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President Ghani announces 7 point peace plan

October 28, 2019

Summary

A new peace plan proposal from President Ghani appears to try to insert the Afghan government more strongly into the mix, requiring the withdrawal talks to be conducted between the US and Afghan government rather than the Taliban.  It also wants a ceasefire agreed with the Taliban before US withdrawals begin.  These are big asks.

Tolo News is carrying the full text of a 7 point peace plan reportedly launched by President Ghani as a means of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.  The short document (only 3 pages long) appears to be “wiping the board clean” and starting again with only fragments of the previous talks included.  Of the three pages, the first page is a pre-amble which highlights the progress made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, in particular the recent efforts by the Ghani government (consultations, Loya Jirga and the 2018 ceasefire).  The full text of the Ghani plan is at the bottom of my article.  The seven points I summarise and briefly comment on here:

  1. A plan for US withdrawal of forces to be developed in conjunction with the Afghan government (ie and not with the Taliban). Provision for a US Counter Terrorism component to remain.  SIGNIFICANT CHANGE – SIDELINES TALIBAN
  2. Taliban get assurances about US withdrawal but no actual withdrawal until a Taliban ceasefire. Then negotiations can begin.  SIGNIFICANT CHANGE – UNDERMINES TALIBAN
  3. The root of the Taliban problem is Pakistan – need to negotiate with Pakistan to improve security and develop trade. PROVOCATIVE TO OVERTLY BLAME PAKISTAN
  4. Discussion with neighbours, the region and Islamic world – to achieve mutual assurances of non-interference. BIT BLAND – HARD TO DISAGREE WITH
  5. Discussion with the West and international organisations – design comprehensive development programmes. BIT BLAND – HARD TO DISAGREE WITH
  6. Strengthen national institutions. BIT BLAND – HARD TO DISAGREE WITH
  7. Address grievances at the local level. BIT BLAND – HARD TO DISAGREE WITH

The plan also suggest three immediate steps – a mini-jirga, international consultations and intra-Afghan dialogues – which don’t seem to add anything original or new to the process.

Comments

This is a very general document, lacking in detail.  Half of it is very bland.  Why now?  The timing and intent seems confusing and unhelpful.  The US and the Taliban were probably about to start talking again (and probably picking up more or less where they left off).  It seems as if the process is being taken backwards – almost as if Ghani wants to start all over again – but with the Afghan government much more in the lead.  Ghani might be trying to boost his profile in the context of the messy wait for the messy election result.  Perhaps it is a metaphorical stamping of the foot to gain attention.  Ghani was believed to be unhappy with the US/Taliban plan as presented to him in September.  This may have been the reason behind Donald Trump rushing to kill the talks before Ghani could.

Perhaps there is some inevitability in Ghani and the Afghan government injecting themselves into the process if they feel that they are being ignored, or that talks are dead or that the US cannot fully be trusted.  In this plan, Ghani removes the main plank of Taliban concerns – foreign troops on Afghan soil – while retaining the post-2001 Afghan government democratic institutions.

Point 1 seems to be suggesting that it should be the Afghan government and the US that develop and endorse the US withdrawal plan, rather than this being done between the US and the Taliban.  This would be a major change and absolutely contrary to what the Taliban expect and require.  They would be side-lined in this new Ghani plan.  What a “counter-terrorism framework” means is unclear, but could be a show-stopper if it meant retaining US boots on the ground.  The Taliban are expecting all US forces to have withdrawn.

Point 2, no US withdrawal until there is a ceasefire, if it came off, would be a major breakthrough and a significant win for Ghani.  This is entirely opposed to what the Taliban want and therefore a big ask.

Point 3 recognises the importance of Pakistan in terms of trade and security but describing Pakistan as “root of the problem” looks unhelpfully provocative and not something that Pakistan will accept.

Points 4 and 5 are quite bland and generic calls for dialogue with neighbours and the international community.

Points 6 and 7 – likewise bland and generic – develop Afghan national institutions and address causes of conflict at the local level.  Classic “top down” and “bottom up” stuff.

Final thoughts

Ghani and the Afghan government seem to want to push forward and assert control over the peace talks – crucially, this paper aims to remove the Taliban from discussing the terms of the US withdrawal and to restructure the flow chart: withdrawal assurances first, then ceasefire, then negotiations.

It is easy to see this plan as unhelpful and unworkable.  The US and Taliban are quite advanced in their discussion, despite the temporary pause.  Removing the Taliban from withdrawal talks and requiring them to approve ceasefire before negotiations are surely both long shots.  But perhaps it is understandable that the Afghan government feels the need to assert itself and reshape the process.  The Trump administration regularly shows that it is unreliable, knee-jerk and disinterested in medium or long term issues.  This plan looks to be trying to get neighbours and internationals to  validate, retain and reinforce the post-2001 Afghan government system, democratic process and institutions before the Taliban get inserted into the mix – the battle between Republic or Emirate.  Perhaps Ghani has watched the ongoing US/Taliban process with growing concern and feels that this is no longer going in a good direction.

____________________________________________________________

 

Full text of the 7 point peace plan

Steps Toward Stability in Afghanistan

 

Confidential | October 2019

 

Background

 

Afghanistan is at a critical time in its history. Over the past two decades, we have made tremendous gains mainly laying the foundations of the Islamic Republic to promote people- centric governance, human rights, freedom of expression, and education among other democratic ideals. The people of Afghanistan desire to build upon these gains and achieve lasting peace that will lead to stability for the benefit of Afghans and the region.

Peace for Afghans is a comprehensive term that addresses not only the issue of talks with the Taliban but also requires intensive and collective top-down and bottom-up approaches to eliminate factors that create the conditions for war.

