Why not give peace a chance in Afghanistan?

If there is no military solution to end the war in Afghanistan, as many agree, then a negotiated political agreement is the only way out. So what’s being done to advance the peace process? Very little, according to everyone we interviewed on a recent research trip to Kabul.

The Kabul government’s peace and reconciliation process, which began last year, has ground to a halt, according to the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies, an independent research center in Kabul. It never had much momentum to begin with, and it was abruptly suspended in September when the head of the High Peace Council, former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated by an insurgent suicide bomber pretending to be an emissary of the Taliban.

The peace process is fake, said a former government official.  The insurgents distrust the government and foreign forces and are not serious about negotiating. The Kabul government has no interest in sharing power with insurgents, and its officials do not want to lose their economic and political privileges.

The United States has made some efforts to encourage talks, but it has also adopted a ‘fight and talk’ strategy, which means shooting at the very people you supposedly want to engage. This is “not helpful to the negotiating process,” said one of the researchers.  U.S. night raids and airstrikes are poisoning the atmosphere that is needed to facilitate meaningful dialogue and confidence building. They are killing mid-level commanders who may be needed to achieve reconciliation.

Pakistan wants a seat at the table and has made clear its ability and intention to derail any negotiating process to which it is not a party.

Meanwhile the average citizen has been sidelined. The Kabul government has not communicated its intentions to the public and seems to have no intention of involving ordinary citizens in resolving armed hostilities. For the Afghan people the transition process has no meaning, said a former official. “The people have no clue” what peace is supposed to mean, he said.

This is the exact opposite of what civil society experts in Afghanistan and the United States have urged. A recent report published by the U.S. Institute of Peace, written by Lisa Schirch of 3P Human Security, lays out parameters for an inclusive peace process that involves all social and ethnic groups within Afghan society. Assuring that Afghan citizens are fully engaged offers a strategy for addressing the underlying causes of the conflict and building a broad base of stakeholders committed to upholding human rights in any negotiated agreements.

2 thoughts on “Why not give peace a chance in Afghanistan?

  1. Taking into consideration the social and ethnic diversity is key to gaining their respect and confidence however, to win their hearts is the key. I believe that President Mandela put it best when he said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Also, at the risk of stating the obvious, the money we spend on “killing mid-level commanders who may be needed to achieve reconciliation” would be better spent building schools and infrastructure; both of which are inhibiting the dissemination and awareness of peace efforts. With only 28% of the population being literate and 42% of the population being under the age of 14 (CIA World Fact Book) there is an unfortunate void of education that could be capitalized upon by educating the youth leading to a relatively rapid metamorphosis of the demographics of the whole country.

    We are now in an age where the brutish tactics of offensive warfare are not the only option and should actually be a last resort. The allocation of funding and manpower to building the infrastructure and education system and the protection of it is the most effective way to empower the Afghan people and subsequently evolve a generation of people out of ignorance (the source of terrorism/killing), rather than the childish tit for tat game we have as a policy now. After all, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” (Gandhi) and “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” (Mandela)

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