KABUL -- The Taliban's continued violence after signing a peace agreement with the United States in February is raising questions about how the militant group justifies its ongoing "jihad" in Afghanistan.
The Taliban in the past justified its war as so-called "jihad" due to the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan.
However, the peace deal Washington signed with the Taliban promises the withdrawal of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan by May 2021, provided the Taliban start talks with Kabul and adhere to other guarantees.
The withdrawal is ahead of schedule, with approximately 8,500 US troops remaining, a senior US defence official told AFP on May 28, even as the Taliban ramped up attacks on Afghan security forces until a recent ceasefire for Eid ul Fitr.
That reality shows that the Taliban's war is against Afghans and Muslims.
"The Taliban have no religious justification to continue waging war -- which they call 'jihad' -- on the people and government of Afghanistan," said Sayed Naqibullah Hashemi, a political analyst in Kabul.
"The killing of Afghans and Afghan security forces, all of whom are Muslims, is not jihad," he said. "It is a crime and a major sin, and the Taliban should understand that they will not reach their goals by killing Afghans."
If the Taliban's "jihad" was un-Islamic even before signing the peace agreement, it is certainly unjustified now, said Najibullah Azad, a political analyst in Kabul.
"Before the Taliban reached a settlement with the United States, all Shia and Sunni scholars inside Afghanistan and religious scholars of Indonesia and Saudi Arabia had issued a fatwa that the Taliban's war was not 'jihad' and that it was illegitimate," he said.
"It implies that the Taliban's war wasn't jihad even before their agreement with the US, and we can't call it 'jihad' after the agreement either."
"The continuation of the Taliban's war after their agreement with the United States shows that they are not fighting because of the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, but rather... to achieve power and ensure the interests of neighbouring countries," Azad said.
"The Taliban know that they cannot achieve power through democratic means and popular votes; therefore, they bring up excuses and do not want to begin intra-Afghan peace talks," he said.
"The Taliban's insistence on the continuation of war ... means that they want to fight against Afghans and Muslims. This war is not 'jihad' but rather the bloodshed of Afghans and Muslims," said Azad.
Preparations for peace
"The Taliban's war was illegitimate from its onset," said Dawa Khan Menapal, a deputy spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani.
"If the Taliban were fighting the presence of foreign troops, they have no excuse after their agreement with the United States to continue fighting against a country with a globally recognised Islamic government where Muslims live, as doing so is wrong and illegitimate," he said.
"The government is determined to bring peace, and we have taken effective steps in this regard," Menapal said. "The people look forward to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. We can reach a dignified peace if a ceasefire is reached and if both parties address their issues through a dialogue."
The peace deal stipulated the Afghan government free 5,000 Taliban prisoners. For their part, the insurgents were to release 1,000 pro-government captives in return.
"The release of Taliban prisoners is in progress, and we expect that violence declines and that the ceasefire is extended," Menapal said.
"The government is fully prepared for intra-Afghan [peace] talks as they have identified their negotiation team, and the Taliban have no excuse for turning their back on intra-Afghan negotiations."
"Violence has shrunk in certain areas, but it still continues in some other areas," he said. "The government and people welcome every positive step the Taliban take in reducing violence and toward [maintaining] the ceasefire."
Peace: the only solution
"After the three-day ceasefire during Eid, it seems that violence has declined in many areas," said Mohammad Salem Hasani, a university lecturer and religious scholar in Kabul. "Now, Taliban fighters should realise that they have no justification to continue fighting."
"What the Taliban do in the name of 'jihad' contradicts the [true] jihad defined in Islamic teachings," he said. "The Taliban's war does not benefit Afghans or Muslims; therefore, there is no justification for it in Sharia."
"Both parties have fought against each other with their full strength for 20 years, resulting in the killing of tens of thousands of combatants," said Ahmad Khan Muslim, a political analyst in Kandahar.
"The Taliban weren't able to bring down the Afghan government, and the government wasn't able to destroy the Taliban either," he said.
"Given this situation, we think that the only solution to stop the war and bloodshed of Afghans and Muslims is to engage in negotiation and make peace."
"We see that after the Eid ceasefire, the violence has diminished, and Afghans hope that the Taliban realise that as their leaders have made peace with the United States, their jihad against their fellow Muslim countrymen is no longer legitimate," said Muslim.