President Ashraf Ghani on Monday called for a grand consultative Jirga, a traditional assembly, on the peace process in the country amid Washington’s marathon diplomatic efforts to facilitate direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban who has been fighting against Afghan and foreign forces over the past 18 years.
Addressing the “National Consultative Meeting on Peace” at the Presidential Palace on Monday, Ghani said the decision to hold a Jirga has been made on the advice of delegates of today’s conference to help “dignified” peace in the country.
“At the Jirga, people will hold discussions on the nature of the peace talks and the post-peace government in Afghanistan,” said Ghani.
His remarks came few hours after the US Department of State said in a statement that the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad will lead an interagency delegation to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from February 10 – 28.
The statement said that “the trip is part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that protects US national security interests and brings all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue through which they can determine a path for their country’s future”.
The president, meanwhile, tasked his Special Representative on Regional Affairs for Consensus on Peace, Umer Daudzai, to speed up efforts for convening the Jirga by the end of March.
“We are going towards the consultations. There is no risk in holding consultations,” Ghani said. “We have to determine those values which should not to be compromised. The scale of flexibility and the cost of peace must be clarified.”
Ghani mentioned that work has started on post-peace government and that the topic will be discussed in the third Kabul Process Conference in March.
Former President Hamid Karzai’s said in a statement, issued shortly after Ghani’s remarks, that he supports the move by Ghani’s administration. Karzai said he sees Loya Jirga as a key platform to bring Afghans together to talk on a sustainable peace in the country.
Ghani proposes the Jirga at a time that Taliban has constantly refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government. The group has met four times with the United States officials in the last four months as well as one time with Afghan politicians in Moscow this month.
The attendees in Moscow talks, held on February 5 and 6, issued a nine-article declaration in which the two sides agreed on continuation of the talks, supporting a powerful centralized government and on protecting the achievements of last 18 years in Afghanistan.
Some politicians attending Moscow talks proposed the establishment of an interim government; however, in the Moscow declaration did not mentioned anything about such a plan.
“If you want to have a dignified peace, then there should be no gap between government and the nation,” Ghani said. “Those who are trying to take the process to other direction, they must rethink.”
Ghani reiterated his call on the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government and avoid further bloodshed in the country.
“Anyone who takes arms and rejects Afghanistan’s flag, is an enemy. But now, we want to change it into friendship. We will defend ourselves under the order of the Almighty Allah until they attack us,” stated Ghani.
Meanwhile, Ghani stressed the need for amendments in the election law to ensure that the upcoming presidential elections are held in accordance with the will of Afghans.
“There is a consensus that the incumbent commissions have failed to honor the demands of the nation. There is a consensus to amend the election law,” said Ghani.
Afghanistan’s presidential elections are scheduled for July 20.