The recent spate of violence in Afghanistan has come as a major blow to the government’s efforts to hold the upcoming parliamentary elections in a peaceful environment. Analysis by Ashraf Ali

On October 16, over 30 Afghan officers were killed when the Taliban attacked security checkpoints in the northern Samangan province of Afghanistan.

Earlier in a another devastating attack the militant Taliban killed 22 security personnel when they attacked police checkpoints in two southern provinces of Farah and Zabul. Rahmatullah Yarmal, the provincial governor of Zabul while talking to the media disclosed the police chief of Mizan district was also amongst the dead.

This was in follow up of a bloodiest attack that left 20 people dead and 36 more injured when a bomb went off at an election rally in Takhar province in Northern Afghanistan where hundreds of people had gathered at the election rally of a female candidate, Nazifa Yousufi Bek who is contesting the upcoming parliamentary scheduled for 20th of October. Nazifa is one of the 417 female candidates – more female candidates than ever, who has taken up the challenge of contesting the parliamentary election despite the tense security situation. It was the fourth such attack against the election campaign during the current month. According to the election commission official seven candidates have been killed so far with four others injured and two more abducted so far.

The militant Taliban have speeded up their militant activities at a time when the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan are just days ahead. During the upcoming polls nearly nine million registered voters including three million women are going to cast their vote to elect 249 members to the lower chamber of the parliament for a five years term.

The parliamentary elections would be followed by presidential election next year. Due to the recent surge in militant attacks on civil and military installations and particularly public rallies the election officials had to cancel district council elections which was expected to be held together with the parliamentary polls.

The message is louder and clear. The Taliban are set to sabotage the election process at any cost. A political analyst with expertise on Afghan affairs Mr. Tahir Amin believe the Taliban are well positioned to talk to the Afghan government and its backers from the position of strength. “It’s the right time for the Taliban to press the government and its US backers for their demands”.

The Taliban have long been demanding withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. To that end, they have been insisting on direct talks with the US, not its proxy’s in Afghanistan.

In a recent meeting with a US delegation in Doha, Qatar, the Taliban made it clear that the US forces have to withdraw from Afghanistan. Besides, the Taliban want names of their leaders removed from the UN black list and its prisoners released as a goodwill gesture. The delegation headed by Zalmay Khalilzad, met with the Taliban in Doha to negotiate peace settlement with the militants and put an end to the 17 years long war in Afghanistan. The meeting though did not make any major breakthrough. However both the parties agreed to continue the dialogue process in future.

The Trump administration appointed Zalamay Khalilzad as US special reprehensive for peace and reconciliation only last month to strike a deal on ending the 17 years long Afghan war that has been costing billions of dollars to the US exchequer with no good results in hand. Khalilzad with a rich experience of the ground is expected to make headway in striking a deal with the militants and pave the way for the smooth sail of business in the electoral process on October 20.

In his 11 days long visit to Afghanistan, Pakistan and later Middle East – Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar to broker a peace deal, Khalilzad had detailed meetings with civil and military leadership and community leaders on how to put an end to the 17 years long bloodiest war in the region. Khalilzad’s appointment as special envoy for peace and reconciliation, seemingly a desperate move by the US President Donald Trump to end the war, is not seen as a good move for brokering the peace deal in the region.

Dr Rahmanullah who teaches at Islamia College University believes that the appointment of Khalilzad who is not in the good books of Pakistan, aims at bypassing Pakistan in the recent move may prove fatal to the entire process”.

Sharing the same views an expert on Afghan affairs Mr. Tahir Khan says there is, no doubt, a great trust deficit between Pakistan and the US. But Pakistan remains an important player in this game.

“All the regional actors including Pakistan, the US, China and Saudi Arabia need to resolve the issue through coordinated efforts”, adding “ a solo fight may harm the cause of peace in the entire region”, Khan argued.

10/17/2018 - Any reproduction, copy, transmission or translation of this publication is prohibited.

An Afghan security force member keeps watch at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan October 20, 2018
De Ashraf Ali