US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday welcomed the first meeting of the Leadership Committee of the Afghanistan High Council for National Reconciliation, calling it “an inclusive and authoritative body on peace efforts. This is another positive step forward.”
“This inclusive body is chaired by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Afghan leaders across the political spectrum have unified to make decisions and mobilize support for a just and lasting peace. All sides of the conflict should come together and chart a path to peace,” the US Department of State said in a statement.
“As an authoritative body on peace, the High Council and its Leadership Committee will provide counsel and guidance to the Islamic Republic negotiating team with the Taliban on the terms of an agreement on a political roadmap, power-sharing, and a permanent ceasefire to end the country’s long war,” it said.
Also, the US peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in a tweet said: “This committee will be an authoritative body...as it negotiates the terms of a peace agreement, power-sharing, and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire with the Taliban.”
On Saturday, Afghan political leaders attended the first meeting of the High Council for National Reconciliation but some political figures, including Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Salahuddin Rabbani--the head of Jamiat-e-Islami party--and Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, did not participate in the event.
Rahmatullah Nabil, the former head of the National Directorate of Security, and Sayed Eshaq Gailani, head of the National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan, said they were not included in the meeting because of opposition by President Ashraf Ghani.
Politicians have said the presence of Afghanistan’s influential political leaders has great significance for ensuring inclusivity and effectiveness in the peace process.
“The meeting could have been more complete. There are other personalities in our country who have contributed to peace. They have their own analytical analysis of peace and have public standing. They have the ability to represent, so we hope that they are also invited,” former president Hamid Karzai said at the reconciliation council’s meeting on Saturday.
“Everyone has made sacrifices according to their numbers and capacity, and tomorrow they will make more sacrifices; therefore, it would be pretty good to have representation from Jamiat party and other parties of the country in the decision-making process of the reconciliation council,” said Atta Mohammad Noor, the CEO of Jamiat-e-Islami.
Critics said there is a need for tolerance among Afghan politicians.
“If he (Ghani) cannot accept us, certainly, he will not tolerate Mullah Hibatullah and Mullah Baradar. Now it is clear to us that the main obstacle for peace is the government,” Gailani said.
“The differences that the president has got with some people is rooted in their political differences. So these differences should not be taken as a personal issue as it can damage the peace process,” said Rafiullah Bedar, a political analyst.
The attendees of the meeting stressed the need for unity and consensus among political leaders to move the peace efforts forward.