Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul continued to suffer attacks this week as the Taliban tested the resolve of the Afghan state. Early Tuesday morning militants assaulted a NATO supplier’s compound, killing seven and injuring five. Suicide bombers detonated a large truck bomb near the compound’s entrance, followed by a shootout between insurgents and guards. The incident comes on the heels of another attack near the presidential palace, one of the most secure locations in Afghanistan. Despite the violence, the government in Kabul continues to seek diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban.
A round of peace talks started in mid-June, with the Taliban opening an office in Qatar after years of secret negotiations. However, hope for a timely peace agreement quickly collapsed when the Taliban hoisted their flag and presented a nameplate that read, “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” The act, seen as challenge to the legitimacy of the Afghan government, outraged President Hamid Karzai. But after receiving pressure from the Qataris, the Taliban removed the plaque and lowered the flag to a shorter flag pole. Secretary of State John Kerry scrambled to resolve the situation, personally pleading with Karzai not to withdraw from the talks. U.S. officials hope the peace talks would see the Taliban laying down their arms, severing ties with al-Qaeda, and respecting the Afghan constitution.
A security guard stands outside the Afghan Taliban Political Office after the official opening, in Doha, Qatar, 18 June 2013. (Photo: EPA)
Washington continues to pressure the Afghan government to reach a peace agreement with the Taliban as NATO combat troops prepare to withdraw in 2014. Nevertheless, U.S. military planners continue to equip the Afghan army for combat, training soldiers and providing new kit. The Pentagon has purchased $780 million in planes and helicopters from the Russian company Rosoboronexport for the Afghan military, even though the Afghans aren’t adequately trained to fly or maintain the fleet.
As Western governments look to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan, daily attacks will undermine the peace process. With limited U.S. leverage over the Taliban, Afghanistan’s future remains in doubt.