In the past several years, considerable efforts to end the war in Afghanistan have been made. However, none of these efforts have produced any tangible result, and the current war continues to cost Afghan lives and has affected every aspect of life in the war-ravaged country.
Most Afghans are in favour of bringing peace through negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgent groups. More than 80 percent of the participants in a recent survey – 82.82%, to be exact – have said that the current war did not have a decisive winner and the only way to end it was through peace, 67.41% of those surveyed stated that lack of government’s sincere willingness was the main reason behind the stalled peace process while 73.06% respondents believed that proxy wars were being fought in the country and that, currently, the Afghans did not have the real authority in the peace process. Moreover, 65.55% opined that Pakistan could not bring the Taliban to the negotiation table but it could play a positive role in this regard. In the same survey, 76.39% of the respondents believed that the Afghan High Peace Council failed to be a sincere mediator in the peace process whereas 78.88% respondents believed that there was a need for an impartial mediator in order for the peace process to succeed. In addition, the majority of the respondents (90.26%) supported an intra-Afghan reconciliation for the success of the peace process.
Facts and figures of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan , confirm that between 2007 and 2016, nearly 74000 civilians have been killed in the prolonged Afghan war. It is also important to note that this war costs the lives of dozens of personnel of the Afghan armed forces, and that of the government-armed opposition groups is nearly double. The war has affected all aspects of life in the country e.g. Afghanistan does not have a strong and powerful government, nearly 3.5 million Afghans are drug addicts and millions of Afghan youth flee the country owing to insecurities and ever-soaring unemployment. All these facts mirror the gravity of the situation Afghanistan is grappling nowadays.
In the light of the abovementioned survey and UNAMA report, it is obvious that the war must come to an end now because it would never be a solution to Afghan problems. Wars, in the past, have proved that conflicts could only be resolved through negotiations and dialogue. Therefore, parties to a war must embrace peace through any means possible and stop the further bloodshed in a war-torn country like Afghanistan. Since most victims of the war are Afghans, the Afghanistan government should focus on intra-Afghan talks to make its peace process bear some fruit. It should also stop blaming Pakistan for not bringing Taliban to the negotiating table.
Although the current war is being fought as a “war against foreigners” by the Taliban and their cohorts, an overwhelming majority of the victims is Afghans themselves. Hence, Taliban need to realize the responsibility of ending the war rather than further escalating it, lies on their shoulders, too. In order to make intra-Afghan talks fruitful, the government should pursue third-party mediation as it would be acceptable to all the stakeholders. Peace in Afghanistan is an all-encompassing phenomenon and restoration of peace is a burning national issue; therefore, peace initiatives must also be in the hands of Afghans. Although there exist several structures in the arena of peace (within and outside the country), there is a lack of coordination and cooperation among them. Each of these initiatives is working under the auspices of a regional or a global player. It will be very wise and fruitful if these structures and initiatives work as one unit and in tandem with each other.
Another dilemma of Afghan political forces as well as of the interlocutors is to portray the Taliban in the media as a barbaric, terrorist group that is not ‘Afghan’. As long as this approach prevails, though it is understandable for being a war-based approach, the doors of the peace would remain shut. Whether one is happy or not, one has to accept that from the perspective of faith and social fabric of the country, the Taliban are an undividable and unalienable part of the Afghan society and their thought as well as the historical reality cannot be ignored; they are not aliens or slaves or a group of savages. The fact is: in 2001, the Taliban controlled and ruled a major part of Afghan territory and it was only after the foreign forces invaded Afghanistan, in the wake of 9/11 incident, that the Taliban regime was overthrown and the power was conferred on those who had fought against them and had deep-rooted enmity against them – they are still in power. This is a reality, though bitter, that cannot be ignored. However, it seems ‘not possible’ that those in power would easily share the power and authority they enjoy with the opposition groups. Therefore, maintenance of status quo is also a big obstacle in the way of attaining peace.
On the other hand, Taliban too has opted for a rigid position. They claim to establish an Islamic Emirate in the country and count it as an eternal motive for them. But such rigidness will thwart the chances of peace in Afghanistan. Given the societal situation and regional realities, the Taliban must not claim that they will be the indisputable owners of power in Afghanistan and the person they choose must be the leader of the country. This is an elusive dream. It is a matter of fact that the Taliban’s justification for killing their opponents under the pretext of helping the Afghan and foreign forces, whether they are the government officials or the military, is against the Afghan culture and contradicts the prevailing situation. As long as there is the concept of “infidel”, this war will continue.
Given the way the Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan made peace with the Afghan government, it was concluded that despite its issues, Afghanistan has a civilized constitution. However, it was also stated that the constitution will be amended but that would not happen on gun point. Those having such thinking must accept that the government and the state are human institutions and any change in the constitution must be on the basis of people’s aspirations. Furthermore, if one wants to make peace, one has to accept the Afghan government as a reality. Thus, through the intra-Afghan reconciliation, the management and fate of it must be in the hands of Afghans only. Another fact is that after 2014, 90-95 percent of the foreign forces that are the main reason behind the perpetuation of war in the country, have withdrawn – the peace between Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami and the Afghanistan government is also rooted in this fact.
Concurrently, most of the countries that have presence in Afghanistan are ready to pull out if the Afghans made peace among themselves. History shows that the Afghans have been fighting each other relentlessly, but, at present, they need to come to the negotiating table and conclude peace. The process can be facilitated by a strong, effective and influential guarantor or an impartial third party. This will break the stalemate the Afghan peace process had been locked in, and will, subsequently, end the insecurity that has permeated the region due to prolonged chaos and instability in Afghanistan.