Addressing delegates at Moscow Peace Talks on Afghanistan on Tuesday, Atta Mohammad Noor, chief executive of Jamiat-e Islami party of Afghanistan, described the Taliban as the “main side of the conflict” and asked the resurgent group to pursue their goals through democratic paths and intra-Afghan dialogue.
He also said that war was not the solution to the ongoing crisis.
Noor described peace as the main priority of the Afghan people and said that all parties to the conflict must manage the process in a way where values are maintained.
“Considering the fact that peace is a serious and vital need for our people, let’s also not forget that the preservation of our gains, advances in all areas of political and social life, is also needed.
“We need to manage this process in such a way that both values are maintained.
“In order to achieve this, one of the rational ways that may convince the Taliban is the formation of an interim government; the same as the one formed at the Bonn Conference (in 2001). This could be a transition path to go through this fragile and messy situation and to convince the Taliban to take part in political power through an interim government,” Noor said.
“By respecting the current system’s values, the interim government will pave the way for a transparent and inclusive election. The interim government shall pave the way for the presence of political factions to take part in political processes.
“It should also pave the way for a transparent election through the formation of a fair and honest independent commission, so that the political factions including the Taliban take part in the process with peace of mind,” said Noor.
“I need to emphasize that our goal with the formation of an interim government is not reversing to the zero point and it is not a setback. We believe that by maintaining the current political process and the current system, we could shape the interim administration as a transition phase so that the Taliban, as the power partners can take part in political competition with a sense of dignity and follow their path and goals through elections,” he said.
But the National Unity Government (NUG) under president Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah has constantly rejected the prospect of an interim government and instead insist on presidential elections in July this year.
On January 9, Abdullah rejected the prospects of an interim government in Afghanistan, saying there is no possibility for the creation of an interim administration, as it does not support the interests of the country.
Noor meanwhile called on Ghani and the CEO to support the peace process and avoid manipulating it and using it “as a campaign slogan”.
“The National Unity Government must wholeheartedly support the peace process, not manipulate and use it as a campaign slogan. They must honestly support the process and must not allow peace to be sacrificed for the greed of power and their survival. Peace calls for sacrifice and as a human value, we shall brace ourselves for any sacrifices and compromises in this regard,” said Noor.
“Taliban are one of the main sides of the conflict in Afghanistan. We accept the existence of the Taliban and invite them to chase their demands and goals through democratic paths and intra-Afghan dialogue, not through war and violence,” Noor said in his speech to the delegates in Moscow where Taliban have also a strong presence.
He also hailed the recent peace efforts made by United States Special Representative For Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and said that Khalilzad has taken bold steps towards finding a negotiated settlement to the ongoing conflict in the country.
Noor called on the international community, especially the region and Afghanistan’s neighbors to not spare any effort in helping restore peace in Afghanistan, adding that peace in Afghanistan ensures and guarantees peace in the region and in the world.
“It is a fact that the war in Afghanistan will not only damage us but will affect our neighboring countries, the region and the world,” said Noor.
Noor stated that all countries have a responsibility to protect Afghanistan from becoming a crossroad of proxy wars and instead there is a need for collective efforts turn Afghanistan into an economic crossroads in the region.
Noor who fought against the Taliban regime in the past (prior to 2001) said there was a dire need for Afghans to focus on a political consensus which can pave the way for an intra-Afghan peace process acceptable to everyone.
While the Taliban continues to insist on the complete withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, Noor said that first all parties to the conflict should gather around the negotiating table so that a framework is laid out for the withdrawal of NATO forces from the country.
“Based on a shared understanding, we need to agree on a ceasefire and get everyone around the table. We have to safeguard the rights of all people, preserve our national interests, establish a legitimate society, work out a framework for the withdrawal of NATO forces, improve self-sufficiency and bring an end to the war. These are the other important issues we have to focus on,” said Noor.
Noor also praised the international community for having supported Afghanistan post-Taliban and said Afghanistan has achieved major gains over the past 17 years and that the protection of these gains would be a redline to the Afghan people and the Afghan political parties.
“Afghanistan has achieved significant gains in the recent years, thanks to the generous contribution and assistance of the international community and to the contribution of Afghans and their political leaders. Preserving these achievements is a redline to us and to our people,” said Noor.
Noor described women’s rights and the armed forces as Afghanistan’s national heritage.
“Preserving women’s rights, supporting our ANSF/ANSDF as our national heritage and preventing them from collapsing, supporting freedom of expression, civil and national values and other issues that ensure the rights of our people are our redlines and we must not even think of changing any of them. But we do not want to ignore the demands of the Taliban either,” said Noor.
Last week, in a video message, Abbas Stanakzai, Taliban’s chief negotiator, said once the US forces have withdrawn from Afghanistan, there would be no need for an army in Afghanistan.
Backlash over Stanakzai’s remarks
On February 3, President Ashraf Ghani reacted to Stanakzai’s remarks on the dissolution of the Afghan army and said that those forcing people to hold peace talks must avoid discussing the issue of dissolving the country’s army.
He said: “Those who are forcefully bringing others to negotiate must not talk about dissolving our “lions” (army); if they are so brave, then they must come and fight on the battlefield instead of carrying out suicide (attacks) and explosions,” Ghani said.
Ghani said the country’s security forces are improving and getting stronger and will eventually be able to work without foreign assistance.
The Moscow Talks come on the heels of last month’s six-day talks between the US’s special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar where the two sides reportedly reached "agreements in principle" on key issues for a peace deal that would end 17 years of war in Afghanistan.
Khalilzad said in an interview with The New York Times that an agreement in principle was reached with the Taliban on the framework of a peace deal "which still has to be fleshed out" that will see the insurgents commit to guaranteeing that Afghan territory is not used as a "platform for international terrorist groups or individuals."
In light of Khalilzad’s report back, Ghani last week addressed the nation in a televised message and called on the Taliban to engage in direct talks with government.
Ghani also assured the people that their rights will not be compromised in the name of peace and that the country’s sovereignty will be upheld.
He said the Taliban has two choices at the moment - to either stand with the people of Afghanistan or be used as a tool by other countries.