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Who Owns the Afghan Peace Process?

The ownership of the Afghan peace process is, and should be, in the hands of the Afghan government.
Who Owns the Afghan Peace Process?
AVA- Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib’s public criticism of U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s approach to peace negotiations with the Taliban worked.
Last November, President Ashraf Ghani announced a road map for achieving peace, a comprehensive plan for an Afghan-owned peace process, but there have been attempts to hijack this process. At a conference in Geneva, Ghani laid out a detailed plan on how he wants to end the bloodshed, but he is being rushed with the unrealistic timelines set for talks. The president offered a practical path to an inclusive and lasting peace. He warned that false urgency, consisting of hurried actions without direction, often organized around political timelines without coherence, was a dangerous and superficial path to short-term peace. He stressed that we must steer clear of such haste.
Ambassador Khalilzad and the Taliban representatives in Doha have held direct talks and lengthy meetings over the past several months, but without sharing details with Kabul. It is unacceptable to bypass an elected government during such talks while the destinies of 35 million Afghans are at stake. The U.S. and the Taliban drafted an extensive framework agreement in the absence of the Afghan government. Mohib’s recent trip to Washington delayed the hurried U.S.-Taliban talks, but with a cost to his relationship with Washington. Mohib has been excluded from attending meetings involving U.S. officials. Some media falsely reported that U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale summoned Mohib for his criticism of Khalilzad; the meeting in question had been pre-arranged. Mohib paid these costs for his opinions, something that was not expected from longtime friends. His message, however, was received and the peace process is now coming back into Afghan ownership.
Mohib represents a new generation in Afghanistan. The 36-year-old top Afghan security official put his political career at risk to stop handing over Afghanistan to the Taliban. Mohib’s public press conference in Washington was welcomed in Afghanistan; more than 15 large public rallies were staged in support of his statements and a protest in Herat city called for the immediate resignation of Khalilzad. Mohib’s comments attracted criticism in Washington, but the huge public support at home turned him into a popular leader among Afghans. The young generation of Afghans want to wear what they want and to express their opinions freely. Afghan girls want to go to school and women want to walk the streets without fear of public lashing or literally losing their hands to the chopping block. Their voices in the peace negotiations matter and Mohib made sure of that, regardless of the cost to him.
On April 7, President Ghani established a Leadership Council for Reconciliation consisting of government officials, political leaders, and civil society representatives. It has yet to finalize a negotiation team. This team will directly engage with the Taliban representatives as a warm-up meeting and then discuss the six blocks of phase one of the peace talks as mentioned in Ghani’s initial Road Map for Achieving Peace.  
The Afghan people fear a repeat of the 1992 Geneva scenario, talks between President Mohammad Najibullah and the mujahideen. People now overwhelmingly support Ghani’s plan for peace ownership and direct talks with the Taliban.
Countries in the region have supported the intra-Afghan peace meetings and Uzbekistan has even offered to act as a guarantor. The European Union has also offered to support the plan and help with the reintegration process after the Taliban joins the government.
Our allies should understand the current waves of generational transformation in Afghanistan — 63 percent of the Afghan population is under the age of 25. Afghanistan, one of the world’s youngest democracies, does not want a Taliban government imposed on them – period. Afghans will go to any length to fight back and pay any cost for a lasting peace.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is a good friend and was a mentor of Hamdullah Mohib during his tenure as Afghan ambassador to Washington, D.C. They respect each other and maintain good relations. The administration in Washington knows how nicely Mohib has aligned the interests of both countries and have strengthened the U.S.-Afghan mutual partnership — a partnership based on shared objectives for peace, security, and countering terrorism.

Wednesday 17 April 2019 23:59
Story Code: 183554 Copy text available
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