Trump, Afghanistan, and the Taliban: Peace Talks Rejected, What Now?
Both the Taliban and Afghanistan have made public comments since United States President Donald Trump refused the idea of peace talks with the Taliban on Monday. While the Taliban denied wanting to negotiate with the United States either way, Afghanistan stressed that the Taliban would have to be defeated militarily and declined to respond directly to Trump’s statement.
President Trump’s comments on Monday expressed that a military victory over the Taliban would now be the only way to end the devastating conflict. Before a White House meeting with members of the United Nations Security Council, Trump stated that America is not, “prepared to talk right now.”
“It’s a whole different fight over there. They’re killing people left and right. Innocent people are being killed left and right,” Trump warned. “We don’t want to talk to the Taliban. We’re going to finish what we have to finish, what nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it.”
The Taliban responded brazenly to Trump’s refusal to negotiate. A senior Taliban official told CBS News that Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada confirmed that no peace talks were in fact taking place.
“We are committed to the restoration of an Islamic regime and we won’t compromise our values,” Haibatullah is reported to have said on a conference call with senior Taliban members.
An English-language statement released by the Taliban on Tuesday stated that, “the true authority of war and peace is not with the Kabul regime, but with the American invaders.”
Though a senior Taliban official is quoted expressing a belief that an effort to negotiate with the US will still be made, the Taliban is now speaking from a superior position of power, as the heated remarks follow a deadly set of Taliban-led attacks in Afghanistan.
Just last week, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-filled ambulance, killing at least 100 and wounding 235 people in Kabul. Not to mention January 20th, when the Taliban led an attack of Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel, killing at least 20 people in the process, including 4 American citizens.
An Afghan spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani stated that these attacks meant that the Taliban had, “crossed a red line.” Though the government had previously encouraged the Taliban to talk, spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi echoed US President Trump’s sentiment that the Taliban’s brutality was too much to bear, yet made no direct comment on Mr. Trump’s statement.
Trump’s bold comments and Afghan resilience reflect hopes for a purely military-based victory over the Taliban. However, US military and diplomatic officials say that winning this way may be impossible considering the limited resources and personnel Trump has deployed.
The Taliban’s supply of fighters is estimated to be approximately 60,000, a 40,000-person increase in four years. Given the recent wave of Taliban victories, it looks as though the Taliban’s strength and hold over Afghanistan grows day by day.
“You can never really take talks off the table,” a US official told Reuters on Monday. This warning comes in light of the fact that, according to Laura Miller, former acting US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, “there is no evidence that suggests that US and Afghan forces can defeat the Taliban on the battlefield.”
Whatever Trump, Ghani, or the Taliban say, one thing remains clear: the conflict in Afghanistan grows increasingly more heated, violent, and tense by the day.