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The Killid Group
Course correction for peaceWritten by Mohammad Reza Gulkohi
Saturday, 22 October 2011 10:36
Will the US talk to the Haqqani network? Signals from Washington are mixed. ISAF and the Afghan government are planning a three-day meeting to introspect.
America's ire is now focused on the Haqqani network. Based in the tribal areas of Waziristan, it has been blamed for the brazen attack on the US embassy in Kabul last month.
High-level US officials have accused Islamabad of doing little to control the Pakistani Taleban.
Does this mean that the Haqqani will not be included in efforts to push the peace process?
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is quoted by Reuters news agency saying America would keep open negotiations with insurgents. This flies in the face of earlier statements that the Haqqani and other networks of insurgents were the enemies of the US, Afghans and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Carrot and Stick
Washington is using the stick and dangling the carrot.
Last week, Marc Grossman, US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, met Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Chief of Army Staff, Parvez Kayani.
Later at a joint press meeting with Rabbani Khar, Grossman said the discussions were in "recognition of our joint interests. There are many benefits. We need to find ways to work jointly." Washington was clearly signalling strong support for Islamabad.
According to news reports, Prime Minister Gillani had talked tough at the meeting. He had stated objections to the accusations that Pakistan was involved in the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul. Rabbani was Afghan President Hamid Karzai's chief peace negotiator with the Taleban. Pakistan, he assured Grossman, was ready to cooperate with Afghanistan.
Interviews conducted in Kabul with political observers and experts clearly indicate that any initiative to push the peace process should include Afghanistan. The government has to be proactive on peace. Waiting for others to take the lead has been disastrous.
Political analyst Sayed Jawad Hosaini, head of the Cultural Centre of Young Afghanistan, thinks there should be greater coordination in peace making efforts. "Political negotiations do not follow a specific route. As a result the goals seem to be always distant, and the negotiations collapse without results."
Hosaini strongly believes there is no point in keeping talks open if the opposition is not interested.
Suicide bombings by the Haqqani network have killed many Afghans. The group has been indifferent to peace efforts.
Abdul Hamid Mubarez who heads the Afghan journalists union, says despite the best efforts of the Rabbani-led High Peace Commission some groups - which he did not want to name - did not want to sit together at a negotiating table. "They kill innocent people daily," he says. "They will never be ready for negotiations."
On the other hand Afghanistan has to draw Pakistan into the negotiations to prevent more extremists from crossing the porous border. Najibullah Manalai, political analyst, says it is in Afghanistan's interest to follow up every negotiation started by non-Afghans. "Every initiative should be followed up involving foreigners," he said.
On Pakistan, he says there should be multiple initiatives. If the Kabul government wants to initiate talk with the ISI, they must also talk to the Haqqani network. In his opinion Afghanistan has been short-sighted for 30 years. "We can't keep repeating mistakes," he says passionately.
ISAF and the Afghan government have called for a three-day meeting on October 25.
Foreign researchers will participate in the event including Francesc Vendrell, who was previously the representative for the European Union in Afghanistan.
Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, the advisor of national security in the Afghan government, said the meeting will be financially supported by ISAF and is being held on the orders of the president.
"This session has been held according to the order of President Karzai and the results of the session will be submitted to the Afghan government after three days of exchange of views and discussions."
The government, he said, will act on the suggestions made at the meeting whose aim is to assess the reasons for the popular disenchantment with the peace process among Afghans and the rise of extremism.
Why in spite of progress in health, education and state freedom, are people not happy and satisfied? Why is extremism growing?
Spanta explained that it was not a political meeting, but an occasion to introspect and to share the findings of research undertaken by the distinguished participants from many countries, some of them academics.
Will the course correction suggested by the meeting lead to concrete results in Afghanistan's elusive search for peace? It is hard to say but without doubt the timing of the government's plans to introspect on the peace process is right. With the death of Rabbani, the stewardship of the peace negotiations has been in limbo.