Taliban Decline to Participate in Peace Talks; Taliban Kill More Than 10 People in Attack on Pakistani Courthouse; Multiple Cities on Security Alert During Shivratri
Bonus Watch: “What is the future of war?” (New America, Arizona State) Afghanistan Bonus Read: “Insight – Afghans feel forgotten in Europe’s migrant crisis,” by Dasha Afanasieva (Reuters) Taliban decline to participate in peace talks On Saturday, the Taliban confirmed they would not join the next round of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) peace talks ...
Bonus Watch: "What is the future of war?" (New America, Arizona State)
Bonus Watch: “What is the future of war?” (New America, Arizona State)
Bonus Read: “Insight – Afghans feel forgotten in Europe’s migrant crisis,” by Dasha Afanasieva (Reuters)
Taliban decline to participate in peace talks
On Saturday, the Taliban confirmed they would not join the next round of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) peace talks held by the United States, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in Islamabad, Pakistan this month (NYT, WSJ, CNN, Reuters, FT). According to a statement from the Taliban’s website, “We reject all such rumors and unequivocally state that the leader of Islamic Emirate (the Taliban) has not authorized anyone to participate in this meeting.” The statement then listed the preconditions needed for Taliban participation in the peace talks, saying, “(Islamic Emirate) once again reiterates that unless the occupation of Afghanistan is ended, black lists eliminated and innocent prisoners freed, such futile misleading negotiations will not bear any results.” The Taliban’s announcement comes after Afghan and QCG officials voiced their expectations in recent weeks for engaging directly with the Taliban in the next round of peace talks. In addition, Taliban and Afghan officials met in Doha, Qatar – the site of the group’s political office – in a discreet meeting at the end of February, but it yielded no immediate results in advancing the peace talks.
On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke about the state of the peace talks via video conference, as Obama reiterated the United States’ commitment to peace in Afghanistan and the region (Reuters, NYT, WH).
Despite no official face-to-face peace-talk meetings yet, Afghan officials remain optimistic that can change. One Afghan official close to Ghani said, “This is just public bargaining on the part of the Taliban. They did it last time, too. They put out a statement of denial, and then they showed up to talks.” The Taliban continues to operate and gain strength in many Afghan provinces, particularly Helmand, and causes strained relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan as the group occupies territory on both sides of the border.
Ghani claims victory over IS in Nangarhar
Speaking before the opening of parliament on Sunday, President Ashraf Ghani announced the Afghan army’s victory over Islamic State (IS) forces in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province and expressed his commitment to the group’s overall defeat (AP, Al Jazeera). “Afghanistan will be their graveyard,” he said. Following a 21-day battle with IS militants in the Nangarhar districts of Achin and Shinwar, Afghan forces claimed victory in an operation that killed a reported 200 IS fighters. According to former commander of U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen. John F. Campbell, there are between 1,000 and 1,300 IS fighters in the country.
Following President Ghani’s address, a drone strike in Nangarhar’s Achin district killed 15 IS militants (Stars and Stripes). According to Attaulllah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar governor, no civilians were injured. Col. Michael Lawhorn, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, confirmed U.S. drone strikes in the area but did not offer further details.
Bonus Read: “The tightening noose,” by Cyril Almeida (Dawn)
Taliban kill more than 10 people in attack on Pakistani courthouse
An attack carried out by an affiliate of the Pakistani Taliban – Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA) – killed over 10 people near a courthouse in the city of Charsadda, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on Monday (WSJ,CNN, NBC, AP, Dawn). TTP-JA, claiming the attack in an email sent to journalists, said it was a retributive attack for the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, the former bodyguard and killer of ex-Punjab governor Salman Taseer. A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said, “The judiciary has brought itself in confrontation with the Taliban. Qadri’s sacrifice will not go into waste. More attacks on judiciary are planned.” Speaking to NBC News, local police chief Sohail Khalid said, “A suicide bomber tried to enter the judicial complex but he blew himself up at the main entrance when police stopped him.” Charsadda is the home of Bacha Khan University, where the a faction of the Pakistani Taliban carried out an attack in January that killed at least 22 people.
Multiple cities on security alert during Shivratri
On Monday, numerous cities in India including the capital of Delhi, have been placed under a high security alert as thousands of worshippers offered prayers at Shiv temples around the country on the occasion of Mahashivatri (HT, India Today, Indian Express). Earlier on Saturday, the western state of Gujarat was put under heightened security after Pakistani National Security Adviser Nasir Khan Janjua informed Indian authorities that 10 suspected terrorists may have entered the state. Indian officials also found three abandoned boats near the water channel, Harami Nullah, which travels along the India-Pakistan border. The National Security Guard has been deployed in Gujarat and police reinforcements were sent to Delhi, Lucknow, Jaipur, Vijayawada, Bhopal, Chandigarh, and Ahmedabad.
Muzzafarnagar riots were a police failure: Inquiry Commission
The inquiry commission into the 2013 Hindu Muslim riots in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh presented its findings in the state assembly on Sunday, blaming intelligence bureau and police officials for the violence (BBC). However, the one-man Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission absolved the state government and numerous politicians who were blamed for the violence amid reports of giving provocative speeches during the clashes. The riots left 62 people dead and forced thousands to flee to relief camps.
Pakistan hands over 87 Indian prisoners
On Monday, Pakistani authorities released eighty-seven Indian prisoners, mostly fishermen, arrested in Pakistan for violating territorial waters (PTI). The prisoners were handed over to the Indian Border Security Force at the Wagah Border in Lahore after being released from prison. Another 86 Indian prisoners are expected to be released on March 20.
Edited by Peter Bergen
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
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