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Peace talks lead Taliban to rethink spring offensive

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From page A16 | April 21, 2013 | Leave Comment

The issue: Hope may be on the horizon, but old habits are hard to break

The coming of spring, with the snow melting in the steep mountain passes, is traditionally when the Taliban leave their havens in tribal Pakistan to return to Afghanistan and resume the battle against the government in Kabul and its NATO allies, principally the United States.

THIS SPRING, Taliban fighters are having second thoughts about returning to war, according to Newsweek reporters Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau. The Taliban had hoped to mount a major offensive this year. However, Zabihullah, described as a senior Taliban operative, says, “But now there is great confusion among the fighters whether to go and fight or stay behind in Pakistan and await the results of the Qatar peace talks.”

After being off for a year, it appears that talks between the U.S. and the Taliban are about to pick up again, according to Newsweek, with what level of sincerity or seriousness it’s hard to say. But the simple fact that talks are possibly getting under way again is enough to cause uncertainty among the rank-and-file Taliban.

The Taliban are not immune to soldiers’ traditional resentment of the danger and discomfort of the front lines while the leaders are enjoying the comfort and safety of the rear.

“Our leaders are enjoying air-conditioned rooms, driving luxury cars and living in good houses while we live a troubled life fighting in Afghanistan,” a fighter named Abdullah told the reporters.

AFTER 11 YEARS of war, Taliban fighters are as war-weary as everybody else, and many of them have had to leave their families, farms or businesses during fighting season. They have yet to see the tangible results of the scheduled withdrawal of foreign troops. Meanwhile, the Afghan military is steadily becoming more effective, though not as quickly as U.S. planners had hoped. And many Taliban fighters are uneasy about the number of their fellow Afghans and Muslims they have killed.

Many Taliban fighters balked at returning to Afghanistan once before, in 2011, after being battered by a fresh influx of American troops. But they sucked it up and went off to war again last spring. This country has been at war with itself and the occasional outsiders since 1978, and old habits are hard to break.

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