Should we negotiate with the Taliban? An Afghan e-jirga

Posted on | april 28, 2011 | No Comments

President Karzai’s creation of the High Peace Council for negotiating with the Taliban and support from the US and the international community has raised questions about the wisdom of this idea. In this first of a series of electronic forums, or e-jirgas, I ask young Afghan professionals and students about this move. The question, to be exact, was this:

Should the government negotiate with the Taliban? What are some of your main concerns, if any, about such negotiations?

Here are the responses:
Ali Muhammad Latifi is a graduate student at American University’s international media program. He is a former Special Assistant to the Senior VP of Online Communications at the Center for American Progress. He blogs at Brave New Wave.

In negotiating with the Taliban, the Afghan government (and by proxy the US government) is treading further towards very dangerous territory.

Hamid Karzai’s government has already come under criticism from Afghans and Human Rights groups for working with the warlords of the Soviet war and the Civil War that followed the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Then in 2007 the warlord amnesty bill passed in the name of national unity and reconciliation following 25 years of war.

Now the Karzai government wants to negotiate with the Taliban in hopes of re-integrating them somehow into the Afghan government. However, as the past 9 years have shown, the Taliban have not veered from their hardline stance. So once again, in the name of alleged unity and reconciliation millions of Afghans could be facing an increased loss of personal rights as well as the right to seek justice against the atrocities they experienced under the Taliban.

It seems as if in the name of creating a quick peace and finding some sort of resolution to the problems in Afghanistan rash decisions must once again be made. However, it was these very kinds of rash decisions and concessions on the rights of the Afghan people that have gotten the nation to where it is today.

If the Taliban are allowed representation and inclusion in the Afghan government then what has really changed in Afghanistan and what would make this time any different from the many others times in history when impetuous judgements by their short-sighted rulers lead to the continued suffering of the Afghan people?

My fears for what negotiations with the Taliban could mean are simple: the loss of basic rights for the men and women of Afghanistan and the legitimization of a brutal Islamist sect that had (and still has) no ideas for the actual governing of the nation of Afghanistan beyond measuring beard length and hangings at the national soccer stadium. The Taliban are callous ideologues, not politicians, so what role could they possibly serve in moving Afghanistan back towards a more legitimate, representative government for the people?

Abdulhadi Hairan is a journalist, writer and research analyst at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Kabul. He also blogs at the Huffington Post. The complete version of his response below can be found on his website.

The important question is: why there is a need to talk to the terrorists in the first place? There are two main factors that have been strengthening the extremist groups: the unceasing support that they get from Pakistan and the widespread corruption and fraud elections that have made the Afghans disenchanted with the government they happily welcomed and felt proud of 9 years ago. Then this government and the newly launched democratic system was the ‘source of hope,’ but now, according to Karzai, a ‘peace council’ which is comprised of the most hopeless people of their time is the ‘source of hope.’ Now you ask any Afghan about their perception of democracy and they will bluntly answer: ‘corruption and fraud.’ Consequently, if fraud and corruption prevail in the government system, it is most unlikely that this so-called peace council will achieve anything.

So instead of wasting time and pushing the country into deeper chaos, the government must think about something different, mainly containing election fraud, which President Karzai can start from himself, fighting corruption, which he can start from members of his own family and his top officials, and brining war criminals to justice most of whom are his aides and close allies. The international community must do something to stop Pakistan’s support for terrorism.

Abbas Daiyar is a Kabul-based journalist and member of the editorial board of the English-language Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He also blogs at Kabul Perspective.

I am of the view that the Government should negotiate with Taliban with certain conditions. There are some in the Taliban leadership who are non-reconcilable, like Haqqanis, Mullah Omer and the guys blacklisted by the UN, and those responsible for mass murders of Afghans during their rule. They should not be part of any political settlement or negotiations. There is middle-level Taliban leadership who can influence the fighters and change sides through negotiations, as has been happening in recent months as a result of the reintegration and reconciliation program supported by a national consensus. It cannot be an overnight game to make all the insurgents turn side by the morning. The reintegration and reconciliation should go through a particular process.

However, any negotiation or settlement program with Taliban should not sacrifice or compromise the democratic process in Afghanistan. No changes in the Constitution such as introduction of medieval cultural practices by the name of Sharia, compromises on women rights, freedom of belief and expression, human rights or other such civil liberties should be introduced. All insurgents must lay down arms like the process of DDR and DIAG disarming warlords and tribal militias. Taliban have to participate in the political process playing to the script of democracy.

The Government of Karzai is pursuing the negotiation efforts without making sure the above concerns are met.

AUTHOR: Ahmad Shuja
E-MAIL: ahmad.shujaa [at]


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