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Afghan Government Rejects Taliban Peace Proposal

FILE: Delegates at the Afghanistan National Peace Jirga in Kabul (June 2010).
FILE: Delegates at the Afghanistan National Peace Jirga in Kabul (June 2010).

A senior Afghan official has rejected a preliminary peace plan backed by the Taliban insurgents that could lead to a final reconciliation deal possibly ending nearly four decades of war in Afghanistan.

After years of consultations with the two sides and civic leaders, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, a nongovernmental organization focused on conflict resolution, sketched out 17 points toward peace between Kabul and the Taliban. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, soldiers, and militants have been killed in clashes between the two sides during the past 14 years.

Akram Khpalwak, a political adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, says they were not consulted on the final draft that could serve as the first roadmap for peace among the warring Afghan sides.

“Pugwash did not send this [draft] to us, and we were we not consulted. We believe that, instead of promoting dialogue among Afghans, some nongovernment organizations have their own goals,” Khpalwak told Radio Mashaal. “Afghanistan is a country of jirgas (tribal councils), and we are in favor of a dialogue among Afghans. Instead of outsiders drafting proposals for us or others trying to reach their own goals by making proposals for us, we can better solve our issues among ourselves.”

The plan calls for an immediate ceasefire, changes in the Afghan Constitution, delisting Taliban leaders from sanctions lists, releasing each other’s prisoners, preventing foreign militants from establishing safe havens in Afghanistan, and a final departure date for international forces within three years of the deal’s conclusion. It also envisions allowing the Taliban forces to keep the areas they control until they can be integrated into Afghan forces.

The plan envisions a general election within a year of the deal and calls on the United Nations or the Organization of Islamic States to serve as the guarantors of the eventual peace deal. The agreement calls for welcoming international aid and investments, eventual disarmament, demobilization, reintegration of combatants, and a complete ban on the production and trafficking of illegal drugs. The plan emphasizes Afghanistan’s Islamic character and calls for all Afghan laws to be compatible with Islamic Shari’a law.

An official in the Taliban’s contact office in the Qatari capital, Doha, praised the plan. Requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly speak on the issue, the official acknowledged they were consulted on the plan. He said that although the framework does not reflect their official position, it could provide a good basis for talks.

It is worth noting that many key provisions of the plan such as delisting Taliban leaders from UN sanctions lists, releasing insurgent prisoners, the departure of international troops, and changes to the Afghan Constitution have been longstanding preconditions of the Taliban’s for joining talks with the Afghan government.

Kabul, on the other hand, had insisted on the insurgents giving up fighting and accepting the Afghan supreme law as preconditions for talks with the insurgents.

Khpalwak, however, says the Taliban first need to free themselves from Pakistani influence. Successive administrations in Kabul have accused Islamabad of supporting the Taliban in an effort to influence Afghan politics and hinder the current Western-backed government.

“Even those fighting the government know they are being sacrificed for foreign interests in a war that damages the Afghan people,” he said. “The Taliban need to show an Afghan and Islamic resolve. They should join direct talks with us and present their demands directly. We will welcome such a step.”

Kabul has been trying to engage the Taliban in talks since 2008. Following the establishment of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar in 2013, however, the two sides have engaged in direct talks only once in July 2015. The talks were derailed after the insurgents accepted that their founding leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died in 2013.

Since the departure of most NATO troops by the end of 2014, the Taliban dramatically expanded their insurgency. The insurgents now control large swathes of rural provinces and have even threatened several provincial capitals across Afghanistan.

One of the world’s foremost peacebuilding organizations, Pugwash was founded in 1957 in Canada. It won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for its nuclear disarmament efforts.