Nazar Mohammad Motmaeen – Afghan writer and political Analyst based in Kabul
Translated by: S. J. Sadat – Herat
Afghans desperately need peace, since Afghanistan has been burning of its ongoing conflicts for the past 40 years. Afghans have really suffered many setbacks due to imposed wars.
The decade-long war against Russian invasion & the government forces of Dr. Najibullah regime, the civil war of Afghan Mujahedeen factions, which have left behind unspeakable war crimes in Kabul & elsewhere, the fight of Taliban against the warring & factionalist Mujahedeen groups and finally the ongoing war of US-NATO against the remnants of Taliban for the last 15 years have made Afghans to be the victims of all these brutalities on the ground.
Afghans seem to be increasingly exhausted from the ongoing ineffective peace efforts made by the Afghan government with the armed groups, since the Ghani administration has preferred war to be its first priority rather than peace.
Afghans are suffering from mental disorders; there is no peace & serenity. Only war, struggle & counter struggle prevail. That is the potential reason, wherein 160,000 mostly disappointed & frustrated young Afghans have already fled the countries, leaving to Europe & elsewhere in the world.
If peace does not prevail till end of 2016, the Afghan ongoing war will be in its 39th year & beyond that, it will be highly difficult to achieve peace & tranquility. The conditions & pre-requisites for peace & war in & outside Afghanistan will subsequently change & at that time, the whole region will encounter potential problems to win peace, almost a similar scenario back in 1990s.
With the Taliban now being the main opponent power in Afghanistan, this can help to undermine the activities of other armed groups. There are armed factions in northern Afghanistan, mainly from central Asia & China, who still recognize Taliban as their legitimate leadership. If Taliban are weakened, then other armed factions such as Khurasan Group and ISIS will easily replace them, which will be potentially dangerous & challenging for the Afghan government. This will jeopardize & derail the peace process &will repeat the misjudgments of Bonn I Protocol.
We believe that political faults can’t be rectified. Looking at the existing puzzling political circumstances, the Afghan government, the opposition armed groups, the neighboring countries & regional & international players are to sit together to put the Afghan peace process back at the right track.
I would like to share with you a few notes on the obstacles in the way of Afghan peace process & how a real truce can be brokered;
1- All considerable uncertainties must be clarified & the entire procedures for any peace initiative must be clearly stated to all Afghans & the international community. No more pretexts & excuses should be made. The ongoing war labeled as “war on terror, etc.” must be stopped immediately.
2- A clear-cut policy for peace must be defined & put in place, rather to develop a war strategy. Taliban might not be in a position to announce their position on how & when to stop the war & start making a peace, but the Afghan government is in a more stronger position to announce a clear position about a genuine peace & how to take drastic & practical measure to pave the way for such a peace settlement.
3- All differences & opposite opinions about the peace with Taliban within the Afghan government must be resolved. There are differences & misjudgments still remain at large, even between the Afghan president & his chief executive.
4- The Afghan government does not seem to be acting in accordance to an emergency state. It moves very slowly in the peace process as it might be thinking that it still has got plenty of more time ahead for any peace settlement. Look at the Afghan High Peace Council, which was formed a long time ago, but with no tangible achievements so far. The Afghan government thinks as it might be having another decade to make peace with the armed groups, but nowadays we have got a state of emergency & everything seems to be on a high alert. Any slow pace toward achieving a real peace will be a great mistake. Both sides, the Afghan government & the Taliban do not have enough time to make a peace and if any peace is not settled within a this certain time frame, then we will be driven to a more critical time, where any chance of peace will dwindle away. Taliban is no longer the only threat for the Afghan government, while the newly formed “stability & protection council”, the Karzai circle & just announced opposition group of Anwarulhaq Ahadi have seriously emerged to the potential rivals for Ghani administration.
5- The Afghan government acts as it is supported by the nation & the whole nation is against the Taliban. But in fact, it is not the reality. The Ghani administration should realize the fact that about 70% of Afghan soil is controlled & run by the Taliban, while there are still areas, which are not even controlled by the government, nor by the Taliban. The Afghan government only holds about 20% of the entire mainland. Any peace initiative should be based on this formula & reality.
6- The Afghan government has only launched a propaganda campaign for peace. Nothing has been achieved in reality on the ground. Pakistan has been blamed for terrorism, the Taliban were labeled as terrorists, and the demands of local Afghans were never met, nor were their questions answered. In order to achieve a real peace, actions will speak louder than words.
7- President Ghani’s slogan during his presidential campaign was to give a high priority to the peace settlement & that is why most Afghans, even during those hard times, voted in his favor. In fact, any practical & physical effort for peace initiative was not properly coordinated, nor the Afghan government was able to get the hearts & minds of the local population to win the peace. All this has still remained to be merely a written motto.
8- Strengthening ties & getting along with the central Asian countries & the international community will further derail the peace process. The warriors from central Asia & China fighting in Afghanistan will not be able to resolve their differences, nor will their arrest & extradition help any peace settlement. It would be better to adopt a policy & strategy, so that such foreign combatants may either voluntarily return to their own homelands, or a third location might be provided to house & accommodate them. If these warriors are oppressed & cracked down, then it will definitely prolong the war & some Afghan armed groups may choose to provide them safe heavens by sticking to war option.
