Afghan peace talks postponed indefinitely as Taliban Spring Operation rages in 25 provinces

Afghan peace talks in Qatar were postponed Friday (April 19) as Taliban’s Spring Operation continues in at least 15 provinces of Afghanistan.

Sultan Barakat, director of Qatar’s Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, the organization hosting the talks, tweeted news of the postponement, saying “this is unfortunately necessary to further build consensus as to who should participate in the conference.”

According to Jarrett Blanc, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International,the talks were postponed indefinitely after the Taliban rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s list of delegates for intra-Afghan dialogue. The Afghan government list included 50 women.

“Ghani has been unhappy with the structure of peace efforts and tried to reassert his role through a fraught effort to build a representative team. Even after letting the delegation grow to a whopping 250 members, however, there were serious problems with its composition,” Blanc argues adding:

“With a presidential election scheduled for September, both Ghani and his opponents are tempted to use the peace process for electoral gain. One of the most powerful opposition leaders, Atta Mohammad Noor, was excluded and rejected Ghani's group as ignoring “social balance and the presence of the jihad and resistance faction.”

At least 30 people, including six Afghan government forces, were killed across Afghanistan within a day as fighting rages in the country, as Taliban Spring Offensive continues.

Xinhua reported that fighting rages across the war-torn country and clashes between Afghan government forces and Taliban have been continuing in 25 out of the country's 34 provinces since April 12 when Taliban launched a yearly offensive.

According to the Associated Press the Taliban now hold sway over half the country after a relentless 17-year war, America’s longest.

Taliban announced on April 12, launching their Spring Operation even though Taliban attacks never really ceased during the harsh winter months. The insurgents carry out daily attacks targeting Afghan government forces and NATO troops.

Most recently, a Taliban attack near the main U.S. air base in Afghanistan killed three Marines on April 8. The three Marines were killed when a bomb struck their vehicle near Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, the Pentagon said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

April 12 announcement instructs the Taliban mujahedeen, or holy warriors, to “launch jihadi operations with sincerity and pure intentions,” strictly abiding by the Taliban command structure. It also urges fighters to avoid civilian casualties.

Observers say that most of the Taliban attacks were relatively minor, yet their geographic spread and level of coordination underline the difficulty facing the government as it tries to maintain its grip on the country. Insurgents control roughly half of Afghanistan's territory.

Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the AP that the insurgents banned the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organization from operating in territory under their control. This is the second time in the past year the insurgents have barred Red Cross workers.

Robin Waubo, a Red Cross official in Kabul, said the organization was putting its activities “on hold” until its representatives can meet with the Taliban to resolve the issue.

Announcing the Spring Operation, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement: "We are committed to the ongoing process of negotiation and peaceful resolution, but we cannot be unmoved in the face of military operations and the terrorist wave of occupiers and mercenaries."

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America ( email: asghazali2011 (@)