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The Massacre that disrupted the Afghan Peace Process

It was Tuesday, the 12th of May when 16 people were killed including two newborns. As the forces came in for the rescue, women, and doctors were seen slouched against the beds and walls unmoving while protecting the newborns in their arms. The security forces battled the armed extremists for four hours; however, they could not save the 16 innocent lives lost that day. 

Another similar massacre took place the same day when a suicide bomber killed 24 people at a funeral. Such a deadly spike of killings that has increased over time has put the peaceful state of Afghanistan at risk. 

A quick flashback of the Afghan peace process

On 1st March this year, the United States and the Taliban signed up for a peace deal after numerous bilateral peace talks on the neutral ground of the middle east. They finally came to an agreement and agreed on four key points. 

The first mutually agreed point included the withdrawal of the US troops for a period of fourteen months. The second point was an assurance from the Taliban that Afghanistan will not be the base for launching terror attacks against the US or provide grounds for extremist groups such as ISIS. The third point included the agreement of the Taliban to start an Intra-Afghan talk with the government of Kabul to bring henceforth peace in Afghanistan. The fourth and most important point of agreement was the cessation of violence in Afghanistan. 

The deal was eventually made to end violence in Afghanistan to mutually agree to stop terror attacks in Afghanistan and the US. This was the first peace deal to last this long since the war on terror after the rise of the Taliban to power in the 1990s and the September 11 attacks. 

With the bleeding economy, the US had no choice but to negotiate. Similarly, the Taliban in Afghanistan also didn’t have the capacity to continue to decisively prevail on the battleground and keep their families safe at the same time. Negotiations had to be made and the peace process was just too good to be avoided. With the ruling in Aghanistan divided into fragments, the Afghan politician and powerbrokers were also in constant negotiations to live in peace with each other. 

The current scenario of the peace process

After the Tuesday massacre, a blame game started. The Afghan government blames the Taliban for the attack; however, the Taliban has denied any responsibility for its involvement in the killing. With the fear of more attacks on Kabul, Ghani has halted the peace talk and ordered the Afghan forces to start an aggressive operation against the Afghan Taliban. 

On the other side of the story, both the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani military establishment have pointed fingers at India to plot against the peaceful situation of Afghanistan and sabotage the peace process. The Taliban chief negotiator, Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai in a statement said, “India has always played a negative role in Afghanistan. India supported traitors in the country,” to which Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the Taliban’s claim and stated, “India is one of the biggest donor countries and has helped Afghanistan in the development and reconstruction areas, we appreciate their cooperation. We expect India and other neighboring countries to play a significant role in the Afghan peace process.”

The blame game in disrupting the peace process

According to Pakistan’s claim, India has been investing heavily in Afghanistan to support extremist groups. It has been following a similar policy to Pakistan to support groups in Afghanistan, but the extremist ones such as the IS in Afghanistan. According to Sabookh Syed, an Islamabad journalist, he states that such a conclusion by Pakistan has “prompted the US to send a message to New Delhi that India should pursue direct talks with the Taliban.”  Earlier, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalid urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to support the Doha peace process deal, but India has so far been reluctant to engage in the peace process and claims the Taliban to be a Pakistan-sponsored organization. 

The US, however, claims that the attacks were from the IS, the extremist group. The IS has yet to claim responsibility for the Kabul attack and with no reply from them, it is quite unlikely they will accept it in the first place. According to Sabookh Syed, “US Secretary State of Mike Pompeo categorically told President Ghani that IS, not the Taliban, perpetrated the attack.”

Role of the US in the aftermath of the massacre

The US secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has called the attack “an act of sheer evil”. The US so far has played a neutral role by urging both, the Afghan government and the Taliban to find a solution to this new crisis. According to the given statement, “the Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice. As long as there is no sustained reduction in violence and insufficient progress towards a negotiated political settlement, Afghanistan will remain vulnerable to terrorism.” The statement was given as a reminder to both sides of the state to condemn any attacks against each other as they both had agreed to reduce it to 80% as was previously agreed. 

Though The US agrees that only a political agreement is the best way to end the war in Afghanistan, the process will still be “a windy, bumpy road.”

The Taliban’s stance to hold onto the peace process

According to U.S officials, the Taliban’s statement by Mujahid highlighted that the Taliban have played a significant role in military operations and that their contribution has been at the forefront to reduce violence in Afghanistan. With the recent deadly massacre and 32 killed in ethnic Hazara and Shiite gathering in Afghanistan in the month of March, the US does not agree to full control of the Taliban in terms of contribution towards peace in Afghanistan and hence will continue their role through airstrikes as recently highlighted by the Pentagon spokesperson, Army Lt. Col. Thoms Campbell, “the US will continue airstrikes in defense of Afghan forces despite the resumption of offensive operations.”  No matter how the chaos after this incident the massacre ends, the Taliban have to continue working towards a peace process to end the series of violence in Afghanistan. 

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