Incremental Peace in Afghanistan
Publication date: 
Accord issue: 
What institutional changes are needed to establish sustainable peace in Afghanistan, and how might such changes be achieved?
In conversation with Accord, former speaker of parliament Younus Qanooni outlines his perspectives on the causes of violence in Afghanistan, priorities for dialogue to negotiate potential ways forward, challenges of sequencing peace talks and elections, and longer term options for political reform.
The dilemma of whether to prioritise a military or political solution to the conflict can be resolved by pursuing both together – but with clearly defined mutual objectives. Force should be aimed at convincing the Taliban to negotiate. Efforts to reintegrate Taliban fighters outside a political settlement will continue to fail. The emphasis needs to be on reconciliation, which demands serious concessions from both sides.
Elections present another dilemma for peace: the government will not negotiate before elections; but afterwards the Taliban will not engage with a government that claims a mandate without their involvement. A solution is to let the Taliban play a part in the elections which would create conditions for a ceasefire and a nationwide process.
Afghanistan lacks the necessary institutions to support the existing presidential system. A parliamentary system with strong parties would enable representative politics that can break down tribal or ethnic mobilisation. A step towards this is to have a prime minister as head of the executive, a speaker of parliament heading the legislature branch and a chief justice heading the judiciary. The president can bring these three branches together within a balanced system.