9- The Afghan government is seeking & requesting financial & military aids from central Asian countries & other regions to crack down on fighters of these certain countries inside Afghanistan. Instead, it is better to launch peace talks by inviting the representatives of these countries along with these foreign fighters & pave the way for a peace settlement, so that a possible progress can be made.
10- The Afghan national unity government is seeking to build up good relationships with US & NATO from the first stages of its establishment. It wants troops surge in Afghanistan & authorizes US & NATO troops to conduct night raids against the Taliban. This will definitely encourage Taliban to intensify their militant campaign against foreign forces & will extend the conflict. All this will put the peace efforts at risk. So it would be much better for the Afghan government to seek the approval & satisfaction of the local population & does not do & fulfill anything, which might be against the national wishes.
11- The leaders of Afghan government have got the feeling that their government is financially & military supported by the international community, so they want further foreign troops surge in the country. It is clear that this will jeopardize the peace process & that is why it is better for the international community to avoid orchestrating dangerous scenarios, so that Afghans will be able to abort the possibility of another civil war.
12- Nasty & smear campaigns should be stopped immediately & fruitful & constructive peace negotiations must resume. The people should be invited & encouraged for peace & stability & the media & press should play key roles in promoting the same messages as well.
13- Peace process must be clearly explained & outlined to all Afghans, the warring factions & the international community. The Afghan government prefers a peace, which can meet their conditions. So far, any peace plan outlined by the Afghan government mostly talks about how the “Taliban” can surrender to the government & this all comes under the title of peace. The Taliban have also presented their own version of peace settlement with the Afghan government with certain preconditions to be met by Ghani administration.
14- The international community has made a number of faults & is still continuing to do so:
A: The international community acted very arrogantly, saying that Taliban must be eliminated anywhere they can be tracked & located. Taliban were not immune & safe neither at their homes, not anywhere else in the region, but instead they came under mounting pressure & were largely threatened to be killed.
B: The international community is now saying that Taliban must be invited to the negotiating table, since they are no longer terrorists & a constructive dialogue must be spearheaded. It is not because that Taliban are to be recognized, but the road must be paved for any peace dialogue with them. The names of the Taliban leaders must be removed from the blacklist & their office in Doha, Qatar must be recognized as their legitimate focal point.
C: The international community should not repeat the faults made during the Bonn I agreement, wherein it strongly supported its ally (Afghan government) & labeled itself to the third part for the Taliban. If the Taliban respects the international community, then the international community must also mutually respect the Taliban. If the international community, led by US, supports the Afghan government both financially & militarily & then calls itself to be the third party. The international community may sooner or later understand the fact that it made a mistake when Taliban were not invited to the Bonn meeting & they were all suddenly barred from attending it.
15- By taking physical steps toward a real peace, the international community must do the following as prerequisites to offer its assistance to the Afghan government:
A: All types of aids & assistances must be given on the condition that it helps peace, not war.
B: To restrict its military & political support & make it pre-conditional too. If the Afghan government does not make any breakthrough to make peace with the Taliban till the end of 2016 or by next year, then any type of aid & support must be suspended. If the international community does not put pressure on the Afghan government & does not restrict & limit its cooperation on different aspects, then making peace will be unlikely.
16- The international community, led by US, has not forced the Afghan government to reach a compromise with the Taliban & make peace, nor has it used any of its diplomatic & political channels to put pressure on the Afghan government. On the contrary, the international community has widely supported the Afghan government, both military & politically at local & regional levels.
17- The regional & international super powers, China, USA & NATO should also do their parts to exercise mounting pressure on the Afghan government & Taliban to strike a deal & make peace.
18- Pakistan is so far playing with all parties involved in the process. It receives funds from the international community under the name of peace. Pakistan largely benefits from the ongoing chaotic status of the region & the more chaos & anarchy is there, it will milk it further & will try to stand on its dignity with the international community. If Afghanistan & the whole region are plunged in to chaos & experience server turbulence, Pakistan will definitely try to seek concessions & credits from all. The Afghan government always makes excuses & requests more time when it comes to peace agreement. Pakistan also puts pressure on the Taliban, saying that they won’t be able to win the peace. These pressures include suspension of humanitarian assistances to Taliban, discharging the wounded Taliban fighters from Pakistani hospitals & deserting them un-treated. All this will definitely create more obstacles to make peace. Pakistan tells the international community that any peace deal would be unlikely unless Taliban are not part of that. So it is also important that the international community should also set a deadline & preconditions for Pakistan & should avoid offering & providing unlimited assistances, so that Pakistan can put pressure on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.
19- All conclusions & agreements reached during the international conferences should be followed by practical measure by all concerned parties & groups & they have to guarantee that they will comply with the resolutions. A third party has to monitor & make sure that these agreements & resolutions will be met & complied with in due course.
20- The Afghan government & the all anti-government armed groups should undergo mounting pressure from inside the country too. This can be done by non-aligned political factions, civil societies & the Afghan people as a whole, but has to be impartially supported by the international community too. A clear example of that could be the brutal beadings of 9 Hazara citizens, which triggered a mass demonstration of nearly 100,000 people in the country. This was already orchestrated & pre-planned. The same will be possible & could be done to force all parties to make & settle peace.
21- The international assistances for the sake of peace in Afghanistan only go to the Afghan government & some certain figures within the Ghani inner circle. These assistances are addressed & shipped to one specific source within the Afghan government, while this could definitely have serious repercussions for the ongoing peace talks & could derail the peace process.