The Trump administration’s proposed Afghan peace deal in Afghanistan has been thrown further into question by a wave of Taliban attacks that have killed dozens of Afghan security forces while a prisoner exchange at the heart of the peace push remains stalled.
A spike in attacks in Afghanistan’s north and south suggests the Taliban’s commitment to a “reduction in violence” pact tied to an initial peace deal with U.S. officials last month has all but dissolved in recent days.
While there have been no direct attacks on U.S. troops, regional analysts say Taliban leaders are clearly testing Washington’s tolerance and may be planning more brazen assaults to coincide with an annual spring offensive that typically begins in early April.
The attacks come less than a week after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Kabul to try and staunch division in the U.S.-backed Kabul government there that has threatened to derail the administration’s plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.
A Feb. 29 U.S.-Taliban agreement called for the militant group and the Kabul government to start direct talks and release prisoners as a confidence-boosting measure.
But neither the swap nor the negotiations have occurred amid a feud between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his chief political rival Abdullah Abdullah. Mr. Pompeo’s visit last week failed to mediate the fight and Mr. Pompeo subsequently announced plans to cut $1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan if the two men can’t “get their act together.”
Mr. Ghani then announced 21-member team to begin formal talks with the Taliban, only to have Mr. Abdullah reject the team as not inclusive enough. By Monday, local news outlets were reporting that the first prisoner swap slated for March 31 was off as well.