30 Afghan soldiers have been killed as the Taliban have resumed fighting upon the close of the ceasefire between themselves and the Afghan government. They assaulted government compounds and ambushed a convoy with both small arms fire and an IED. Local authorities have said that 16 Taliban were killed in the fighting, but that has yet to be corroborated.
The ceasefire was always intended to be a temporary one, extending over Eid al-Fitr (which is often celebrated over three days in this part of the world) which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Some local officials have said that the truce gave the Taliban an opportunity to seek out vulnerabilities within the Afghan security forces. It is difficult to tell whether or not this is what happened, as the Taliban regularly uses intelligence by exploiting the rampant corruption throughout the ranks of the Afghan military. These same questions were asked after the “Christmas Truce” of 1914, and consequently such meetings became increasingly rare.
President Ashraf Ghani had made attempts to extend the truce as long as possible — posing ideas to make it ten days long. However, the Taliban only accepted it for three days, and made sure to clarify that they would not cease hostilities toward foreign forces, like the United States. Ghani, who has been making public statements via twitter in regards to the ceasefire, has remained silent since its close.
As the fighting resumes, it leaves many to wonder about the goals of becoming amicable with the Taliban. Many parties, United States officials included, have expressed a desire to see the Taliban integrated back into the country, but with the Afghan government in charge. The United States does not need to be on good terms with the Taliban, as they pose no threat if/when the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan.
Education (be it formal education or simply access to material around the world) can have a major impact in these areas. I have lived in that area of the world for around a decade, in both a civilian and military capacity. If the Afghan government can find peace with the Taliban, bring them back into the fold, but (and this is the important part) still retain power over the country, then there may be long term success in the nation. Access to the internet and non-fundamentalist education will likely dissolve the desire for Sharia law over the course of a decade or two. And, at the end of the day, it’s Sharia that divides them more than anything.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.