Kabul Violence Highlights Failure of Afghan Peace Process
It was perhaps a sign of things to come: Days before peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government began in September, a Taliban bombing in Kabul injured the country’s senior vice president, Amrullah Saleh, and killed 10 bystanders. The country remains in a state of limbo, and a terror attack on Kabul University last week killed 35 and wounded 50 more. Although it remains unknown which of the two likely suspects—the Taliban or ISIS—carried out the shooting, it indicates that the peace process has not alleviated violence as hoped. More than 19 years after the U.S. entered Afghanistan to oust the Taliban, the conflict is now considered the deadliest anywhere.
As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take the reins on an Afghan peace process largely shaped by the Trump administration, escalating violence in the country will put the issue front and center during the transition.
Peace-talk negotiations stalled before they got off the ground—and as long as the Taliban targets Afghan military personnel and remains obstinate in its diplomatic dealings, a breakthrough is unlikely. Andrew Watkins, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Afghanistan, sees two fatal flaws in the peace process as it exists now.
“One: The uncertainty over whether or not the U.S. is going to make its withdrawal from the country strictly conditional on certain Taliban behaviors or not has, in some ways, emboldened the Taliban. And that’s as true in the way that they fight around Afghanistan as it is in Doha negotiations,” Watkins told The Dispatch.