News / Middle East

Afghanistan's Warring Sides Seek Advantage Prior to Possible Talks


The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is approaching its 10-year anniversary with no end in sight to the fighting. There are efforts, however, to negotiate a political settlement to the conflict.

Recent calls to end the war in Afghanistan come with complications.

This is the fighting season, the summer months when poppy farmers are not in their fields and mountain paths are clear of snow. And the fighting is particularly intense as the Taliban look to retain control of territory, particularly in the east and south.

Attempting a negotiated settlement

For NATO and U.S. forces that means fresh offensive operations.

For the Taliban -  a series of assassinations and high profile attacks.

Mohammad Stanekzai is the chief executive of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program. He said talks are already underway, but the Taliban will not be allowed again to control Afghanistan like they did in 2001.

"It is not the return back to the Emirate of the Taliban. It is that we provide the opportunity for Afghans that they can be part of the society, of the political system," said Stanekzai. "But at the same time, we should respect the wishes of all the people. All people of Afghan do not want that rule again. And they understand that, that they cannot rule the country."

Seeking peace

Afghanistan is war weary. The Soviets invaded in 1979. Civil war broke out in 1992. Then nearly 10 years ago, international troops took on the Taliban.

Afghan Parliament Member Fawzai Koofi said she wants her two daughters to grow up in peace. She worries that hard won civil rights, especially for women, could be lost.

"Political rights of individuals will be limited. Our concern is that we will lose all these civil rights," said Koofi. "Either lose them or they will be limited. What are we going to achieve? What are we going to lose? Is it going to guarantee peace in Afghanistan? A peace with justice? A peace with dignity?"

NATO considers women's rights, the Afghan constitution and an end to violence non-negotiable. Koofi said talking with individuals is fine, but she worries about the Taliban as a faction.

"Our concern is not individual re-integration of Taliban. Because, you know, that individual does not contribute to peace or war," she said. "Either they are with Taliban, they cannot increase the war. Or they join the government. Our concern is as a woman, as people who believe in a democratic country, our concern is Talibanization of the process."

Stumbling blocks abound

Further complicating a negotiated peace are regional disputes, tribal alliances and widespread lawlessness.

But in the end, Stanekzai said, Afghans must make peace among themselves.

"One thing should be made clear, nobody will serve the interests of Afghans other than Afghans themselves. And this is one thing: that Afghans should become united in order to save this country," he said. "And definitely we need the support of regional countries and international community. But the definite factor is the Afghan themselves. To put their differences aside. To come together and look to the game. And not to be the victim of the game of others."

For now the talks are behind closed doors and the fighting continues. But with public support in the West waning, and Afghans themselves eager for peace, the push is on to find a way to end a war that has cost so many lives and caused so much damage.

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