Afghanistan's Complex Terror Issues Demand an Intricate Peace Solution

Afghan National Army recruits during Basic Warrior Training. Flickr/DVIDSHUB

Terrorism fed by states and non-state-sponsored radicalism don’t recognize borders.

In the same vein, Afghanistan is grateful to Russia, India, China, Iran and Turkey for the security-and-development assistance they are providing as Afghans strive to stabilize their country. Success in this collective endeavor will help these countries achieve their own stated end-goal of defeating terrorism while allowing Heart-of-Asia countries to focus on implementing win-win programs of economic revitalization, sustainable growth and regional economic integration.

To that end, Afghanistan wishes to become an area of cooperation among all regional and global stakeholders. This requires that the principal stakeholders come to a results-driven consensus on Afghanistan where the hand of the Afghan state is strengthened by state actors against all non-state actors, including the Taliban. The Afghan people, 80 percent of whom reject the Taliban, want their democratic state-building process to succeed, with the continued support of the United States and Afghanistan’s neighbors.

To ensure the sustainability of their shared achievements, however, the Afghan government will continue to pursue a political settlement with armed groups—including the Taliban—who accept the country’s basic conditions for peace talks.

However, for those peace talks to deliver tangible results, a third party must verify obstacles-to-peace solutions, which can range from distinguishing between good and bad terrorists, locating safe sanctuaries, and providing material support and operational capabilities to the Taliban outside of Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s international partners, like the United Nations, must measure and verify any success those solutions might yield. All efforts should translate into diminishing violence on the ground.

Recent peace processes, including the one between the Colombian government and FARC, show that when the support for terrorism is diminished, then militants are automatically compelled to opt for a win-win political solution through peace talks. Afghanistan needs nothing less for sustainable peace to take root in the country and the rest of the region.

All told, the following principles must guide any peace efforts to help find a durable solution to years of the destructive war in Afghanistan:

• First, there is no substitute for state-to-state cooperation, which must underpin all regional efforts to help the Afghan government reach peace with those armed groups genuinely willing to enter an irreversible political settlement.

• Second, sincere regional cooperation is essential for ensuring that any joint peace efforts will yield the type of results that Afghanistan and other countries in the region ultimately seek. Afghanistan wants to see an end to the Afghan people’s suffering. This would enable the country to further consolidate the hard-earned gains it has made over the past sixteen 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 toward an Afghan government-led and Afghan-owned peace process, which must be taken by each of the regional and global stakeholders.

• 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.”

The twenty-six participating countries and organizations in the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation meeting unanimously agreed that a stable Afghanistan is the key to ensuring regional and global stability. They noted that that goal can only be achieved through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process “that has the full support of neighbors and international partners, as demonstrated in the successful peace deal with Hizbe-Islami,  Hikmatyar.” In the same meeting, President Ghani echoed this global call for peace in Afghanistan, arguing that “peace in Afghanistan will bring stability to our neighbors, to Asia, and to the world.” He concluded by quoting renowned Pakistani poet Iqbal Khan who said, “When Afghanistan is in accord, Asia is in accord; when Afghanistan is in disaccord, Asia is in discord.”

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 at @MAshrafHaidari.