As ongoing direct talks between the United States and the Taliban further open the door for peace in Afghanistan, success will ultimately depend on aligning such efforts with those led by the Afghan people and government. Efforts to end the decades-long conflict in that country have yielded progress, with the United States and the Taliban continuing intensive direct talks and a number of countries extending support to facilitate them.
But the Taliban have not yet accepted direct negotiations with the Afghan Government and the international efforts must come together in support of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, which is essential for the peace process and for the implementation of any agreement to be sustainable.
Germany and Qatar will host the upcoming intra-Afghan dialogue on July 7th and 8th. The US special envoy for Afghanistan Peace Process Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted on Tuesday the dialogue was an essential element of the peace framework and an important step in advancing the Afghan peace process.
“Mutual acceptance, seeking consensus and agreeing to resolve political differences without force is what is needed to learn from the tragedy of the last 40 years.” The diplomat thanked Germany and Qatar for agreeing to host the upcoming dialogue.
Germany and Qatar, countries that maintains contacts with the insurgent group, say they jointly extended invitations for a dialogue in Doha on Sunday and Monday. Markus Potzel, Germany’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said on Monday the Afghans would participate only in their personal capacity and on an equal footing.
“Afghanistan stands at a critical moment of opportunity for progress towards peace,” he was quoted as saying by foreign media outlets. The envoy added: “An essential component of any process leading to this objective will be direct engagement between Afghans.”
To secure a durable peace in the country, it is important to acknowledge the legitimate concerns of citizens about possibly compromising the gains made over the past 18 years in the name of peace. Meanwhile the countries support such talks should coordinate and align their efforts with Afghan nation and the government. The Afghans have raised many of their concerns, notably regarding the fate of women’s rights, freedom of expression and space for civil society to function, all of which must be protected under any peace agreement.
In absence of the legitimate Afghan government and the real representatives of the nation, such talks would be doubtful and would bear no positive results. Peace process must include groups representing all segments of Afghanistan’s diverse society — women, young people, ulema as well as community and political leaders alike.
Millions of Afghans have benefited from the best opportunities for national and international education and that members of that generation are now in positions of leadership. Afghanistan has also experienced the transformation of female citizens, from victims of institutionalized discrimination under the Taliban regime to empowered and engaged contributors in all spheres of society and politics, playing a vital role in economic growth and national security.
Therefore, such talks should be coordinate in such a way that all strata of the society to be present, including two sides of the conflict. The Afghan Government and people have committed to peace and it is now up to the Taliban to prove their commitment through positive deeds rather than attacking innocent people and Afghan security forces.