Pol­i­tics and war in Kabul

The Pak Banker - - Editorial -

and con­cerns are fo­cused on what legacy will be left be­hind, and whether the Afghan state can pro­vide se­cu­rity, jus­tice, and good gov­er­nance, which it has so far been un­able to de­liver in the face of an in­sur­gency whose strength is not sig­nif­i­cantly weak­ened. Afghanistan's in­ter­na­tional part­ners are not re­spon­sive to these con­cerns and griev­ances. Though they have com­mit­ted them­selves rhetor­i­cally to sup­port­ing the Afghan­led Peace and Rein­te­gra­tion Pro­gramme, Afghans are voic­ing dis­con­tent and wari­ness about a process that is de­cid­edly mar­ginal to "tran­si­tion."

Rein­te­gra­tion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, which are meant to of­fer in­cen­tives to in­sur­gents to switch sides and per­haps join Afghan se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions or nom­i­nally pro-govern­ment mili­tias, are seen as be­ing driven by mil­i­tary logic, rather than rep­re­sent­ing an hon­est di­a­logue be­tween the state, the in­sur­gents, and or­di­nary Afghans. Lack of trans­parency is driv­ing fears that Hamid Karzai's govern­ment is bro­ker­ing a pow­er­shar­ing deal with the Taleban that will do lit­tle to fos­ter sta­bil­ity or bet­ter gov­er­nance.

If NATO mem­bers, Afghanistan's govern­ment and cit­i­zens, and, by many ac­counts, the in­sur­gents, can all agree that there is no mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to end­ing the con­flict, it is high time to con­sider and sup­port a com­pre­hen­sive po­lit­i­cal process. This would en­tail a num­ber of im­me­di­ate and longer-term steps.

As a first step, coun­tries with forces in Afghanistan should ac­cept that, as par­ties to the con­flict, they need to be par­ties to the peace as well, and that ev­ery mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion has far-reach­ing and some­times ir­re­versible po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions.

Sec­ond, it is im­por­tant to recog­nise the limited logic and im­pact of "tran­si­tion." Leav­ing aside cred­i­ble ques­tions about the ca­pac­ity of the Afghan se­cu­rity forces, trans­fer­ring se­cu­rity re­spon­si­bil­ity to the Afghan state does not ad­dress broader Afghan griev­ances about bad gov­er­nance or the abuse of power - both key driv­ers of the con­flict. For Afghans, these con­cerns need to be ad­dressed through a se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal process mod­er­ated by a neu­tral third party, which most agree has to be the United Na­tions.

Cor­re­spond­ingly, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should back mech­a­nisms that will ad­dress the griev­ances of all Afghans, not just the po­lit­i­cal elite, and that will seek to ad­dress re­gional strate­gic con­cerns and agen­das, es­pe­cially those of Pak­istan and Iran. A gen­uine and in­clu­sive process will re­quire en­gag­ing with the whole spec­trum of Afghan civil so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing rights or­gan­i­sa­tions, women's groups, the clergy, pub­lic in­tel­lec­tu­als, and in­flu­en­tial tribal net­works. Peace­mak­ing in Liberia, Nepal, Ire­land, and else­where con­firms the ne­ces­sity of this ap­proach, given such groups' key role in shap­ing and mon­i­tor­ing the con­tent of a po­lit­i­cal process, with real con­se­quences for those who vi­o­late its guar­an­tees of cit­i­zens' rights. For this rea­son, per­pe­tra­tors of se­ri­ous hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions on all sides should be held ac­count­able, a de­mand that has been point­edly ig­nored since 2001. The process must also in­clude real dis­ar­ma­ment to en­sure that Afghans do not fall prey to a con­tin­u­ing cy­cle of vi­o­lence, and that the Afghan state es­tab­lishes gen­uine con­trol of se­cu­rity. The cur­rent rein­te­gra­tion plan, like two pre­vi­ous at­tempts at dis­ar­ma­ment, falls short of cred­i­bly de­mo­bil­is­ing armed groups and reg­u­lat­ing the arms trade.

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity still has an op­por­tu­nity to leave be­hind a bet­ter Afghanistan than the NATO coun­tries are seek­ing to "tran­si­tion" out of to­day.

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