Incremental Peace in Afghanistan
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What lessons can be drawn from local settlements negotiated in Helmand Province for future peacemaking in Afghanistan – locally and nationally?
Experiences of sub-state settlements agreed in Helmand province in 2006 and 2010 have shown that even in the midst of very violent conflict, peace is possible in Afghanistan – and that local populations are prepared to take calculated risks to make it happen.
Examples of peacemaking from Musa Qala and Sangin districts offer practical insights into the mechanisms, brokers and strategic imperatives required to reach accommodations that can reduce violence and facilitate inclusion. All three case studies featured in this article ultimately collapsed.
But some common factors underpinned their short- lived success, which offer valuable, practical lessons for local peacemaking, in particular: identifying legitimate brokers; empowering local communities; honouring commitments; coordinating military and political strategies; and acknowledging the limits of central government support.
The case studies offer further insights for national- level settlements – that there are opportunities to shift perceptions of the conflict sufficiently to widen political commitment for reconciliation, and to build popular appetite to negotiate a revised and more inclusive social contract.