Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Myths of Peace Building in Afghanistan


So how are you going to achieve peace through this Council? ... " Well, one has to understand that Afghans are tired of the ongoing war for the past 30 years and want to come to terms with the armed opposition of their government and therefore, this Council is established to achieve that agreement between government and its oppositions


In these cliché assumptions, so much is taken for granted about Afghans and Afghanistan. Even though, one might argue that Afghans are tired of fighting and want this war to end, a growing internal insurgency is spreading throughout the country, involving more Afghan insurgents everyday. Moreover, people who are blowing themselves up, burning schools, throwing acids to the faces of school going girls, poisoning schools, killing government and non government civilians and kidnapping the aid workers are not merely the ‘armed oppositions' of the Afghan government but they are destabilizing the very basic fundamentals of the Afghan society. Reports have demonstrated that even criminal gangs carry out criminal activities and their acts are reported as insurgents' 'Anti-Government acts', and apparently the peace plan seems unable to distinguish criminal acts from a perplexed political movement of some of the insurgents.

Why are the Afghan insurgents fighting and why should they be re-integrated back into the Afghan society? The answer is missing from the rhetoric of ‘peace making' in Afghanistan and it was missing from the first statement of the High Peace Council, responsible for creating a reconciliation and re-integration framework for Afghanistan. The first statement of the High Peace Council aimed to unfold the Councils plans before its Afghan audience and succumbed to the ongoing political pressures from the government on " Peace at any cost" slogan. Such a political attempt to cover the causes of insurgency would result in a continued pattern of increased insurgency. If the High Peace Council had professional experts on conflict resolution mechanisms, their first task would be to root out the main causes of a resilient insurgency before coming up with a framework for re-integration and reconciliation. Inclusion of the civil society organizations engaged with the local communities, involvement of skilled mediators and conflict resolution experts, and learning lessons from a similar peace plan of 1989 should have been the pre-equisite of the Afghan peace plan, which is also missing from the composition of the High Peace Council.

In its fourth meeting, the High Peace Council issued a statement that is full of emotional and Islamic appeal to the insurgents reiterating ‘unsatisfied brothers' and calling on them to embrace the peace talks AS IF the motivations behind the insurgency are not emotional or Islamic. Taliban have repeatedly denounced peace plans as a drama and unacceptable for them and as per the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan's latest interview on Geo tv, the insurgency has a very important rational for the Taliban mujahids and that is ‘Jihad', which is more emotional and Islamic than the appeal for joining the peace talks, at least for the Taliban. In his latest research paper, Matt Waldman lists the motivations behind the insurgency and concludes that the ‘religious narratives' have tied the objectives and efforts of the Taliban fighters as the overarching goal of the insurgency. Therefore, a naïve appeal on religious basis to welcome peace talks is not very attractive to the Taliban fighters and leaders, it seems.

The first and foremost requirement of any national peace process is to analyze the root causes of conflict and if the High Peace Council is not honest in facing the motives of the insurgents, the rationale behind increased destruction by the insurgency, how will they create a framework for reconciliation? Any basic reconciliation between two disputed parties is to at least identify, and agree on the differences and then struggle for reconciling them. However, from the first statement of the Council, its evident that they are too caught up in a myth.

A question that many Afghan critics are asking in Afghanistan peace talks is whether peace in its real terms is the driving force of the talks, or the ongoing political settlements are aimed to serve the purposes of international withdrawal from Afghanistan? If the latter, then any practical expectations from the High Peace Council will remain a dream for the common Afghan. While symbolic political efforts for peace building are underway, almost none of the stakeholders are aware or agree on how this ‘peace' would look like for Afghans.

The first statement of the High Peace Council concludes with a commitment and a promise that the Council will listen to the ‘legitimate' wishes of the insurgents if they embrace peace talks. Now which of the insurgent's wishes can be categorized as ‘legitimate'...is not yet known to the Council itself.

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