EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Washington’s increased support notwithstanding, the Afghan government has thus far failed to contain the Taliban’s sustained terror campaign, while efforts to revive the moribund peace process have similarly run into a dead alley. It remains to be seen whether last week’s bold peace initiative by President Ashraf Ghani will strike a responsive chord with the Taliban.
The recent spate of terror attacks in Afghanistan, especially the Taliban’s January 27 suicide bombing in Kabul that claimed more than 100 lives, has underscored the fragility of the National Unity Government and kindled fears of the Taliban’s imminent “spring offensive.” President Trump urged the international community to “take decisive action against the Taliban and the terrorist infrastructure that supports them,” while Secretary of State Tillerson insisted that “all countries who support peace in Afghanistan… have an obligation to take decisive action to stop the Taliban’s campaign of violence.”
These tough words are not difficult to understand. Ever since President Trump’s August 2017 announcement of a new Afghan strategy, which ascribed India a key role in the stabilization efforts, the administration has put greater military pressure on the Taliban in order to bring it to the negotiating table with the Kabul government, to little effect. Within this framework, Washington has recently announced the suspension of some $2 billion in aid to Pakistan until Islamabad took decisive action against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, widely believed to be sheltered in Pakistan.