A group of fighters attempted to storm parliament ahead of a vote of confidence for a new defense minister, starting their attack by setting off a suicide bomb.
The seven gunmen were not able to enter the parliament compound and were eventually all killed by security forces, though the attack also left five civilians dead and another 30 injured.
The attack, which drew criticism from the UN and was described as “cowardly” by India, came only days after reported meetings between the government and the Taliban in Norway which were intended to pave the way towards formal peace talks.
“This terrorist attack makes no sense,” Fawzia Koofi, a female Member of Parliament (MP) who was in parliament during the attack, told Anadolu Agency. “I am not opposed to peace and peace talks but if they [the Taliban] really want peace they should stop killing innocent people and show respect to the rule of law and human rights.”
Kaufi, an MP from the northeastern Badakhshan province, stressed that the government should not enter talks with the Taliban from a weak position.
“Taliban should first of all announce a cease-fire so that the government can distinguish between them and those sabotaging peace talks, then formal and open talks should begin,” she said.
Some Afghan lawmakers believe there are too many militant factions fighting inside Afghanistan and that former Taliban leaders being contacted for informal talks have very little or no control over other militants.
Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi, a former fighter with the Mujahideen group and then a Taliban commander, argued however that the actual problem was a lack of authority on both sides.
Rocketi, who ran as a presidential candidate in 2009, claimed both the Kabul government and the Taliban were controlled by external powers and therefore lacked power to make their own decisions.
“This is not how parties go for peace talks, with fighting going on all over the place,” he told Anadolu Agency by telephone, adding that the future of the peace talks was unpredictable.
Syed Akbar Agha, another former Taliban leader, said Monday’s attack could further increase the distance between the Taliban and President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has been keen to pursue peace talks since he took office in September.
“You see both sides are mounting pressure on each other, I do not see sincere efforts for peace from either side,” he said.
The Taliban earlier this month rejected requests from the government and Afghan clerics for a cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, while clashes with Afghan forces have intensified in northern parts of the country.
General Atiqullah Amarkhail, a former air forces chief, said the peace talks were a government initiative but the Taliban were more focused on inflicting damage.
“It is the government that has been calling for talks, the militants are simply fighting with all their might to gain an upper hand,” he said. “What the attack on the parliament can change in the government strategy is yet to be seen but it seems there is no other way than peace talks at the moment.”
The Afghan president has been criticized by some for pursuing peace talks, with many lawmakers and political observers also irritated that he has turned to neighboring Pakistan for help in ending the militancy, despite allegations that Pakistan supports sections of the Afghan Taliban.
Ghani made his intentions clear however when he said last month that Afghanistan needed to first make peace with Pakistan who he said had waged an “undeclared war”, then with the Taliban.
Ghani on Tuesday also highlighted for praise Essa Khan, an Afghan soldier credited with thwarting the Taliban attack by killing six of the gunmen.
“I’ve invited our hero, Mr. Essa Khan to my office, I’m so proud of his resolve and heroism,” Ghani tweeted.
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