Published On: Mon, May 21st, 2012

NATO Summit, not All-Inclusive

Outlookafghanistan | May 21, 2012 by Dilawar Sherzai

As the NATO summit is underway in Chicago, key decisions are expected to be made regarding security transition, reconciliation process and the future of Afghanistan and the role of NATO members after the complete withdrawal of international troops in 2014. Though the summit is claimed to be very much comprehensive, it has the deficiency of not involving all the stakeholders from Afghanistan.

The opposition parties in the country that have great role in supporting the current democratic system and will have a comprehensive impact over the future of political order have every right to be involved in the key processes that are to affect Afghan society. US and NATO have always emphasized that an “Afghanized” reconciliation and peace process should be favored, but they have, from their actions, depicted otherwise.

They have, in fact, misused the term “Afghanized” or they do not seem to understand the meaning of the term they have been using so frequently, which seems very much unlikely. Afghanization of the process does not mean only government representation in key processes and developments; rather it must involve representatives of the opposition groups, minorities and other parties to the conflict as well. How many people in the country can be believed to be represented by the government that has come into being through a fraudulent election and overshadowed by the centralized presidential office?

Emphasizing the importance of participation of major stakeholders in the most imperative decisions of Afghanistan, Dana Rohrabacher – A US Congressman – on Friday, May 18, asked US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, through a letter, to invite Afghan National Front (ANF), a major opposition group in the country, to the NATO summit.

He said, “The National Front must be at the table when the future of their country is being discussed.” He further emphasized, “The overly centralized Karzai’s government cannot endure once American troops and money are withdrawn because it lacks legitimacy. Karzai stole his elections.

We must bring in legitimate leaders, who represent the majority of Afghans, and let them take their rightful seat at the table and help decide the fate of their own country.” ANF and Rohrabracher have been emphasizing that the peace process in Afghanistan should be made “Afghanized” in the true sense of the word.

They have, currently, been demanding a true democratic system in the county as they believe that the current system is too much centralized and over-dominated by the President. Therefore, the involvement of the Presidential office and cabinet members does not mean the participation of all the necessary representatives of the people of Afghanistan.

From the very beginning of the reconciliation process with Taliban, Dana Rohrabracher has been demanding that the peace process should be made more transparent and should involve the parties that have been anti-Taliban and deserve to be a party in the process. ANF, formerly known as Northern Alliance, cooperated with US to topple down the extremist Taliban regime.

If Afghan government, US and NATO are seeking reconciliation with Taliban they should better involve the parties that are in conflict with Taliban. Afghan government, especially President Karzai, on various occasions, has emphasized that Taliban are his “brothers” and US has mentioned that Taliban are not their “enemy”; so how can they have reconciliation with them as they are not the parties in conflict? Why not to facilitate the negotiation between the parties that are in conflict to each other?

There have been various controversies and deficiencies that have been highlighted every now and then by different intellectuals, writers and politicians since the very beginning of the peace negotiations with Taliban. The efforts of Afghan government, though claimed to be very much inclusive, have proved to be very meager.

High Peace Council (HPC) that was established to shoulder the important responsibility of tackling the peace talks with Taliban has not been able to produce tangible outcomes. It has, rather, faced serious blows itself by terrorism. The current process of reconciliation has made the people of Afghanistan very much pessimistic about their future.

What has been the total achievement of the process was best depicted in the International Crisis Group’s (ICG’s) report – Talking about Talks: Toward a Political Settlement in Afghanistan, “The government’s efforts to start negotiations have been both half-hearted and haphazard.

Amid fundamental disagreements over the very meaning of reconciliation, the process appears focused on political accommodation with a phalanx of unsavoury powerbrokers. The rhetorical clamour over talks about talks has led to desperate and dangerous moves on the part of the government to bring purported leaders from the three main insurgent groups – the Taliban, Hizb-e Islami and the Haqqani network – to the negotiating table.

This state of confusion has stoked fears among ethnic minorities, civil society and women that the aim of Karzai’s reconciliation policy is primarily to shore up his constituency among conservative Pashtun elites at the expense of hard-fought protections for Afghan citizens. A thorough reassessment of Karzai’s national reconciliation policy, the role of the High Peace Council and the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) is urgently needed.

The program has faced staunch resistance from local security officials mistrustful of participants’ motives, and its impact has been minimal at best.”And Yes, there have been some “desperate and dangerous moves” on the part of government to bring Taliban leader to negotiation table. Even the US has not hesitated to take some risky steps so as to attract Taliban for the talks – the release of Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay without gauging the outcomes has been a clear example in this regard.

So it would not be inappropriate to say that any sort of reconciliation with Taliban can bear fruit once it is truly Afghanized i.e. it is carried on with the intention to yield maximum and favorable outcome for all the people of Afghanistan, including minority groups, civil society members and women. The challenge is not to bring Taliban to the negotiation table, the true challenge is to manage a negotiation process that can result into sustainable peace and tranquility in the country and that can promise a better and tranquil future for the generations to come.

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