On Monday, April 25, 2016, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani officially announced he would no longer seek future peace talks with the Taliban. This comes as a major blow for the Afghan president whose foreign policy centered on a commitment to the talks. He has now called upon Pakistan to help defeat Taliban insurgents which plague Pakistan’s tribal belt.
In a speech to the Afghan parliament Ghani asked Pakistan to be a “responsible government” and launch attacks against the Taliban and its allies, warning that if Pakistan fails to do so Afghanistan plans to refer the issue to the UN Security Council.
Numerous factors have caused Pakistani Taliban insurgents to cross into Afghanistan. First, the withdraw U.S. and NATO coalition forces in 2014. Second, in July 2014 Pakistan’s military launched “Operation Zarb-e-Zab” which displaced thousands of Pakistani, Arab, and Uzbek Taliban members from Pakistan’s Waziristan tribal area. Third, while Afghan security forces have struggled to hold off Taliban insurgents they lack aircraft support and reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities.
Ghani referred to the Taliban as “terrorists” for the first time in his presidency a statement he had avoided calling them in his first 18-months in office. He does not expect Pakistan to hand over the Taliban for any future negotiations, so Afghanistan security forces will now have to confront the group and any of its supporters.
There will also be no amnesty for Taliban insurgents under Ghani’s reign, which seemed to take a direct shot at former Afghan president Hamid Karzai who was suspected of releasing thousands of insurgents who claimed they revoked violence. One of last week’s truck bombers is suspected of receiving a reprieve from Karzai.
The Taliban took note of Ghani’s remarks and on social media claimed that Ghani and his cabinet were nothing more than “slaves” and “lackeys” under the imperialist watch of the nation run by “Kerry” referring to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Last week a truck bomb detonated in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital and killed 64 while injuring another 347. It was the worst terrorist attack in the capital city since the suicide bombings killed 54 worshippers at a Kabul mosque during the festival of Ashura in December 2011. Afghanistan Intelligence into the truck bombing revealed that the Haqqani network, a Taliban-allied group was responsible for the attack.
Ghani along with Abdullah Abdullah, chief executive of Afghanistan’s Unity Government remained supportive of talks with the Taliban following a truck bomb attack last August injured 400 Afghans. In January 2016, a meeting was held consisting Afghanistan, Pakistan, the U.S., and China on how to handle the Taliban problem after they refused to show up for the talk. Pakistan made a pledge to utilize military action against the group, at the same time indicating they can only influence, not control the group.
Prior peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have made little progress as the Taliban would not even attend talks until the withdrawal of foreign troops. The Taliban has re-engaged Afghan security forces under the most recent “Taliban Spring Offensive”.
Ghani may feel that Afghanistan has made every effort to broker a deal with the Taliban and to no effect. Given the failure of talks, the Afghans may need to seek new support for a military effort against the Taliban. The Obama administration had previously reversed insistence on withdrawal prior to the end of the President’s term in 2017. U.S. forces have largely been restricted from aggressively engaging the Taliban; something retiring General John Campbell has called for publicly, in order to push back against Taliban offensive despite lower than recommended U.S. Troops levels.