The Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process is undergoing at two levels: indigenous (national) peace process, called as Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme (APRP) led by High Peace Council and the other one being facilitated by international and regional actors through bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral platforms.
The APRP is based on two principles, namely the “reintegration of reconciles” and “peace talks” with the Afghan non-state actors. However, it is pertinent to mention that as integrated elements of political reconciliation, reintegration and peace talks could never take place independently of each other. Presently, the peace talks lag behind the reintegration in Afghanistan as the latter could relatively be the much easier process.
It is always possible to have some defectors in a militant group, as well as, to make an attractive arrangement for such defectors. Yet, it could be extremely difficult to negotiate a peace deal with a political-militant group, whose political aim is drastically different. Therefore, Kabul and Washington have largely been focusing on reintegration rather than peace talks.
Further, the ground reality shows that the Afghan security situation keeps worsening as a result of all sides’ (Washington, the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government) simultaneous attempts to make peace talks from a position of strength. The coming one or two years will be on determining significance for political reconciliation in Afghanistan and deserves special attention from all stakeholders. The battlefield will bring about a significant impact on the possible peace talks.
One could not be overly optimistic while acknowledging the possibility of fruitful political reconciliation. The prospects for a political settlement of Afghan conflict could be more promising if all sides understand that military means could hardly make a big breakthrough. There are factors and ground realities that may persuade both the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government to resume the peace talks in the coming future.
In order to create opportunities for the promising prospects of political reconciliation in Afghanistan, one needs to map out the common interests of the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government. There is an apparent convergence of interests between most of the parties, including, to some extent, the Taliban, in terms of avoiding full-scale civil war or state collapse; preserving Afghanistan’s territorial integrity and over the longer term; maintaining effective national security forces; containing the growing influence of the ISIL in Afghanistan and securing continued international assistance for the country.
There is at least some convergence in other areas, such as preserving Afghanistan’s sovereignty and political independence. These convergences of interests would likely play an important role in making a possible Afghan reconciliation process a successful one. The agreement between Hezb-e Islami and government may encourage some of the more mainstream Taliban to join the bandwagon of peace talks. The growing influence of the ISIL in Afghanistan, being a common threat of the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government, which may compel both of them to restart the peace talks.
The factors such as increased the Afghan Taliban control on the Afghan territory and Taliban led suicide attacks, including bomb blasts; the spring offensive; high ratio of the ANSF casualties and its inability to maintain law and order and defending major population centers, including preventing insurgent gains; and a resurgent al Qaeda presence may likely induce the Afghan government to recommence the peace talks with Afghan Taliban.
Likewise, the Afghan Taliban’s inability to maintain their hold on strategically located urban cities, which may compel the Afghan Taliban to reconsider the peace talks with the Afghan government. The Afghan government has come under increasing domestic criticism, not only for the security situation but for its internal divisions and political instability as well.
The effective border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan may possibly put pressure on the Afghan Taliban to join the political reconciliation process. If the Afghan government fails in rehabilitating of the repatriated Afghan refugees from Pakistan to Afghanistan, then there could be a fear that the repatriated Afghan refugees may support or join the Taliban’s movement. This factor may likely induce the Afghan government to resume peace talks with the Afghan Taliban. Thus, the road to peace in Afghanistan will have to be saved from within the Afghan society itself.
In reality, the conflict and instability in Afghanistan have very negative repercussions for the regional peace in general and Pakistan in particular. Consequently, the rise of violent extremism and increase in terrorism in Pakistan not only caused serious damage to Pakistan’s economy but has also been responsible for widespread human suffering due to indiscriminate attacks against the civilian population. Pakistan’s peace and stability are linked to Afghanistan’s internal security situation. Therefore, Islamabad firmly supports the peace and stability in Afghanistan and will continue its help to Afghanistan, not in words but with concrete actions to enhance its capacity-building.
Rather accusing Pakistan (allegedly harbouring terrorism) for its own mis-governance, the current Afghan government must pay attention to the domestic unrest. After having suffered heavily out of foreign intervention, internal wars, and war against terrorism, the Afghan government has to realize that the people of Afghanistan need peace and development. In order to achieve this objective, it is necessary that the government lays maximum emphasis on steering national reconciliation through peace talks among all ethnic groups in Afghanistan.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.