February 13, 2018
Afghan officials are conducting talks with the Taliban militant group following a recent wave of deadly bombings and terror attacks by the outfit that have left almost 200 people killed, a report says.
“Afghanistan’s intelligence Chief Masoom Stanikzai and its National Security Chief Mohammed Hanif Atmar continue to each talk separately to the Taliban,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday citing individuals “familiar with the backdoor negotiations.”
According to the report, the secret talks with the terrorist group reflect a desire in Kabul to end the Taliban militancy, which has lingered on 17 years after a United States-led military invasion of the country toppled a Taliban regime.
The unidentified sources further said that the problem was that neither one of the top Afghan security officials in contact with the Taliban “is talking to the other or to the High Peace Council,” which was established by Kabul to discuss peace with the Taliban.
Disagreements within the Afghan government have also reportedly expanded, even as Taliban militants continue to gain more territory across Afghanistan — and despite the recent deployment of thousands of more US troops to the country — while exploiting increasingly ruthless tactics.
The AP report said Hakim Mujahid, a member of the High Peace Council, had confirmed that Stanikzai still maintained regular contacts with the Taliban’s point man for negotiations, Mullah Abbas Stanikzai. The two are not related.
Meanwhile, representatives from dozens of countries are due to meet in the Afghan capital later this month for a second time to discuss the so-called Kabul process aimed at forging a path to peace. The first round was held in June.
Still, the latest spate of violence has limited options for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is also fending off a mini-revolt within his own government, feuding with the vice president as well as a powerful northern governor.
US President Donald Trump has recently ordered intensified bombardment against Taliban positions. Some say that is likely to elicit further violence from the Taliban.
Taliban’s former number two, Aga Jan Motasim, who still regards the terrorist group’s leader Mullah Habaitullah Akhunzada as a friend, has said he wants to be a bridge between the government and the Taliban.
He reportedly spends his time between Kabul — where he talks to the government — and in Turkey, from where he can contact his former Taliban colleagues.
Increasingly, the Taliban have gained control of territory inside Afghanistan. Washington says more than half of Afghanistan is either under direct Taliban control or under their influence. Other estimates put the figure as high as 70 percent.
The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a report late last year that $72 billion of the $120 billion spent in Afghanistan since the US-led war began had gone to the country’s security.
“Clearly, the time is ripe to ask why an undertaking begun in 2002 and costing $70 billion has — so far r— not yielded bigger dividends,” the report said.