Incremental Peace in Afghanistan
Publication date: 
Accord issue: 
Agreeing a new social contract is key to peace in Afghanistan. What are the priority issues that need to be addressed and what are the prospects for renegotiating these as part of a peace settlement?
Ten priority issues include: the preservation of national unity and Afghan identity; international military forces; security, respect and basic needs for combatants and people affected by conflict; state-citizen relations and the role and privileges of elites; inclusive security reform; property, economic rights and the illicit economy; structure of government and consolidation of electoral democracy; promoting Islam and religious freedom; judiciary and legal system; and ethnicity, social inclusion and equality of opportunity.
Fundamental challenges to renegotiating a renewed social contract in practice include a severe lack of trust in formal processes and agreements, a prevalent perception that national institutions are corrupt and partisan, and the dual system of governance
in Afghanistan – with the government running the main population centres and the Taliban much of the countryside. A single, comprehensive peace agreement to agree a new social contract is unlikely to be achievable in Afghanistan. A more viable alternative model would involve an incremental, phased approach that builds confidence over time.
A dialogue-driven programme of implemented reforms and carefully nurtured cooperative relations has potential to address the root causes of the conflict. The best way to shape the conditions conducive to such a sustained process of dialogue and reform would be to agree a pause in the fighting early on. Conflict parties wishing to participate in such a sustained peace process would need first to sign up to the suspension of violence.