The Debate

For Peace in Afghanistan, Listen to Afghans

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The Debate

For Peace in Afghanistan, Listen to Afghans

There can be no peace without an Afghan-led peace process that involves regional stakeholders.

For Peace in Afghanistan, Listen to Afghans

Afghan leaders welcome Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to Kabul, based on an Afghan-brokered peace agreement.

Credit: ARG – Afghanistan Presidential Palace

On June 16, the New York Times published and op-ed titled “For Peace in Afghanistan, Talk to Pakistan.” The authors are right that Pakistan’s behavior must change if Afghanistan is to attain stability, but they’re naive in thinking that what they propose will produce such change.

First, when it comes to Islamabad’s fear of India’s constructive development work in Afghanistan, this is hardly an area where progress can be made. Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state, and if its nuclear weapons are of any value, it is to ensure that Pakistan no longer faces an existential threat from any power in the region and beyond.

Second, the Obama and Bush administrations did exactly what the authors propose. Obama and Bush pursued an appeasement strategy of providing Pakistan with “carrots,” giving over $30 billion to secure the country’s cooperation in the fight against the Taliban, which has now evolved into a transnational terrorist network.

Current and former U.S. commanders have repeatedly called on Pakistan to close down the safe sanctuaries, the ideological indoctrination infrastructure, and the operational bases that the Taliban conveniently utilize in Pakistan to launch daily terrorist attacks, indiscriminately killing and maiming civilians across Afghanistan. Those U.S. military appeals have been completely ignored, as violence by the Taliban has only escalated in Afghanistan over the past two years.

That is why in the recent meeting of the Kabul Process for Security and Peace Cooperation, President Ashraf Ghani offered an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution to the problem. He discussed the threats to regional stability and global peace posed by the Taliban, while outlining his vision of a dignified and just peace, which Afghanistan has been striving to achieve. The United States and other stakeholders in the region and beyond have an opportunity to respond to Ghani’s call for a collective action for peace, which entails the use of “sticks” against state sponsorship of terrorism.

In my last Diplomat article, I discussed the core principles that must underpin the Afghan peace process to be sincerely supported by Pakistan and other major stakeholders. First, there is no substitute for state-to-state cooperation, which must underpin all regional efforts to help the government of Afghanistan reach peace with those armed groups who are genuinely willing to enter an irreversible political settlement.

Second, sincere regional cooperation is essential for ensuring that any joint peace efforts will bear the results Afghanistan and the region ultimately seek. And that is an end to the suffering of the Afghan people, which would enable them to further consolidate their hard-earned gains of the past 16 years, in continued partnership with the international community.

Third, regional consensus on the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan as a common good is emerging. This must continue to evolve and translate into concrete steps to be taken by each of the regional and global stakeholders, in support of an Afghan government-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Fourth, Afghanistan rejects duplicity and selectivity in defining terrorism. This means that regional counterterrorism efforts must mirror those of national counterterrorism action plans adopted for implementation by Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan.

Finally, the Taliban must realize that they cannot win militarily. The way forward shouldn’t be more of the same: violence and bloodshed. Instead, Afghanistan’s message to them is clear: the Afghan government and people want peace and they seek to achieve that peace through direct talks with the authoritative leadership of the Taliban. The best venue for these face-to-face peace talks is in Afghanistan or at a location mutually acceptable to both sides. In the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation meeting, President Ghani encouraged the Taliban to step forward for peace talks while warning the terror group that the government was “offering a chance for peace but … must also be clear that this is not an open-ended opportunity.”

M. Ashraf Haidari headed the Afghan delegation in the Eleven-Party and Six-Party Meetings on Peace in Afghanistan, hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation in Moscow in April and February 2017. Haidari is the Director-General of Policy & Strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, and formerly served as the country’s Deputy Chief of Mission to India. Prior to this, he was Afghanistan’s Deputy Assistant National Security Advisor, as well as Afghan Chargé d’Affaires to the United States. He tweets @MAshrafHaidari.