The Taliban has released a short statement saying it will halt attacks on the Afghan government for three days. The group doesn’t specifically mention the government’s unilateral ceasefire, which was announced on June 7. Some will undoubtedly seize upon the statement as a sure sign of progress toward a real peace, but there are several problems with this interpretation.
Whereas the government announced that its unilateral ceasefire will last until June 20, the Taliban’s order covers just “the first, second and third day of Eid” — meaning a shorter timeframe. The Taliban also refers to the government’s men as “domestic opposition forces,” meaning they are opposed to the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Furthermore, the Taliban does not say that it has agreed to conduct meaningful peace talks with President Ashraf Ghani’s government. In fact, it doesn’t mention any talks at all. Yet, the stated goal of Ghani’s announced ceasefire was to jumpstart a peace process. While it is always possible that individual commanders, units or factions may reconcile with the government, there is no indication in the statement that the Taliban’s senior leadership is seriously considering a grand bargain.
The US quickly agreed to abide by the Afghan ceasefire, but the Taliban says it won’t halt its operations against Western forces. “Foreign occupiers are excluded from the above order,” the Taliban’s leadership informed its fighters. “Continue your operations against them and target them wherever and whenever you find an opportunity.”
The Taliban has consistently said that one of its main goals is to force the US and its allies out of the country. Of course, the withdrawal of American forces would merely make it easier for the Taliban to gain even more ground.
Gen. John Nicholson, who oversees the US-led war effort, has cited a Feb. 14 “open letter” from the Taliban as evidence that the organization is considering a negotiated peace. He has even claimed that the Taliban “outlined” the “elements of a peace proposal” in the missive. The jihadists did no such thing.
As FDD’s Long War Journal has noted, the Taliban blasted the Afghan government as a “corrupt regime,” while accusing anyone who works with it of “committing treason against our nation and national interests.” The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — that is, the Taliban’s authoritarian regime — is the only true “representative of its people” and a “regional power with deep roots which cannot be subdued by sheer force.” The Taliban insisted that fighting “foreign occupation” forces is a “legal, religious and national obligation.”
This is not the language of compromise, especially since the whole purpose of peace talks is to have the Taliban reconcile with the government, which the Taliban says is illegitimate.
Some have tried to seize upon a few phrases toward the end of the Feb. 14 letter as if they hold promise. But even then, all the Taliban said is that if American forces are withdrawn, then there could be “peaceful dialogue.”
“In brief, insisting on prolonging the war in Afghanistan and maintaining American troop presence is neither
beneficial for America nor for anyone else, rather it endangers the stability of the entire world,” the Taliban said at the conclusion of its letter. “This is [an] irrefutable reality which is only rejected by your arrogant authorities. If you want peaceful dialogue with the Afghans specifically and with the world generally, then make your president and the warmongering congressmen and Pentagon officials understand this reality and compel them to adopt a rational policy towards Afghanistan!”
That is, again, the Taliban simply wants America and its allies to leave, thereby removing a key roadblock to its jihad.
In its new statement, the Taliban said it would consider releasing some prisoners. However, this is nothing new. The Taliban routinely announces its release of prisoners during Eid and other religious holidays. Nearly every time, the prisoners are released, as the Taliban has said in the past, after “taking assurances they shall not join the enemy ranks again.”
This is the Taliban’s position on the prisoner releases once again.
“The Military Commission officials and provincial governors should mark inmates in their prisons and send findings to the leadership office about those who are able to find guarantors that they will not rejoin the enemy ranks and fight against the Mujahideen so that the leader may decide about their release,” the Taliban stated today (emphasis added).
The key part of this decision is that the “inmates” must not “rejoin” the Afghan government’s forces — another sign that the Taliban isn’t really offering to compromise. Note, too, that the Taliban refers to its “provincial governors” — an allusion to the group’s shadow governance throughout Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s statement ends with a swipe at the US-led coalition, which it describes as an “inhumane enemy” and accuses of blindly killing civilians. “The Mujahideen should not participate in civilian congregations where there could be a danger of airstrikes so that our inhumane enemy will not be able to use it as an excuse for their blind bombardments and civilian tragedies,” the statement reads.
However, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), violence initiated by the Taliban and other jihadists is the principal cause of civilian casualties.