As the coronavirus continues to spread in Afghanistan in April, Gen. Austin Scott Miller, the head of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces–Afghanistan, and Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, met with the Taliban in Qatar.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the increased attacks carried out by the Taliban in Afghanistan—a violation of the deal signed between Washington and the Taliban. Since the signing of the deal, the Taliban has carried out more than 2,162 attacks across Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s insistence on posing as a security threat led Washington to retaliate by carrying out an airstrike against the Taliban just days after the signing of the agreement.
Despite the increased pressure from Washington, the Taliban continues to launch attacks throughout the country. However, the pandemic is changing the dynamics of the war.
The coronavirus outbreak has caused the Taliban to shift its tactic from mainly targeting densely populated cities to attacking rural areas. This shift in strategy is likely due to the Taliban strategizing to avoid exposure to the virus by steering away from the cities that have been hit the hardest by it. Instead, the terror group has focused on attacking areas with low numbers of reported coronavirus cases.
Despite the Taliban’s rejection of the Afghan government’s call to a ceasefire for the month of Ramadan, it has also expressed an interest in halting violence due to the coronavirus. Zabihullah Mujahed, the Taliban’s spokesperson, told the Associated Press that “If, God forbid, the outbreak happens in an area where we control the situation then we will stop fighting in that area.”
What’s apparent is that the Taliban’s willingness to agree to a ceasefire will be a calculated decision based on its interests via the threat of an outbreak in its areas.
Although the Taliban has yet to implement a ceasefire, a glimmer of hope for reduced violence remains.