Taliban-Ghani lock horns
The latest news from Kabul does not at all auger well for peace in that region. That could well mean going back to square one, as far as more terror and bloodshed are concerned. And, the news? The Afghan government has formally called off the unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban, which it had announced for Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. President Ashraf Ghani, who called for the temporary ceasefire, earlier last month, has announced that Afghan security forces would be allowed to resume operations. The government ceasefire, which was expected to last for 10 days, was supported by NATO-led US forces and reciprocated by the Taliban, which called for a three-day halt on attacks against "internal enemies". The Taliban resumed attacks on government targets on June 17. Ghani said that the government was looking to engage in peace talks with the Taliban and hoped to convert it to a political group. But, that was a tall and an impractical ask. During the three-day truce, Afghan journalists, students and diplomats reported unusual scenes of peace between Taliban members and Afghan forces and civilians. Images showed handshakes and hugs in many parts of the country. But the period was also marred by bloodshed, with dozens of lives lost in two suicide bombings in Nangahar province. ISIS, which was not party to any ceasefire, claimed responsibility for one of those attacks. The United Nations Security Council condemned what it called "two heinous and cowardly terrorist attacks" and demanded for the perpetrators to be held accountable. Ghani first spoke about the possibility of a ceasefire with the militant Islamist group in February, when he announced the Afghan government was willing to recognise the Taliban as a legitimate political party as a part of a potential agreement. "We're ready to restart talks about peace with Pakistan again and forget bitter experiences of the past," he said. The Taliban has been waging a bitter fight in Afghanistan, with the ultimate goal of ruling the country and imposing its strict interpretation of Islamic law. The group controlled Afghanistan until its 2001 ouster by the US-led coalition that invaded following the 9/11 attacks. In the recent years, a resurgent Taliban has taken control of significant swaths of the country and terrorised Afghans and foreigners. Brazen terrorist attacks have even shaken the resolve of those who live in the heavily secured capital, Kabul, and raised questions about the Afghan government's ability to protect the country. While there is no question of Ghani's intentions and hopes, the fact that ISIS has a significant presence to spring the most unpleasant of surprises makes matters more complex than had been bargained for earlier.