Afghan government walks a tightrope, trying to lead peace efforts

The Afghan government has founded a new committee to coordinate peace efforts. Chaired by Abdul Salam Rahimi, state minister for peace, the committee, titled as Senior Committee for Coordinating Peace Affairs, is tasked to direct peace related issues.

The Afghan government have put many efforts to lead peace efforts since the beginning of direct peace talks between the US and the Taliban in Doha, capital of Qatar.

President Ghani presented a ‘roadmap’ for peace talks in Geneva Conference on November 28, 2018. Under his leadership, the Afghan government convened consultative peace loya Jirga, founded the State Ministry for Peace, and developed a seven-point peace plan to pave the path for a peace dialogue led by Kabul.

The Taliban leaders, however, have refused to open direct talks with the Afghan government, calling it a ‘puppet’.   

Najia Anwari, spokesperson for the State Ministry for Peace, told Kabul Now that the newly formed committee is working under the leadership of the ministry, and it is mandated to coordinate peace issues and report to the president.

The National Security Council, the Administrative Office of the President, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, the Ministry of Energy and Water, the Ministry of Borders and Tribal Affairs, the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, the deputy finance ministry for policy affairs, Afghan Red Crescent Society, General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Centers, and General Directorate of National Radio and Television are members of the committee.

Does the committee help peace efforts?

Some Afghan experts who are cynical about government-initiated peace efforts, say peace efforts by the Afghan government look more like a reaction made against to political development taking place between the US and the Taliban.    

Chief Executive Abdullah, in a meeting of cabinet ministers, criticized government’s peace efforts, saying, “[peace] talks and the negotiating team should be inclusive.” He described government’s efforts for peace as ill-advised. Mr. Abdullah said peace process should not be monopolized by a group of individuals.  The people of Afghanistan should make decision about peace, he said.

According to Ahmad Zia Rafat, a university lecturer, establishment of the coordinating committee is actually a response to national and international pressures. He added that the Afghan government has come short to meet expectations of the international community and the Afghan people on peace. “Such committee is not even able to provide the least possible and practical grounds for achieving peace,” he said, adding that the government has failed to develop a comprehensive peace strategy.

Attaullah Ludin, a senator and former member of Afghanistan High Peace Council, says establishing such a committee does not serve any purpose but he stresses on forming an all-inclusive negotiating team.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Nateqi, deputy leader of People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, says that establishing committees is a routine for the government and it does not help the Afghan peace process. “To increase the number of committee is not helpful, it creates more troubles,” he said, arguing that peace affairs must be directed by the High Peace Council.

The High Peace Council (HPC) was established by former President Hamid Karzai in September 2010 to bring the Taliban at negotiating table, a mandate the council fell short to fulfill despite spending a large amount of money.

Issuing a decree, in July 2019, President Ghani dissolved HPC’s secretariat office with moving its facilities, documents, and equipment to the State Ministry for Peace.

The HPC, though is not officially declared dissolved, is practically dysfunctional, said Mr. Ludin.   

According to Ludin, some HPC members might be selected as members of the negotiating team in the future.