United under Afghanistan’s flag we would go to negotiating table
After nearly two decades of violence on February 29, the US and the Taliban signed a peace agreement, which facilitates withdrawal of US forces and bonds the Taliban to cut ties with al-Qaeda and ISIS, and sit with the Afghan government to discuss the future of the country. A day after the US-Taliban agreement, President Ghani announced that his government would form an inclusive peace delegation which represent the Afghan people and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Kabul Now has talked to Nader Nadery, the chairperson of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission and has asked him about structure and composition of an inclusive body that will discuss issues with the Taliban in the intra-Afghan dialogue.
Kabul Now: Both sides (the government and the political parties) insist that the negotiating body should be inclusive. How can the representatives of different ethnic groups, political parties, and women represent diverse social spectrum of new Afghanistan?
Nadery: There are two approaches towards inclusive body; a
number of political parties, including political opposition, the Taliban and
even some of [Afghanistan’s] international partners are on the same page. They
want to secure their interests. The Taliban are part of the first group. They
say they do not want to sit with the Afghan government and do not want to talk
to the Afghan government. The Taliban represent the Pakistani narrative—a
narrative that Pakistan developed 25 or 30 years ago. This approach is focused
on undermining the legitimate and constitutional government of Afghanistan and
instead they want to promote groups and individuals. The Taliban, by default,
want to gain what Pakistan is demanding. They want to have talks with groups
and individuals because groups and individuals are not united, fragile and more
person-centered. The Taliban can better exploit a fragile situation to secure
The second group consists of our
politicians. These politicians have been influential in the last 40 years. They
have had control over institutions-which basically are public institutions.
These individuals or better to say that the power of these individuals would be
bypassed when institutions are developed. They (the politicians) see their
power being undermined as institutions are developed, therefore, they seek
their [political survival] in undermining the whole government as institution,
while we know well in a weak government institution the public lose the most and the politicians gain
the most. Thus, an inclusive team, from their perspective, means participation
of the political parties, something similar to structure of the Bonn
conference. In the Bonn conference, the political parties and factions were on
the lead, and what came out of the Bonn conference was a power sharing among
political factions. Now, the political factions want the same. This is what the
Taliban want and this is nearly the same scenario Pakistan wants to implement
Our international partners, for example
the US emphasizes us to be pragmatists, the Americans define [political
realism] from their point of interests, not from our point of interests. They
have signed a peace agreement with the Taliban, saying that they want to end
the war. They do not realize that by signing an agreement, the war does no end.
If they really want to end the war and save their prestige, they need to work
for an agreement that should guarantee the future of a new political system in
Afghanistan. The current affairs of talks is similar to what the American did
in Vietnam, I mean the Paris Agreement. No one would believe that the Paris
Agreement would last long and bring peace to Vietnam but after Paris Agreement
was signed and the Americans made a face-saving withdrawal from Vietnam, then,
defeat did not make sense for the Americans for they were out of Vietnam. The
Americans want the Afghan factions come together on an agreement, no matter if
it does not long. They will blame the Afghans if it fails and collapses apart.
We the Afghans should be wise, this is our responsibility.
I will explain the second approach
which is mostly supported by a number of politicians and citizens, who are
concerned about [the future], support this approach. They say a number of
individuals along with representatives of ethnic groups can not represent the
new Afghanistan. These groups (political factions) represent the last 40 years,
they no longer can represent today’s Afghanistan. In the last 20 years, a new
generation, some like Zaki Daryabi, along with thousands of other women and men
have emerged. They are active in our society and shape new Afghanistan.
Together with the political factions and the Taliban, they, the new generation,
are part of today’s Afghanistan. I do agree that all ethnic groups should be
given equal representation in the negotiating team with the Taliban but at the
very same time, women should also be given a representation. The negotiating
team that is going to talk to the Taliban should be formed on the basis of
collective interests and the Constitution of Afghanistan. And most importantly,
the one who takes the lead of the Afghan negotiating team should best reflect
Afghanistan’s diversity, neither the interests of an individual, nor the
interests of a group. We need to create an inclusive team, a team that should
represent us, protect our red lines, out dignity and values. The Taliban are
united. They have a four-member negotiating team which cannot be influenced
The third approach, which is supported
by the government, is centered on an effective negotiation team that should
represent people from various spectrum of society. This negotiating group
should be composed of women and representatives of ethnic groups. It terms of
number, it is should be small, in the best way a seven-membered team to
represent the people in talks with the Taliban. This seven-member team is the
core and permanent body of the team, but together with it, a number of
professionals can get membership of the core team when required. For example
when it comes to talk about security issues, a security expert will accompany
the team. Our politicians mostly think about short-term interests while we as
the government should prioritize our long-term interests.
Kabul Now: Has the government shared the 12-member-formula of
negotiation team with interest groups? Does this formula sound practical?
Nadery: At different levels, discussions are underway but there
is no conclusion on a signal structure as yet. I am sad to say that our
politicians think they are separate from the rest of people, they want to make
decision by their own in their circles. They have no willingness to adopt to
new realities of Afghanistan, if one asks them to take few members of new
generation with them in talks, they protest it, saying it is a disregard to
Kabul Now: What will come up next if the Taliban disagree with the
formula you are offering? Don’t you think representatives of political factions
and individuals, who cannot protect the Constitution of Afghanistan, will take
the lead in the talks if the Taliban refuse your formula, If so, what is the alternative?
Nadery: As a government, we will study all options. If we consent
to what the Taliban want that is a loss for us. If they—the Taliban—keep dictating
us what we have to do, it is better to surrender. The Taliban are now trying to
decide everything for us; they say they would not talk to the Afghan
government, they want all 5,000 Taliban prisoners released. Look at the past
when they were on power. They had banned women from going outside home, they
had banned TV, they had forbidden the Afghan Sikhs of doing their religious
rituals, and they were forcing men to wear turban. If we take the Taliban as a
victorious force, then we need to ask them for pity or sympathy. No, we as the
government of Afghanistan are bound to protect our values. The Islamic Republic
of Afghanistan should decide, not the Taliban.
Kabul Now: If it is decided that only 15 people from each side can
participate in the talks, how we make an inclusive team that should represent
all identity groups of Afghanistan?
Nadery: Our concern and focus must be on creating a ‘meaningful’
and united negotiation body, and not on the number of the Taliban. The final decision
might be taken by the Parliament or the Loya Jirga. Unfortunately, our
politicians only want their presence in the negotiations, and even some of them
cannot trust their colleagues. How to represent everyone’s values in this situation.
We have to prefer our collective interests over our personal interests.
Kabul Now: Suppose the government formula for peace will be put
into effect, will the negotiating delegation be a government-led one?
Nadery: It is the question of a representation of all spectrums
of our society, our values, women, ethnic groups and new Afghanistan. What is
significant is that we, united under Afghanistan’s flag, would go to
negotiating table. We should be brave enough to sit under Afghanistan’s flag
and represent our demands and protect our values. What is going to be shaped
will come out of talks.
Kabul Now: When the intra-Afghan negotiation will kick off and what
will be discussed on the table?
Nadery: The agenda is clear. Ceasefire is the first issue. The
Taliban want their prisoners released. As there are no government inmates under
their custody, they take people on their ways. Disarmament is another agenda.
Mechanisms for Taliban political life, providing services to Taliban-controlled
areas and the issue of Taliban safe spaces, Quetta and Peshawar councils are
the issues to be discussed on the table.