Processing peace in Afghanistan
• Distributing power: conventional approaches to power-sharing in Afghan peace initiatives have not taken into account Afghans’ multi-layered identities. Unpicking Afghan understandings of inclusion and power-sharing and how these relate to stability and conflict resolution is key to supporting effective, inclusive change.
• Costing inclusion: what are the implications of talks with the Taliban in terms of inclusion? Senior government positions are already saturated to accommodate various interest groups. Who would make way for new arrivals, and how would potential losers be incentivised or compensated?
• Politics of the opposition: the workings of Taliban politics are poorly understood. A more precise knowledge of the Taliban’s internal dynamics, and its various priorities for peace and governance, is vital for progress towards a viable political solution.
• Hekmatyar precedent: the 2016 peace agreement with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has been heavily criticised for granting impunity to a warlord accused of great brutality in the war. But Afghan public reaction has so far been mixed. And while the government intended the deal to signal to the Taliban its readiness to negotiate, there has been little concrete progress towards dialogue since.
• Processing peace: a major block to progress is the current dearth of detail about what a peace process between the Afghan state and the Taliban might actually look like, and the specific mechanisms through which peace initiatives might be pursued – to identify appropriate models or entry points for peace initiatives, and to anticipate the political and material demands, compromises and risks that such processes require.
Abstract: The report summarises discussions from a workshop to explore priorities for peace in Afghanistan. It looks at six key themes: peacemaking in perspective; terminology; inclusion – distributing power, considering costs; understanding divisions; re-centring the regional stage; and processing peace.
Linking all the themes is the recurring concern that contextual understanding should be central to designing an appropriate peace architecture. As one workshop participant emphasised, ‘Afghanistan is currently experiencing not just one war, but many: any attempt to promote peace will need to recognise and address these wars as discrete but interconnected components of a conflict system’.
Keywords: Peace Processes
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