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A peace agreement in Afghanistan would be ‘victory for all, defeat for none’

A peace agreement in Afghanistan would be ‘victory for all, defeat for none’
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Afghanistan has endured one of the longest war in its contemporary history, a war that started in December 1979 with the Soviet invasion and continues today. Fighting in Afghanistan since October 2001, this also is the longest war in American history. And it has casualties: There is not an exact figure, but estimates show that during these four decades of war, millions of Afghans died or suffered disabling injuries. Several million Afghans have migrated or displaced, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The estimated cost of this war for the involved parties is trillions of U.S. dollars, yet this costly, lengthy fighting has not brought about peace.

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After the defeat of former USSR in 1989, Afghanistan went through a civil war until 2001, and then became the frontline of the war against global terrorism and insurgency. After many years of fighting, the Afghan government and its international allies agree there is likely no end to this war without a reconciliation.  

 

Efforts for reconciliation with Taliban insurgents have failed repeatedly. One reason for this failure was tight pre-conditions of the government for negotiations; the Taliban would need to renounce violence, cut ties with al Qaeda and accept the Afghan constitution. To the Taliban, it sounded more like a surrender offer than a reconciliation. Another reason that peace talks failed was that the negotiation involved Pakistan, the wrong moderator with the wrong actors in the wrong place.

On Feb. 28, 2018, during the Kabul Process Conference, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said he is ready to talk with the Taliban without preconditions. He emphasized that the basis for any negotiation would be the constitution, but he also offered a review of the constitution. Through a peace roadmap, with political and legal frameworks, his proposal to the Taliban includes a ceasefire; recognition of the Taliban as a political party; security for all citizens, including the reconciled Taliban; and facilitating the reintegration of Taliban returnees and their families. However, human rights and, in particular, women’s rights are non-negotiable.

Following the Kabul conference, a conference on Afghanistan titled “Peace Process, Security Cooperation and Regional Connectivity” was held March 26-27 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The conference organized by Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev drew representatives from 25 countries and international organizations, including the United Nations, European Union, United States, Russia, China and Pakistan. Their attendance was meant to support the Afghan peace proposal and encourage the Taliban to engage in peace talks. A declaration issued at the end of conference supports an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” political settlement.  

President Ghani defines the current violence in the country as the “fifth wave” of political violence and last year noted Pakistan’s “undeclared war of aggression” against Afghanistan. Now, he also has renewed an offer of talks with Pakistan.

After nearly 17 years of presence in Afghanistan, the U.S. government appears to have realized that Pakistan has contributed to the violence in the country. Frustrated by safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan, President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE has described the U.S.-Pakistan relationship as worthless. His first tweet on New Year’s Day 2018 lashed out at Pakistan: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

We are pleased by the unprecedented national and international support that is building for peace in Afghanistan. The declaration issued by the participants of the Kabul Process Conference said a peace agreement would be “a victory for all its parties and a defeat for none.” Members of the U.N. Security Council also welcomed Afghanistan’s offer and called upon the Taliban “to accept this offer.” The Afghan government and its international allies have promised to keep up pressure on the militants until they accept the offer.

So far, there is no official response from the Taliban. This means business as usual for the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces and the NATO allies: fighting insurgents across the country. President Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia has no end date and is condition-based.

Although the Afghan forces are determined to fight those who do not reconcile, many Afghans remain optimistic about the opportunity for peace. The peace proposal could put an end to this war, but it is up to the Taliban and Pakistan to accept this unique opportunity to end a no-win game.

Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam is deputy senior advisor to the president of Afghanistan on United Nations affairs. A social activist, writer and international affairs analyst, he is a former NATO senior media and public diplomacy advisor in Afghanistan (2010-2014). Follow him on Twitter @shafiqhamdam.