KABUL -- The Taliban will face "deadly consequences" in the country should they choose to continue fighting rather than pursue peace, according to officials with the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission.
NATO forces are ready to support peace but also are prepared to fight if the Taliban choose war, Gen. Scott Miller, commander of the Resolute Support Mission, said at a co-ordination meeting on March 30 with Afghan security forces in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province.
"As a commander of Resolute Support, my soldiers -- all services -- are very well-prepared to support peace," Miller said at the meeting. "At the same time, if they [the Taliban] continue to choose to fight, we will fight also. We're very prepared to fight."
Qais Mangal, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defence, lent support to Miller's comments.
"We have closely worked with the Resolute Support forces, and if the Taliban are not ready for the peace process, we'll destroy them," he told Salaam Times. "Until we have a signed peace agreement, we'll continue to fight against the Taliban and other terrorist networks."
Going on the offensive
"The war has intensified in the spring, but thanks to the combat plan for [March 2019-March 2020], the security and defence forces are prepared to defeat the enemy," Mangal added.
"Based on the current year's security and combat plan, security forces are on the offensive, which will allow them to increase military pressure on the Taliban and other terrorist groups," Mangal said. "Meanwhile, preventing civilian casualties during operations is another priority of this plan."
"If the Taliban continue to fight, they should expect deadly consequences," Mangal said. "Targeting their commanders, bases and safe havens is on the top of our list of air and ground operations."
Ministry of Interior spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said security forces "have all the arrangements in place and have the ability to defend Afghanistan and the Afghan people."
"If the Taliban does not make peace, we won't have any other option other than to fight and destroy them," he told Salaam Times.
The office of the Afghan president announced on April 2 a new "Khalid" security plan, which has a goal of improving security with a focus on cities and highways.
"We are determined to suppress the enemies and eliminate them anywhere they operate," Rahimi said.
Taliban set to fail
Aminullah Habibi, a political and military analyst in Kabul, agreed that the Taliban have only one viable path ahead of it.
"If the Taliban do not make peace, Afghanistan and the international community do not have any other option but to stand firm on the battlefields," he told Salaam Times.
"Mr. Khalilzad has also said if the peace process doesn't work, America and other international allies of Afghanistan and the Afghan security forces will continue to fight against the Taliban," he said, referring to US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
Imal Noori, a Kabul resident and political-science student at Kabul University, sees a "bloody" future for the Taliban should the militant group fail to follow through on the peace process.
"History has shown us that oppressive and violent groups face bloody consequences," he told Salaam Times.
"I think that the government and international forces have no more patience, and if the Taliban lose this chance for peace talks and continue to fight, history will repeat in which the Taliban will be defeated by force, as other terrorist groups [have in the past]," he said.
"A recent example of this phenomenon is the Tamil Tigers, who were annihilated by their own government," Noori said, referring to a militant organisation in Sri Lanka that was defeated in 2009.
Daud Kalakani, a member of the Wolesi Jirga, or the lower chamber of parliament, representing Kabul, sees a "good" but perhaps final opportunity for the Taliban to choose the path to peace.
"I am optimistic about the ongoing peace efforts and welcome them," he told Salaam Times. "This is a good opportunity for the Taliban to stop their aimless war. Peace and an end to the war and bloodshed benefit the Taliban, the Afghan people and the government."
"Afghans have experienced war for many years," Kalakani added. "If the Taliban do not use this peace opportunity, I am confident that they will forever jeopardise their chance of making peace."