Diplomacy

As pressure mounts, Afghan High Peace Council tries new inclusive strategy

Salaam Times

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Facing increasing political pressure, Afghanistan's High Peace Council (HPC) July 10 announced a new strategy to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Pictured here, the HPC held its general assembly meeting in April. [Courtesy of High Peace Council]

KABUL -- In a bid to consolidate peace building efforts, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani sent a strong message to the Taliban this week, reflecting the Afghan people's desire for peace and his cabinet's growing impatience with obstacles impeding it.

"The Taliban used to say that they had the time and Westerners had watches," Ghani said at a Kabul news conference Tuesday (July 11). "Today ... I say that the Taliban are running out of time and they should buy a watch."

Ghani's comments came after Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) Chairman Mohammad Karim Khalili announced a new strategy to break the government-Taliban stalemate, according to TOLO News.

Should the Taliban join the negotiation process, it should not be interpreted as capitulation, he said.

"We do not see [such a move as] surrendering on the part of the Taliban when it comes to peace," said Khalili.

Revamping the strategy for peace

The new strategy, said HPC member Ismail Qasimyar, aims to create a comprehensive national consensus in order to bring peace.

"All problems, shortcomings and mistakes that existed in the HPC's previous strategy were examined, and henceforth the council developed its new strategy," he told Salaam Times on July 12.

"This time, the peace process will move forward with the co-operation and support of all Afghans, including all ethnic councils, political parties, opposition groups, tribal elders, religious scholars, civil society organisations and the media."

Under the new strategy, the HPC will examine all factors of war and violence in all provinces, said Qasimyar. "Our Provincial Peace Committees will assess all factors of war and take effective measures to eliminate them."

The new strategy includes an active role for women, he said, adding that the HPC will form a women's committee to provide advice and to monitor the peace process's progress.

Lawmakers express hopes and doubts

Afghan MP Farhad Seddiqi, a representative of Kabul, said he is hopeful the HPC's new strategy will bring the Taliban to the table.

Even though thousands of Taliban have surrendered to the Afghan government and joined the peace process in recent years, Seddiqi told Salaam Times, the war drags on in Afghanistan.

"I say to the Taliban, 'You fought in Afghanistan for more than 20 years, yet you did not achieve anything except the destruction of Afghanistan,'' said Seddiqi. "'It is now time to quit terrorism and not miss this opportunity to honourably join the peace process.'"

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's senate July 7 took a tougher tone in a bid to raise pressure on the Taliban, urging Ghani to dissolve the HPC altogether.

Spending money to develop security forces rather than prop up the HPC makes more sense, said senate deputy chairman Asif Sediqi, according to TOLO News.

"The High Peace Council can take serious steps for peace, but in the background, some issues apparently are blocking the HPC from taking decisions for sustainable peace in Afghanistan," said senator Nisar Haris, referring to problems like interference by various foreign players.

Sediqi accused the HPC of corruption and embezzlement, according to TOLO News.

[Sulaiman from Kabul contributed to this report.]

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