A related development in Pakistan will add to concern over the Taliban’s mounting military capacity. Heavily armed Taliban militants are reported to have engineered a jailbreak in the northwestern town of Bannu, resulting in 400 prisoners, including many terrorists – at least a score of them have been described as ‘extremely dangerous’ – escaping. Such a major operation would not have been possible without help from within jail authorities, perhaps even the Pakistan establishment. This is true of the Taliban siege of Kabul as well. It would be impossible for heavily armed fighters to get past multiple security cordons without inside support. Clearly, the Taliban has significant support inside the corridors of power in Afghanistan as it does in Pakistan.
The question uppermost in everyone’s minds is whether the Afghan security forces have the capacity to withstand a Taliban onslaught on their own. What will happen when the international forces leave Afghanistan in 2014? Analysts say that the Afghan government’s hold will be at best tenuous and government forces will hold the cities and the roads. But vast swathes of the country could fall to the Taliban. The scenario is bleak and 2014 is not very far off. Many will call on president Hamid Karzai to call off the peace talks with the Taliban. He must not give up at this juncture. He must not allow the Taliban’s provocative violence to defeat the peace process.