The Taliban in Afghanistan are pursuing a classic strategy to achieve their dominance of the country: Talk peace while taking power on the ground.
Afghan security forces have put down a militant attack near the presidential palace, in one of the most secure areas of Kabul, The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the latest in a string of attacks in the country, the security of which is being led by Afghan forces. The display of power comes at roughly the same time as the Taliban opened an office in Qatar for peace talks with the US. The US led the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, effectively occupying the country and maintaining the government of President Hamid Karzai, until now.
That the US is pushing for talks, is in part an admission that their strategy to contain and eliminate the Taliban has effectively failed,
While the Taliban assert themselves on the ground — as they talk peace at the negotiating table — they must also be aware of the terrible cost of this strategy. Dozens of innocent civilians have been lost in recent weeks, making the country’s security situation very difficult.
Karzai must be painfully aware of how the Taliban first seized power in the wake of the withdrawal of the former Soviet Union and how their clients were hung from streetpoles.
And the US will back Karzai as long as they can to help maintain their credibility in the region and the world. International troops are scheduled to remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014 to provide support to the Afghan government.
The only way to restore stability in the country is for all sides to enter into genuine negotiations for a political solution. Karzai must realise that he has not been able to secure the country and so must end his grandstanding and join the talks in Qatar. The Taliban must recognise that until the country is at peace, its “victories” are pyrrhic.