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9 Apr 2017
Writer: Mohammad Reza Gulkohi

Build a consensus for peace

Finally, international opinion has come around to backing for an Afghan-led peace process and the building up of self-reliant security forces to solve the intractable war situation in the country.
Just last week, Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO said in Brussels after a meeting of NATO member countries that equipping Afghan forces to fight their own battle, and peace talks led by Afghans, were the only way out of the current crisis in Afghanistan.
Addressing a press conference he said: "The training and consultation for Afghan forces is the only way of finding stability in Afghanistan. … Our allies along with the European community and UN are financing different developmental programmes. It is impossible to launch these without security, training, consultation and cooperation of Afghan security forces."
After more than 15 years of a strategy that involved more than 60 countries leading the Afghan reconstruction process there has been a shift to make Afghanistan self-sufficient from the viewpoint of defence and reliant on its own internal forces.
Recently, the European Union extended to Afghanistan 6 million USD for an initiative to "encourage other armed opponents to join intra-Afghani talks and for the implementation of the agreement between the Afghan government and Hezb-e-Islami" led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The US, which has promised to provide 200 military airplanes to Afghanistan, has handed over 10 so far.
Taleban appears to have lost interest in engaging with the government, US and Pakistan after their leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor was killed by Americans in Pakistan. They claimed a loss of trust with those who on the one hand claim they are for peace talks and on the other hand targeted the leader of Taleban at a point when informal negotiations were on the threshold of accomplishing the peace talks.
What do Afghan political commentators say?
Political analyst Naweed Elham is optimistic that "Afghan security forces can improve stability in Afghanistan and decrease threats that face the country, region and world". However, there is a rider – "only with better equipment and strengthening of security forces, which international supporters of Afghanistan must plan."
Hamida Aref, civil society activist, argues against a dependence on foreign forces. "The presence of external military forces is not possible forever," she says. "… Doesn't bode well for the political independence of Afghanistan and … keeps the country needy and reliant on external powers."
There is also a piquant situation of contradictions more than consensus in international opinion on the future strategy in Afghanistan.
Mohammad Qarabaghi, political analyst, points to the widening strains in relations between the US and Russia over the latter's initiative to engage with the Taleban. There is also what Qarabaghi calls "oppositeness" in India-Pakistan relations which inhibit any effort for peace in Afghanistan.
Washington has declined Moscow's offer to participate in an upcoming meeting in Moscow. Kabul after an initial reluctance – Afghanistan was not invited to the first round of talks between Russia and Taleban representatives – has joined the peace initiative, and had insisted that Moscow invite its ally US.
Two rounds of talks are over, and a peace conference has been scheduled on April 25. Representatives of Russia, Pakistan, Iran, China, India, Afghanistan and six other countries of the region have confirmed participation.
Zulmai Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, believes the peace initiative needs the support of western powers particularly the US. He thinks that considering ISIS is likely to face complete rout in theatres of war in Iraq and Syria, it may try to turn a weak Afghanistan into its new centre of influence.

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