The June Eid ceasefires showed that the Taliban leadership has the inclination and authority to deliver a suspension of violence across the movement – and that there is enthusiasm among the membership to embrace it. Statements by Taliban factions in our new Accord publication further show some common interest in achieving more permanent peaceful political status, but without surrendering or rejecting their identity as Taliban.
Momentum since the ceasefire within and outside Afghanistan for a political process to address the conflict needs to be nurtured. Enduring strategies of counter-insurgency, statebuilding and diplomacy over many years have failed to provide either stability or credible talks towards a peace deal. A persistent theme of the Afghan conflict has been the glaring gap between words and actions, with both sides talking peace while intent on waging war. More of the same policies will mean more of the same violence.
US soldiers investigate an insurgent fighting position overlooking routes used by locals as well as the US and Afghan Security Forces through the inhabited valleys of Paktya Province, 2008. © ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo
Renegotiating a new social contract between state and society is key to sustainable peace in Afghanistan. But progress is currently blocked by a fundamental lack of confidence among the warring parties and society as a whole, driven primarily by the unescapable violence affecting many parts of the country which prevents agreement on even the most basic issues.
This is why a radical new approach to peace is required to build peace incrementally. This starts with measures to reduce violence as an essential enabler to increase dialogue towards a more inclusive social contract that can involve all of Afghan society – men and women.
Based on findings from our new Accord publication, our Accord team outlines ten incremental steps that the government of Afghanistan and international partners can take to advance peace in the country. The steps are developed in more detail in an Accord Policy Brief that accompanies the main publication.
Short-term steps to reduce violence
1. Reorient strategy to prioritise the reduction of violence as an essential foundation to address underlying political issues.
2. Agree a joint commitment by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces leadership and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command to act in support of a credible Taliban ceasefire or de-escalation measures.
3. Support local initiatives for the establishment and expansion of peace zones in which Taliban opt to renew their ceasefire.
4. Support Taliban who cooperate in de-escalation in asserting the legitimacy of their rejection of violence by not making them take stands which might compromise their status among their Taliban peers.
5. Develop realistic options for pro-peace Taliban groups to reduce their dependence on external support, for example by expanding their access to health care in urban areas.
6. Ensure top-down and bottom-up elements of the incremental peace strategy work in sync by enhancing Track One efforts to engage the Taliban leadership in dialogue alongside local engagement with Taliban through the peace zones.
7. Establish a hybrid (state and non-state) International Contact Group to work with the Afghan High Peace Council to marshal support for the incremental strategy and assist in monitoring compliance with violence-reduction commitments.
Long-term steps to renegotiate an inclusive social contract
8. Launch a National Peace Dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict, including transitional justice and women’s meaningful participation, with opportunities for armed and unarmed actors to participate.
9. Establish a high-level independent consultative group on political and economic reform and renewal of the social contract which draws on deliberations in the National Peace Dialogue.
10. Establish a Peace and Security Commission of senior national and international men and women to ensure that Security Sector Reform efforts reinforce the peace process.
Explore these 10 steps in more depth in our Accord Afghanistan Policy Brief
This report is an output of the Political Settlements Research Programme which is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID.)