Afghanistan: Different Approach Necessary to Attain Peace

by July 28, 2018 0 comments

Afghanistan Different Approach Necessary to Attain PeaceIn the present situation, the conflicts in Afghanistan calls for a bottom-up approach to attain peace. A number of stakeholders will need to place high regard in standard, values, including diversity and human rights.

In the recently concluded NATO summit, Afghanistan has yet again surfaced as the boiling pot that has witnessed offbeat power play in the last few years. As conflict in the region continues to escalate — witnessing violence orchestrated by the internal disjunctions between the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) that has larger repercussion on global security — countries far-flung from Afghanistan seem to be rattled by violent premonitions.

It is pertinent to note that Afghanistan has transformed not just as a sight for peace-building exercise but also as a major focal point for countries to establish their prowess by elevating global status, and in doing so, engage in newer bandwagoning and balancing techniques. It is, therefore, essential to scrutinise some of the unusual actors involved in the conflict and thereby lay down a newer perspective to look at conflict settlement in the rapidly enveloping humanitarian crisis in the country.

Who are the peacemakers?

While the US’ presence in Afghanistan is barely unaccounted for, forthcoming countries, such as Uzbekistan and Gulf countries, are scrambling for strategic footprint.  The neighbourhood is no less pummelled by the Afghan bug. Following a slow weeding out of forces in Syria and Iraq, the US Air Force has amplified its deployment significantly in Afghanistan,  recognising it as the theatre of violence in today’s date.

Two major conclusions emerge from their heightened strategic engagement: First, the tangible implications in the form of economic and trade opportunities that are seen as a crucial element for the respective country’s national interest. And second, the subjective aspect of status and the larger narrative behind national security. As status elevation accorded to the peace-maker is a major objective for big players, including China, the US, India, and the European nations, the Afghan conflict — oozing from the turbulence designed by the Taliban and IS, compounded by the under resourced Government forces to fight independently — has brought all the above on their toes.

While traditionally, Afghanistan has been engulfed in big power politics, including the regional hegemons — India and China — tussling for greater global recognition, the Afghan conflict seems to have attracted newer players in the large scale. Tashkent recently announced hosting a peace dialogue between the Afghan Government and the Taliban, advancing on the decade-long effort in establishing peace in the region. Both at the domestic and international level, involvement in the Afghan conflict is slated to complement progressively the former Soviet Republic’s image.

In a conference previously, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced, “We stand ready to create all necessary conditions, at any stage of the peace process, to arrange on the territory of Uzbekistan direct talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement”.

Equally strategic has been the involvement of regional actors, such as Turkey. The only Muslim country to hold a membership of NATO, Turkey has been rather consistent with its Afghan policy. It seems since antiquity, Turkey has held peace-building in Afghanistan as a core element of its foreign policy outreach.

Early this year, Turkey held discussions with officials from Taliban’s Qatar office on forwarding a practical resolution to the Afghan conflict. This was complemented with Turkey’s attempt to strike a balance between its relationship with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While the Afghan Government’s growing dissention with Pakistan has further deteriorated the former’s negotiation abilities with groups such as the Haqanni network and the Taliban, Turkey has entered the scenario as a befitting third-party mediator,  differing with the US on launching military strikes against the Taliban which would incur larger humanitarian loss. Recently, Turkey held talks with Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to come at a resolution to the Afghan conflict. To what extent this would bear fruitful results for major stakeholders as well as the Afghan Government is contestable, owing to Pakistan’s intentions, which are more inclined towards ensuring a stronghold in Afghan functioning than on establishing peace.

Nevertheless, Turkey emerges as an indispensable actor in the peace process, also owing to the role it has played in bringing the ousted Vice President Dustom back into the picture, who has prominent allies in northern Afghanistan. In terms of humanitarian aid as well, the Turkish Government has made significant investment of around one billion dollar in economic development projects that have strengthened Afghanistan’s infrastructure and education systems.

Bereft of the neighbourhood of Afghanistan, the involvement of Asian giants, including Australia, has been eye-catching. Sydney’s concerns about the conflict in Afghanistan adequately feeds into its agreement to increase troops in Afghanistan in the NATO summit recently. Last year over a meeting with President Ghani, Australian Prime Minister Turnbull conceded, “Since 2001, we have supported Afghanistan in its efforts to tackle terrorism and build a stronger, more stable and resilient nation.”

Beyond peace and stability?

As countries across continents are eager to engage in peace-building efforts, heightening their international presence in the global domain, the question of when peace and what would that entail for the people of Afghanistan is far from the discussion table. Perversely, the United Nations reported that the civilians reached a record high in the first six months of this year. According to reports, some 1,692 fatalities were recorded, with militant attacks and suicide bombs being the leading cause of death. In this scenario, the approach of exhaustive military attack seems largely unnerving and fatal, to say the least. Instead, bringing the dissenting fraction to the table ought to be the focus for peacemakers.

Equally worthy is the role of the locals, including women, concerns of whom have often been ignored in the dominant narrative of peace making. According to the feminist approach to conflict resolution, inclusive dialogues that ensure adequate representation and take into consideration local factors of the region, are the foundational element of peace-building. And this immaculately applies to the prevailing scenario in Afghanistan that qualifies as a tough case for major stakeholders involved. It has been a Herculean task, even after increasing deployments in the region, to maintain ceasefire for longer than a week at a go.

Furthermore, what makes the feminist approach appealing is the post-conflict techniques that would preferably ensure a stable framework of governance and peace in the domestic realm. The Afghan conflict, in the present state, necessitates a bottom-up approach to attain peace whereby multiple stakeholders need to place high regard in universal values of human rights and diversity. The national security concerns or status perceptions or economic trade-offs will carry substantial value. However, at the core remains the underlining values and the procedural aspects that guide peacebuilding.

And in this scenario, the universal values, instead of restricted understanding of national interest, ought to be the cornerstone for the institutional arrangement laden with the role of peace-building and conflict resolution.

(The writer is Senior Analyst, Global Risk Insights)

Writer: Baisali Mohanty

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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