KABUL -- Taliban propaganda showing the military training of fighters is raising doubts among Afghans about how serious the militants are about peace.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid posted a number of photos on Monday (March 30) on Twitter showing insurgents marching and manning weapons in undisclosed locations, with one said to be in Badakhshan Province.
The militants were receiving training in order to be able to remove obstacles to instituting Islamic rule, said Mujahid in his post.
The pictures and the statement immediately drew criticism.
"When the Taliban say that they remove obstacles on their way to Islamic rule, it means that the group intend to use the peace process as a weapon to help them achieve their goal of reinstating the Islamic emirate," said Daud Kalakani, a former member of the Wolesi Jirga from Kabul Province and a political analyst.
"The Taliban just claim Islamic rule [in words] because their acts are completely against Islam," said Kalakani.
"Afghanistan has the best Islamic system as its constitution declares that no law can be made in contradiction to the beliefs and rules of Islam," he said. "The Taliban are just deceiving the public by chanting slogans of Islamic rule."
"I think the Taliban have intentions other than peace in their minds; they just show off when they talk about peace and negotiation," he added.
"They plan to topple this state with newly trained members, but this is impossible. They have to change their minds as the only appropriate option in front of them is talks and peace," Kalakani said.
A lack of integrity
The Taliban propaganda came after the militants on March 28 rejected a negotiating team put together by the Afghan government, claiming that the team was not inclusive.
The militant group instead has only agreed to meet a technical team from the Afghan government to discuss the contentious issue of prisoner exchange.
The statement and the photos have led to suspicions that the Taliban are just making excuses to avoid coming to the peace table.
"The Taliban's post with photos of their fighters on social media platforms displays their dishonesty with regard to ensuring peace and ending the war," said Ahmad Fahim Noori, 35, a graduate student attending a private university in Kabul.
"They are making excuses when they say they don't want to speak with this or that [negotiating] team. The reality is that the Taliban don't have any intention of bringing peace to Afghanistan," he said.
"The Taliban recently signed a peace agreement with the United States," said Noori. "They agreed they would begin intra-Afghan peace talks, and their prisoners would be released. But the group's new position reveals that the peace agreement, reduction in violence and preparations for intra-Afghan peace talks were merely symbolic actions because, in reality, the Taliban don't want peace."
"The Taliban insist on fighting at a time when all Afghans are collectively preparing for peace," he added. "Their new position means that the group has enmity toward peace and the Afghan people."
The reduction in violence earlier this year and the planned intra-Afghan peace talks "were positive developments that took place in the peace process and made Afghans hopeful for peace and stability," said Basir Ahmad Yousufi of Kabul, a university lecturer and political analyst. "But the Taliban's recent stances have turned everything upside down [and] raise questions about their sincerity on peace."
"The Taliban's photos showing their readiness for fighting reveal that the group are not committed to the terms of their peace agreement with the United States and have no intention of ending the war," said Yousufi.
A violent identity
"The Afghan government and the United States have expressed their intentions and sincerity in bringing peace [to Afghanistan]," said Muhammad Ali Ahmadi, a political affairs analyst and former deputy governor of Ghazni Province.
"The military training photos of the Taliban proved to Afghans and the world that the Taliban don't want peace and that they are interested in keeping up the war," he said.
"The Taliban have realised that the war has given them their identity and that they won't have an identity or any prestige without the war; therefore, they have been creating obstacles to peace by making excuses," said Ahmadi.
"I think that a number of the Taliban are tired of war and that they're interested in peace, but some among them seek to continue fighting for their own interests," said Aziz Stanakzai, a military affairs analyst in Kabul.
"Therefore, these individuals resort to war and provocative acts so that parties to the conflict are pushed to war," he said.
"A number of neighbouring and regional countries are not in favour of peace, stability and security in Afghanistan," added Stanakzai. "These countries earn abundant income from the war and drug trafficking, and a part of the Taliban leadership has ties and common interests with the intelligence agencies of these countries."
"With orders from [these agencies], they try to sabotage the peace process that has so far progressed well," he said, adding that the Taliban have ties with countries including Iran and Russia.