Much has happened thus far to advance peace and stability in Afghanistan, and yet much more needs to be done to accomplish this noble objective. In February 2018, the Afghan government extended an unconditional offer of peace talks to the Taliban. In June, a nationwide three-day ceasefire over the Eid holidays was implemented. They gave Afghans tremendous belief that peace is possible.

In November, the Afghan government presented a comprehensive roadmap to peace, and announced a negotiating team.

As 2019 began, Afghanistan’s journey toward peace continued with nationwide consultations with the Afghan people.

In February, 15,000 women were consulted from all 34 provinces on what would be acceptable to them in a peace agreement, and 3,000 of them came together in Kabul to endorse that agenda.

In April, the Afghan government organized a historic and inclusive Consultative Loya Jirga for peace, which laid out the people’s demands for a peace agreement.

As we prepare to take the next step in this process, we are committed to the principles of inclusivity, sustainability and dignity. The Afghan people have demanded a ceasefire to immediately stop the bloodshed; they have demanded that talks must happen between the Afghan government and the Taliban; and they have demanded that the Islamic Republic be preserved as the foundation of our nation-state. We want not only to preserve the gains we have made but also to maintain the foundation that will allow us to advance those gains.

To build upon the past efforts and take steady steps toward stability with an aim to end the bloodshed as soon as possible, the Afghan government will undertake thorough national and international inclusive consultations to implement a 7-Point Peace Plan for Stability that is laid out in this document. These 7 points are not necessarily sequential.

 

The 7-Point Plan for Stability

 

Top-Down Negotiations

 

Point 1) Negotiations with USA + NATO

We propose to the US to jointly develop an implementation mechanism and plan with Afghanistan for withdrawal of US forces and a CT cooperation framework for the post withdrawal period. This could build upon the US’s discussions with the Taliban and salvage parts of the past year’s efforts that were undertaken by the Americans.

 

Point 2) Negotiations with the Taliban

Once the Taliban have assurances (only assurances at this stage) that foreign troops, which they claim to be the problem, will leave, the previously constructed inclusive 15-member Negotiations Team will participate in negotiations with the Taliban. These potential negotiations will be of utmost importance to Afghans and they will be carried out in an inclusive and consultative manner. This is to ensure that all Afghans feel represented and their voices shape the outcomes. Before the negotiations begin, the Afghan people and government demand the Taliban to enter into a mutual ceasefire a) to prove that they have maintained unity of their command and b) to provide space for successful talks. The Afghan government’s objective in undertaking the negotiations will be to finalize a peace agreement with the Taliban. Detailed plans for a ceasefire as a pre-condition to the talks as well as the negotiations process are developed separately.

 

Point 3) Negotiations with Pakistan

Points 1 and 2 have been emphasized by the US and the Taliban but we also want to address the root of the problem and that is Pakistan.

This Point will aim to provide mutual assurances between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan needs to know that Pakistan will not continue to harbor terrorists and nurture terrorism in the region, and Pakistan needs to know that Afghanistan can be an earnest partner for trade, commerce and energy projects that can help boost Pakistan’s economy.

 

Consensus Building with Regional and International Partners

 

Point 4) Discussions with Neighbors, Region, and the Islamic World

 

This will provide mutual assurances of non-interference between these countries and Afghanistan, and assurances by Afghanistan that it will continue to evolve into a country that emanates economic possibility instead of regional instability. With an economic-centric and regional connectivity approach, we can work together for shared interests of the region which will reinforce peace and stability. Simultaneous to efforts undertaken in Points #1, #2, #3, Afghanistan will request some of the countries in this category to facilitate track 2 or track 1.5 peace dialogues with the Taliban. Mechanics of these dialogues will be constructed separately.

Point 5) Discussions with the West + International Organizations

 

We aim to engage the European Union, European countries, the United Nations, the World Bank and others throughout the peace process. Afghanistan will partner with countries and entities in this category to design and implement comprehensive development programs that can chart us on a long-term path to development in our post-peace agreement phase. These countries and entities may also have the role of guarantors in potential peace agreements.

 

Bottom-up Stability

 

Point 6) Strengthen Institutions at the National Level

To sustain and strengthen the peace which could potentially be achieved with efforts outlined above, Afghanistan will need to continue to strengthen the Islamic Republic as a system of governance, further strengthen the ANDSF, improve governance and curb corruption, and work out mechanisms for systemic political inclusion of all Afghans.

 

Point 7) Address Grievances at the Local Level

Each district of Afghanistan has its own unique drivers of conflict. They need to be identified and addressed. Promoting rule of law, strengthening traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, rural development programs, and mechanisms to include people in local politics will be the focus of efforts in this category.

 

Immediate Concrete Steps

In order to garner national and international support to this plan and further refine it, the Afghan government will undertake the following concreate steps in the short -term:

 

  1. Organize a Mini-Jirga: This Jirga will bring different political factions, key civil society actors, representatives of families of the victims, representatives of youth and women groups together to hold inclusive consultations about the way forward and build unity for it.

 

  1. Form an Alliance Consultations Group: Afghanistan will invite working level representatives (Special Representative or equivalent) from 12-15 countries and international organizations to participate in a 1-day conference in Kabul to collectively reflect over the past efforts and lessons learned and provide consultation for the way forward.

 

  1. Holds Intra-Afghan Dialogues: Afghanistan will request potential partners to organize a series of intra-Afghan dialogue to ensure momentum is maintained and channel of communication is open between the parties to the conflict. Unlike official negotiations, intra-Afghan dialogues will not require a precondition.

 

While key components of the plan will continue to be consistent, this will be a living document that will evolve as a result of consultations at national and international levels.

 

End of Document.

 

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