It has been more than forty years since the 1979 Soviet invasion began the fighting in Afghanistan. Multiple initiatives have attempted to reach peace. However, these efforts have failed and war still continues to this day. The war in Afghanistan is the longest one in contemporary history and it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no military solution.
Afghanistan now has a unique window of opportunity for peace. The chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who leads the peace process of Afghanistan, recently said: “The nature of the opportunity to start a peace process is historically unique.” The recent developments in the peace process, as well as the regional and international consensus to bring peace to Afghanistan, are all historic opportunities to achieve peace in the country.
Taliban violence in Afghanistan remains high. In order to build trust and strengthen public support for peace, the Taliban should immediately reduce violence. The most effective way to reduce violence is to announce a humanitarian ceasefire. The people of Afghanistan, United Nations, Organizations of Islamic Cooperation, European Union and the rest of the international community have urged for a humanitarian ceasefire, and the Taliban must respect it.
Afghanistan is facing humanitarian and public health problems as COVID-19 spreads undetected. The country is especially vulnerable because of its limited health care system capacity, the insufficient number of medical personnel, weak infrastructure and poor social cohesion after forty years of war. The COVID-19 outbreak is exacerbating the already terrible situation. The war and COVID-19 need to be contained and managed through a humanitarian ceasefire, which would ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the most vulnerable people in the country.
Peace in Afghanistan requires patience and compromise. The start of the intra-Afghan negotiations provides an opportunity to bring all differences to the negotiating table and find common ground. The Afghan government and Taliban need to compromise on some issues to achieve an agreement that addresses the interests of the Afghan people.
Afghanistan is a multiethnic country with diverse cultures and languages. More than half of the Afghan population is women. Afghan women have suffered through war, poverty and violence. Yet they persist in raising their voices for change. The people of Afghanistan want a country where both women and men can peacefully live and work together. A country where people can freely raise their voices and express their ideas. The Taliban has the right to have different views and opinions. They can compete for their views politically and peacefully.
Over the last 19 years, Afghanistan has changed and developed. Preserving the gains of the last two decades, including the democratic liberties, human rights, women’s rights, and the free and fair elections as a way of transforming political power, are all crucial to the people of Afghanistan. Preserving and strengthening these gains are not only supported by the Afghans, but also by the regional actors and the international community. Peace in Afghanistan will create an environment that further strengthens public gains. The Taliban should recognize these gains as the achievements of the Afghan people. These gains belong to all Afghans and will equally benefit the Taliban as well.
Peace in Afghanistan will strengthen peace in the region and the world. A peaceful Afghanistan will boost regional stability, integration, trade, investments, businesses, and will function as a hub of cooperation for the region. Afghanistan can be a field of cooperation for the regional powers, rather than a battlefield. Afghanistan has a unique opportunity to be a platform where global powers can find common ground for cooperation unobtainable to them elsewhere. Peace and stability in Afghanistan is in the interest of peace in the world. Potential cooperation in Afghanistan will have a huge impact on the rise of cooperation in other regions of the world.
The regional and international consensus and support for the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process is an important opportunity to strengthen the solidarity and boost the efforts to bring a just and lasting peace to the country. The commitment of the region and the international community to support Afghanistan during the peace process and after the peace deal is highly important. To achieve durable and lasting peace, Afghanistan needs post-peace development programs to move the country forward to self-reliance. Afghanistan has been on a long journey seeking peace after the last forty years of war. An immediate humanitarian ceasefire would be the first great and logical step toward bringing dignified peace and lasting stability to the country.
Mustafa Aryan (@MustafaAaryan) is Director of Policy and Peace Studies at the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) of Afghanistan. These views are the author's alone and do not represent those of HCNR.