Within hours of announcing they were ready to talk peace, the Taliban took credit for killing four more Americans and the government of Afghanistan is backing out of negotiations. Is the whole process of bringing peace to the country doomed to fail?
We're not sure how Taliban leaders expect to forge a "political and peaceful solution" to the war in Afghanistan while continuing military operations against their opponents, but the Taliban has, in fact, taken credit for yesterday's attack on Bagram Air Base that left four U.S. soliders dead. Their statement earlier on Tuesday on the opening of their diplomatic office Qatar claims they want "good relations with all the countries of the world," but also continues to insist that they have the right to carry out "military and political actions" in order to end the occupation of Afghanistan. But whether you believe that's true or not, it's tough to earn the trust of the people across the bargaining table when you're continuing to try and kill them. (That goes for both sides, of course.)
There's no better example of that than the actual government of Afghanistan, which is supposed to be on the same side as the United States, but broke off its own negotiations with the Americans because of a "contradiction between acts and the statements" with regard to the peace process. President Hamid Karzai was reportedly upset that the Taliban press conference announcing the new office gave the impression that they were a legitimate "government-in-exile." (The Taliban are using the name "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," which is what they called their old government that ruled the nation before being overthrown by the U.S. in 2001.)
Also, the talks were being presented in the media as negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban, when ultimately the peace process must resolve the conflict between competing Afghan groups, with the U.S. as merely a broker. Karzai blames these diplomatic offenses on the U.S. and so he ended ongoing talks over a separate security pact between Afghanistan and the Americans.
And all of this is happening within 24 hours of what was supposed be a major breakthrough in development of the country: the transfer of military security from NATO to the Afghan government. After 12 years of war, the hope is still to have a strong and independent Afghan government that's safe from Taliban violence, and able to peacefully rule over the whole of the country. Yet, with so much distrust and anger and too many people determined to make sure that project doesn't succeed, at this point it's hard to imagine anything that can pull the country back together again.