Rising violence and peace calls from within Afghanistan

Iqbal Khan

Due to fresh allegations and counter allegations between the US and Taliban with regard to a recent surge in violence despite a commitment for peace from both sides, Incoming Joe Biden administration co-uld reconsider the plans for a complete military p-ull out from Afghanistan. Both Washington and the Taliban blamed each other for violating the peace accord.

Notwithstanding, war weariness is phenomenal in Afghanistan. Commoners are desperately yearning for peace. Pressure is mounting of intra-Afghan negotiators for agreeing to stop the war. Voice of America reported that on December 31, more than 100 key religious scholars of the western region declared the war in Afghanistan illegitimate and deemed a ceasefire “an obligation” during a gathering in the Herat Grand Mosque. The scholars decried the slaughter of Muslims and said those who kill innocent civilians will be punished by God.

Peace is a priority, because if there is no peace, nobody can meet his or her obligations, said Maulawi Khudadad Saleh, chairman of the Ulema Council in Afghanistan’s western region. “Religious scholars call on the government and the Taliban to declare a ceasefire as soon as possible and create an opportunity for a lasting and inclusive peace,” he said. “The so-called version of Islam that the Taliban promote as an Islamic system is not acceptable to the Afghan people and religious scholars,” he said.

“The Taliban do not have the right to choose a [so-called] Islamic system for the Afghan nation, because the current system is [in fact] Islamic.” Every day, innocent civilians are killed, said Toor Muhammad Zarifi, a tribal elder in Herat Province, calling for an immediate stop to the bloodshed suffered by Afghans. “Security forces and the Taliban, who are all the children of this country, lose their lives every day,” he said.

“The war has been intensified, and the casualties have increased.” The Taliban’s killing of security personnel and of civilians is illegitimate, and the perpetrators will face God’s punishment, according to Maulawi Sayed Shiraqa Qatali, a religious scholar in Herat city. “Civilians and religious scholars call for a lasting and inclusive peace in the country,” “The killing of our loved ones needs to stop, and we cannot tolerate seeing killing, suicide attacks and destruction every day, he added.”

Ayaz Gul reported for the Voice of America on January 04 that: the United States has directly accused the Taliban of being behind a recent wave of high-profile assassinations in Afghanistan, urging the insurgent group to stop the violence “for peace to succeed.” These charges came soon after the Taliban accused US forces of launching airstrikes against insurgent-held areas in violation of their 2020 bilateral agreement aimed at ending the long-running Afghan war. A spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan rejected as “false” allegations they violated the agreement with the Taliban. Colonel Sonny Leggett stressed in a statement that the US military has been “clear and consistent” in its resolve to defend Afghan security forces against Taliban attacks. “We renew our call for all sides to reduce violence,” Leggett said on Twitter. “The Taliban’s campaign of unclaimed attacks & targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders & journalists must also cease for peace to succeed.”

This is the first time Washington has blamed the Taliban for weeks of largely unclaimed attacks in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and elsewhere Afghanistan.. The violence has over the past two months claimed the lives of at least five journalists, a provincial deputy governor, civilian s-ociety activists and a reno-wned election observer.

Taliban have denied involvement and instead alleged the violence is the work of so-called “spoilers” within Afghan security institutions to subvert the peace process. Taliban issued a statement accusing US troops of repeatedly carrying out airstrikes on Taliban-held areas in Kandahar, Nangarhar and Helmand provinces “over the past few days” in support of Afghan security forces.

According to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, the airstrikes have hit targets in “non-military zones” in violations of their February 29, 2020, agreement with the US. Mujahid demanded of the US military immediately halt the air raids and warned the Taliban “will be forced to respond seriously, and all responsibility shall fall squarely on American shoulders.” An Afghan analyst Syed Eqbal also sees prospects of a shift – though not very drastic – in the US policy towards the Afghan peace process.

“There is no doubt that the ultimate thrust in Washington has shifted over the years from defeating the Taliban on the battlefield to a so-called ‘dignified’ exit from Afghanistan, but it [exit of forces from Afghanistan] is going to differ under the new president,” he told Anadolu Agency. He added that the Afghan government under President Ashraf Ghani would dearly want the Biden administration not to ‘rush’ with the exit.

According to Rahimullah Yusufzai, “A circle within the Democrats does not want a complete pull out. They may force Biden to keep at least one or two bases in Afghanistan even after May.”. “The surging violence in Afghanistan may give an excuse to Biden to seek a review of the Doha agreement”, Yusufzai said. “The implementation of the Doha peace agreement could face problems, especially the deadline for withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, as the intra-Afghan dialogue is not really making progress and the violence has intensified,” Rahimullah, told Anadolu Agency.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, said US forces had conducted airstrikes against the group in non-military zones. He warned of retaliation if the attacks do not stop. Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesperson for US forces in Afghanistan, termed the allegations as “false” and said the strikes were defensive and renewed calls for all sides to reduce violence. “The Taliban’s campaign of unclaimed attacks & targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders & journalists must also cease for peace to succeed,” he said in a tweet. Bringing a win-win closing to Afghan conflict is a big challenge for the US as well as the international community. Fault lines are too strong to give way to reconciliation. Taliban have timed out Trump, it will be interesting to see how the things evolve further,

Writer is a freelance columnist; e-mail: Iqb-al.khan9999@yahoo.com.