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[Contribution] Kabul Peace Process gaining momentum

On Feb. 28, the National Unity Government of Afghanistan hosted a landmark conference called the Kabul Peace Process aimed at starting a process of Afghanistan-led peace and reconciliation.

Representatives of 30 countries, including South Korea, as well as regional and international organizations including the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, attended the event and gave support to our government.

The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is seeking lasting peace through reconciliation, while at the same time reaffirming its strong commitment to countering all forms of terrorism.

After a wide-ranging discussion with the nation’s political parties and civil society, including female representatives, our government proposed a comprehensive peace agenda for negotiations with the opposition. 

Afghan Embassy Minister Counsellor Gulmat Khan Zadran (Afghan Embassy)
Afghan Embassy Minister Counsellor Gulmat Khan Zadran (Afghan Embassy)

The conference had three objectives.

First of all, the peace process would be complementary to all other initiatives carried out at regional and international levels to support an Afghanistan-led peace and reconciliation process.

Secondly, it would offer a broader and comprehensive peace package to the Taliban. For the first time, our government has made a commitment -- should the war end and peace start -- to offer amnesty to the Taliban; recognize them as a political party; revise the constitution; open an office for them in Kabul; allow them to take part in parliamentary and presidential elections; and remove all sanctions against their leaders.

Thirdly, it strove to garner support from the Islamic world, working to delegitimize the Taliban. One of the reasons for the perennial conflict in Afghanistan has been the Taliban’s misinterpretation of Islam. The Sunni Islamic fundamentalist group has legitimized its war as a divine struggle for expelling foreign forces from the country. Using guidelines from the conference, our government took several initiatives to seek the Islamic Ummah’s support for a truthful interpretation of the situation.

In this regard, two major international Islamic conferences were recently convened in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. The two events concluded that the Taliban’s war was unholy and illegitimate, with the likely consequences of undermining the group’s legitimacy and support for them. In a unified voice, Islamist experts called on all armed groups, particularly the Taliban, to abandon their vain struggle and settle any unresolved issues through dialogue and negotiation, following the example of Hzbi-e Islami.

One might ask the obvious question: Why peace with the Taliban?

After four decades of wars in Afghanistan, which have gravely victimized our people, it’s clear that there is no military solution to the ongoing conflict. In that spirit, our government initiated a cease-fire for the first time in 17 years on the Muslim religious festival Eid three months ago, briefly giving peace a chance.

While seeking a politically negotiated settlement, our government will not allow any outcome of negotiations to compromise past decades of efforts in securing women’s rights, human rights, democracy and a commitment toward the international community, as these were achieved with the sweat and blood of our people and global allies.

The withdrawal of over 100,000 international troops from Afghanistan in 2014 created a perception that Afghanistan would collapse once again to insurgencies. But the fact remains that our government has not only taken military responsibilities, but also made a gradual transition toward self-reliant governance.

There is no doubt that our nation faces challenges of fighting corruption, narcotrafficking and terrorism.

However, Afghanistan is stronger than ever, with 350,000 soldiers, steady international support and democratic institutions created over the past two decades. These improvements make it unlikely that Kabul will fall under insurgencies.

With its abundant natural resources and geostrategic location, Afghanistan can play a vital role in transporting energy and goods across Asia. That will bring prosperity to the whole region. Several multibillion-dollar projects -- Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Gas Transmission Pipeline, CASA 1000 and Chabahar Port Transit Hub -- are already underway.

All of this raises expectations for enhanced political and economic cooperation between the neighbors of Afghanistan.

Now the onus is on the Taliban and its supporters to end the war and start a national reconciliation.