier in a Kabul attack on Thursday, one in a series of latest suicide strikes across the country.
In a series of tweets, Trump said if the Taliban was unable to agree to a ceasefire during peace talks, then they “probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement.”
Political analyst Matiullah Kharoti told EFE that the White House “decision won’t reduce current intensified level of Taliban violence and attacks in Afghanistan.”
The Taliban, he said, would never be able to agree to a comprehensive ceasefire for two reasons.
There are 21 militant groups who fought against the US and Afghan troops in support of the Taliban and they cannot be forced into a truce, Kharoti explained.
On the other hand, he said, Taliban’s main backers, Pakistan’s powerful military, won’t let them to completely stop their combat operations in Afghanistan.
“Trump saw the Taliban can’t deliver on the initial promise to stop their attacks. How will they be able to deliver on the rest of the promises made in the agreement,” said Kharoti, a former Kabul University professor.
However, others call Trump’s decision a pressure tactic to force Taliban into accepting demands of the US and Afghan governments.
“The decision by Trump is not a lasting strategic move. It is just a tactic to put pressure on the Taliban on intra-Afghan talks, cease violence and attacks which they use as a tool to gain leverage in negotiations,” Ahmad Sayeedi, a former Afghan diplomat in Pakistan, told Efe.
But Sayeedi warned that if peace talks didn’t resume soon “the war is going to intensity.”
Taliban has upped its frontline and urban attacks in recent months as part of a campaign to strengthen its bargaining position and gain leverage.
Before Thursday’s attack that killed 12, including an American soldier in Kabul, a Taliban truck bombing on Sept. 2 in the east of the city killed 16 civilians and injured over 100.
The militant group in the last 12 days launched three major attacks in its bid to overrun capitals of northern Kunduz and Baghlan and western Farah provinces.
The attack in Baghlan was repelled. But Taliban fighters breached the security and defense belts of Kunduz and Farah cities and captured some neighborhoods for hours before they were pushed back. Intense fighting was also reported from northern Takhar, Badakhshan, and Balkh.
Calling off the peace talks, some experts say, would only heighten levels of violence in the war-torn country.
The two sides had reached a draft agreement in principle after more than a year of negotiations on the withdrawal of US troops, a comprehensive ceasefire, counter-terror assurances by the Taliban and intra-Afghan talks to end the 18-year-long conflict that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Afghans and more than 3,500 foreign soldiers.
Abdul Baqi Amin, head of nonprofit Qased Strategic Research Center, said Trump’s decision showed there are some “serious disagreements” between the two that forced the US to call off the talks.
“On a daily basis, more than a hundred Afghans are dying. Even this year, 15 US soldiers died in Afghanistan, but Trump is calling off the talks for a single attack and losing a soldier. I am sure there are other serious disagreements in the draft,” Amin said.
He said he was sure Washington would return to the table “because the US needs to have an agreement to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan.”