Last Sunday, to quote Taliban’s spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed, heralded their spring offensive of the year. “The Kabul administration and the invading forces had said some time ago that the Taliban will not be able to launch a spring offensive, Today’s attacks were the start of our spring offensive,” Mujahed said. Across Afghanistan, in Kabul and three other towns, the Taliban, wearing suicide vests, unleashed coordinated attacks with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The Afghan Parliament, the US, British, German and Japanese embassies and the Nato forces’ headquarters in Gardez of Paktya province came under fire. According to sources, 19 of the attackers were killed and 11 police and nine civilians were wounded. Reports indicated there were no casualties among the embassy staff or the parliamentarians. The women parliamentarian from Pakistan who were visiting Kabul were also safe. President Hamid Karzai had to be moved to “safe area”.

Earlier in the small hours of the same day, there was a mass jailbreak in Bannu, Pakistan, staged by a large force of the Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) who were able to free 384 prisoners, a number of them dangerous criminals on death row, including Adnan Rashid sentenced to death for an assassination attempt on former President Musharraf. Reportedly, 100 of them came back to the prison. Some witnesses claim that as many as 400 militants, armed with heavy weapons, reached the scene in cars and pickups and began shooting and lobbing grenade to force their entry. They were able to free the inmates when the fear-stricken guards at the prisons backed off under their orders. The TTP spokesman gleefully remarked, “We have released our men without losing a single man.” The jailbreak, while exposing serious flaws in the security arrangement, has raised questions why such high-profile criminals were shifted to the Bannu prison located close to the troubled Waziristan and whether the guards had Taliban sympathisers in them because 63 out of the 93 posted there were absent at the time of the attack and those present put up little resistance. The issue needs to be investigated and those found guilty punished. Pakistan must also do serious negotiations with the TTP to end the conflict by every means possible.

Whatever reason one might attribute for this sudden surge in Taliban attacks involving the two countries most hard hit, it would be hard to deny that they are the direct outcome of the failure of Qatar talks with the Taliban from which Pakistan was kept away. The US must realise that any negotiations with the Taliban without the participation of Pakistan, are a lost cause. The knee-jerk reaction of putting the blame for attacks in Afghanistan on the so-called Haqqani network without any evidence, as US Ambassador Ryan Crocker has done, would hardly be of any use. What is important to learn from these episodes is the key nature of Pakistan’s role in the success of the talks.