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How will the Kabul raid affect a peace deal? [VIDEO]

Neither Afghan nor American observers expect the Kabul attack on the InterContinental Hotel to shut down the peace process.

By Staff writer / June 29, 2011

Men sit near the InterContinental Hotel after a battle between Afghan security forces and suicide bombers and Taliban insurgents in Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 29.

Ahmad Masood/Reuters

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New Delhi

For all the talk about peace negotiations with the Taliban, one word rarely comes up: cease-fire. Instead, the US and the Taliban talk while shooting, a fact brought home again with the major terrorist attack overnight on a landmark hotel in Kabul.

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The siege left seven civilians dead, including one Spaniard. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says one reason his group struck the InterContinental Hotel was the presence of foreigners.

Such provocative targeting of civilians by the insurgents, as well as the civilian deaths that result from US-led operations, erode trust around the negotiating table. However, since both sides clearly intend to try to show a stronger hand on the battlefield, neither Afghan nor American observers expect the attack to shut down the peace process.

“When you see this kind of incident, especially in Kabul, it brings mistrust among the people over the peace process, but it does not means we will sit quiet and stop the peace efforts,” says Attaullah Lodin, a member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council.

He says at this point the peace talks have to involve those who deepen insecurity, including “foreign forces killing innocent and weak Afghans in the villages in their raids and bombings, or those [insurgents] who carry out attacks on the mosques and crowded areas.”

For many Westerners there is not the same equivalency between so-called collateral damage from military missions that target insurgents and a group that goes door-to-door in a hotel to hunt guests.

'Diplomacy would be easy if we only had to talk to friends'

But in a speech earlier this year making the case for peace talks, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued against letting the Taliban’s brutality derail efforts to end the war.

"Now, I know that reconciling with an adversary that can be as brutal as the Taliban sounds distasteful, even unimaginable. And diplomacy would be easy if we only had to talk to our friends," said Secretary Clinton. "But that is not how one makes peace.”

Still, the attack could have minor impacts on the calculations surrounding the talks.

It has not been clear whether the Taliban are using talks as a tactic to encourage international withdrawal, or if they are genuinely interested in finding a negotiated settlement. The continuation of major terrorist assaults only deepen this uncertainty. On the other hand, the attack is a reminder that despite 130,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban remain capable of striking inside the capital.

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