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Afghan Presidential Contenders Endorse Political, Not Military, Path to Peace

Afghan presidential candidates are promising peace.
Afghan presidential candidates are promising peace.
Leading contenders in this year's Afghan presidential election agree there is no clear military solution to the ongoing conflict in their country, but they differ over how to tackle the issue of negotiating peace with the Taliban.

Representatives of Afghan presidential candidates and experts participating in a recent Radio Free Afghanistan call-in show, "On the Waves of Freedom," said that the conflict in Afghanistan has domestic, regional, and international dimensions. They said that new approaches and a renewed focus on the peace process can guarantee durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Azita Rafaat, head of former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani's presidential campaign, said they propose a new strategy for peace talks with Taliban. "The national, regional, and international environment for peace in Afghanistan has changed significantly," she said.

"Afghans are sick and tired of [endless] war. We have to seek new ways and approaches for peace and increase the strength of our security force with the help of the international community."

Rafaat added that if elected, Ghani's administration will ensure broad-based regional cooperation in the peace process. "We have to convince our neighboring countries that their security is directly linked with Afghanistan’s stability and peace," she said.

"[We have to convince them that] supporting terrorism is not in the interests of any country in the region," she said. Rafaat concluded that, given the past failure of a military solution, a political solution is now more desirable in bringing peace to Afghanistan.

Fazel Rahman Oria, spokesman for former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign, pledged that if elected, their government will unveil a new peace plan in the first 100 days after assuming office.

"Only dialogue and diplomacy can bring peace into Afghanistan, but good governance is also vital," he said. "We will launch a national process with the participation of government, political parties, civil society, and leading independent figures."

Oria said that their administration will adopt a balanced foreign policy based on the principals of non-alignment, coexistence, and regional cooperation.

Toofan Waziri, head of former Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasul campaign, says peace and security are the foremost challenges for the next Afghan president.

"Those [Taliban] now fighting against the Afghan government and international community must accept our constitution [before they can be engaged in talks]," he said.

"They have to respect our main achievements during the past 12 years." Waziri said that, if elected, Rasul will empower and reform the Afghan High Peace Council to move the peace talks with the Taliban forward.

Wadir Safi, a Kabul University professor, said the agreement among the 11 Afghan presidential contenders that the country's security problems can only be solved through dialogue is a good omen.

"If the election is transparent then the new president and his administration will have the full support and trust of our nation," he said. "This will prompt the insurgents and their backers to rethink their attitude and it is likely that the peace talks will yield results."

Years of efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban have yielded little. In the latest setback, the Taliban have distanced themselves from Kabul's recent talks in Dubai with a Taliban faction headed by former Taliban Finance Minister, Aga Jan Mohtism.

Every Thursday, millions of Afghans in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Tajikistan tune in to "On the Waves of Freedom." The weekly two hour long radio call-in show is known for analysis and political commentary, and is a flagship program of Radio Free Afghanistan, locally known as Radio Azadi.