The Taliban has rejected a request by the Afghan government to extend its short-lived ceasefire. “Mujahideen throughout the country are ordered to continue their operations against the foreign invaders and their internal puppets as before,” the group said in a short statement published on its Voice of Jihad website on June 17. The “internal puppets” include the Afghan security forces. The Taliban has consistently argued the government is illegitimate.
A unilateral ceasefire was first proposed by the Afghan Ulema Council (AUC), a religious body of up to 3,000 figures from throughout Afghanistan who support the government, earlier this month. President Ashraf Ghani then declared a one-sided ceasefire on June 7, hoping that the Taliban would follow suit. Ghani’s move was widely supported by NATO and the US government, including the US military and State Department, as part of a gambit to start meaningful peace talks. General John Nicholson, who oversees the US-led war effort, described Ghani’s ceasefire as a “bold initiative for peace,” saying he supports “the search for an end to the conflict.”
On June 9, the Taliban announced that its men were ordered to refrain from attacking “domestic opposition forces” — meaning those belonging to the Afghan government — for just three days, a shorter timeframe than Ghani’s ceasefire. The Taliban also said that it would continue to go after the “[f]oreign occupiers,” meaning the US and its foreign allies. The group also made no mention of Ghani or the Afghan government’s pause in the fighting.
The Afghan government clearly hoped to use the lull, and widespread calls for peace, to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Ghani even claimed — prematurely — that his naysayers were wrong about his ceasefire and that a window had opened.
A “[f]ew days ago when we were preparing for ceasefire many were skeptical that Taliban will not comply, and also how will it be put into practice? But those doubts were removed once ceasefire began and assumptions made by many analysts and politician[s] were proven wrong,” Ghani said, according to his official Twitter feed. The Afghan president claimed that the suspension in fighting demonstrated that there is a “consensus between the Afghan government and the Taliban on peace, it proved that we are all for peace.”
“We’re ready for comprehensive negotiations, all those issues and demands that have been put-forth we are ready to discuss them at the peace talks. The Afghan government is ready to discuss issues of mutual concern with neighboring countries, and presence of foreign forces,” Ghani said.
Accordingly, Ghani ordered an extension of the government’s ceasefire and called upon the Taliban to continue its suspension of operations as well. “We also request the Afghan Taliban to extend their ceasefire. During the ceasefire, we will provide medical assistance to the wounded Taliban, and will provide them any humanitarian assistance if needed,” Ghani said. “Taliban prisoners will also be allowed to contact and see their families.”
The Taliban’s leaders weren’t having it, as they ordered operations against the government to resume.
In its June 17 statement, the Taliban did trumpet its “successful implementation of the three day ceasefire,” but explained that it “was not in response to the ceasefire of the Kabul regime but was announced for the wellbeing of the nation and has to an end tonight.”
The Taliban also noted that its ceasefire showed that the group has a tighter command over its forces than some have assumed. “It proved that the Islamic Emirate fully controls the trajectory of the ongoing Jihad and resistance, are not governed by foreign powers and are a unified force that can decide upon and implement important decisions such as ceasefires,” the statement reads.
US military officials have pointed to the existence of more than 20 designated terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan as one of their principal concerns.
In its rejection of Ghani’s offer, the Taliban dismisses this point out-of-hand, saying the group’s “enemies used to propagate that twenty different groups operate against them in Afghanistan or that the Islamic Emirate is not cohesive and unified.” The statement continues: “But it has now become abundantly clear to everyone that this assertion is baseless and that multiple parties are not participating in this Jihad. The Islamic Emirate leads Jihad across the country and all combatants strictly follow their orders.”
It is true that al Qaeda and other affiliated groups are fighting under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s banner, meaning the Taliban. But it is also true that US military officials include Pakistani jihadist groups in their list, some of which are allied with the Taliban, but not traditionally considered to be under its authority. The US list of designated terrorist organizations also includes the Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan, or Khorasan “province,” which is opposed to the Taliban.
The Taliban also uses its ceasefire as a public relations event, saying it showed there is “wide national support” for the jihadists and the Mujahideen were “welcome[d]…by the people,” while also proving “that the demands of the Islamic Emirate and the nation are identical – all want the withdrawal of foreign invaders and establishment of an Islamic government.”
The Taliban reiterates its call for “complete independence” and the “establishment of a pure Islamic government” based on shariah. This is the “lofty aspiration of millions of martyrs, orphans, widows and those [who] have lost their children which shall not be bargained under any circumstances or for any incentives.” That is, the Taliban will not bargain away the resurrection of its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as this is one of its central goals.
The jihadists also call on the US to “sit directly for dialogue with the Islamic Emirate,” but only if American “withdraw their occupying forces from Afghanistan.” This would, of course, pave the way for even greater Taliban gains inside the country.
The Taliban ends its statement by denying, once again, that there any “public or secret talks taking place with the puppet Kabul regime.” This is “baseless propaganda” and an attempt “to confuse public opinion by the opposition in this regard only serves to complicate the ongoing crisis and negatively impacts efforts for peace.”