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Violence, Political Uncertainty Plague Post-Jirga Afghanistan

  • Sean Maroney

Since Afghan President Hamid Karzai's much anticipated peace assembly earlier this month, the Taliban has launched a series of high profile attacks. Meanwhile, the top U.S. commander in the country, General Stanley McChrystal says the fight against the Taliban will take longer than anticipated in the south.

Analysts say several high profile attacks this week show the Taliban will not back down as coalition and Afghan forces prepare for a major offensive to drive them from their southern stronghold in Kandahar province.

Afghan authorities are blaming the Taliban for an attack on a wedding late Wednesday in southern Afghanistan, which killed nearly 40 people. The Taliban deny responsibility, but the groom had links to anti-Taliban groups. Also, Monday was the deadliest day so far this year for international forces in Afghanistan. Ten NATO soldiers, seven of them Americans, were killed in separate attacks in the eastern and southern parts of the country that day.

With this new violence, the director of Afghanistan's Center for Research and Policy Studies, Haroun Mir, said that he believes next month's scheduled international conference in Kabul might not happen.

"I don't think that it would be appropriate for a foreign minister from Europe to attend [the] Kabul conference when we know that there's a huge risk, tremendous risk, that they could be eliminated by one rocket attack," said Haroun Mir. "All we need is one rocket attack, and all these ministers are flying back to their homes and that would be a big humiliation."

Even the top U.S. commander in the country, General Stanley McChrystal, said this week he expects the Kandahar offensive to take longer than anticipated.

"There are going to be tough days ahead," said General McChrystal. "Violence is up, and I think violence will continue to rise, particularly over the summer months. It is necessary that we roll back Taliban influence as we move toward increased security in the future."

But McChrystal says that despite the violence, he thinks the perception of the insurgent's momentum is reversing.

It's this reversal in momentum that President Karzai and analysts hope will convince the Taliban to sit down for peace talks.

But Amrullah Saleh has a different idea. Saleh is the former head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security. He resigned from the post, along with the country's interior minister, following the insurgent attack on the peace jirga earlier this month.

Saleh criticized Mr. Karzai for wanting to reconcile with the Taliban.

"I want a dignified peace, a peace which will not reverse our achievements, a peace which will not undermine our constitution, a peace which will not allow a small terrorist group to dominate the political scene in Afghanistan," said Amrullah Saleh. "Therefore, I am in favor of peace but I am against bowing to the Taliban."

He also has said that he believes President Karzai is taking a softer approach toward Pakistan in a bid to negotiate with the Taliban. Saleh referred to Pakistan as Afghanistan's enemy number one for its alleged support of the Taliban.

Ayaz Wazir is Pakistan's former ambassador to Kabul. He said that he disagrees with Saleh, and he wonders about his motives for making these statements now, especially after his resignation.

"Had Pakistan been the 'enemy number one', then why was the intelligence chief not saying so before? Now when he is resigned, he is accusing [a] neighboring country," said Ayaz Wazir.

In another blow to the coalition, Britain's newly elected government says it will not pledge more troops, despite being one of America's biggest partners in the country since the toppling of the Taliban-led government in 2001.

Haroun Mir with Afghanistan's Center for Research and Policy Studies says all these factors teach the Taliban an important lesson.

"You know with one [or] three rocket fires, they were able to get the resignations of two important ministers, and now the NATO countries have lost their will," he said.

He also says it seems unlikely that the Taliban will want to negotiate if they believe they have the upper hand against a coalition in flux and what Mir calls a dysfunctional government.

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