Fixing Afghanistan’s flawed peace process
In February last year, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban unconditional talks to negotiate a political settlement. To support the process, the United States also initiated direct talks with the Taliban, which the Taliban had been demanding. The Taliban has since responded by intensifying its campaign of violence, killing hundreds of civilians, including ten candidates in the recent parliamentary election and their supporters. The Taliban has also refused to talk to the Afghan government.
An overwhelming majority of Afghans want a negotiated end to the conflict. But the current strategy to achieve a political settlement is failing, because it neglects key Afghan institutions, excludes ordinary citizens from the process, and rewards the Taliban’s campaign of violence.
If these flaws remain unaddressed, attempts to engage the Taliban may deepen Afghanistan’s political fragility and further weaken the state. The Afghan and US governments need to be pragmatic and adopt a longer-term perspective in their search for a political settlement, and not focus only on immediate concerns.
The current approach has encouraged violence. Neither the Afghan government nor the US insisted on the suspension of Taliban attacks as a minimal condition for engaging them in talks. As a result, each round of the talks has become an opportunity for the Taliban to commit more violence as they seek to strengthen their bargaining position.
The emergence of a parallel state is yet another challenge. The Afghan government has contributed to its emergence by providing the Taliban’s leaders with diplomatic privilege. Far from helping the Taliban to promote peace in Afghanistan, diplomatic status has enabled its leaders to interact with foreign actors to advance their cause and build international legitimacy, especially through the group’s office in Qatar.
This parallel state has access to income from narcotics and extortion and has gained de facto recognition from countries …read more