HAS Track 2 Dialogue Series: Calls for Regional Consensus Amid Positive Start of APN
KABUL – The Fifth Session of “Building a Peaceful Afghanistan: Regional and International Support for Afghan Peace” Track 2 series was held on 18 September 2020. HAS, in collaboration with Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Doha and the Center for International Cooperation at New York University, convened a number of regional and international scholars and diplomats for a virtual discussion on the perspectives for peace in Afghanistan.
The start of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations (APN) in Doha on 12 September 2020 opened up a new perspective for discussion. The first part of the online meeting, which was held under Chatham House rules, was attended by H.E Mr. Masoum Stanekzai, Head of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s Negotiating Team, who shared his views on the present stage of the negotiations. An extended Q&A session and a general discussion among participants completed the event.
The following is a list of the main points that came out during the session:
- The start of the APN in Doha was appraised by participants as a significant step: past experiences warn about the risk of an on and off negotiation process, but for the moment the talks have managed to gain traction, despite the initial broad divide between the two parties and the continuing high levels of violence.
- A substantial reduction in violence is necessary both to fundamentally improve the living conditions of the people of Afghanistan and to provide a trust-building measure that shows the commitment of the two sides to ending the war. In line with the deliberation by the recent Loya Jirga, this has been the opening demand made by the Islamic Republic at the talks.
- It is difficult to estimate a realistic timeline for the various steps of the APN. The current first round involving discussions on the rules of procedure, the agenda framework, and the main topics for future negotiation will be followed by additional rounds, possibly to be held in different locations. Afghan and international audiences should not expect quick results; however, some tangible achievements will be needed for the peace process to keep momentum and broad public support.
- The timeline of the APN is linked with that of the US withdrawal, which could be anticipated or delayed according to progress made in the peace talks; an early or hurried withdrawal could endanger the peace process. APN is also likely to be influenced by the US elections, and in the period between the vote (November 2020) and the inauguration (January 2021), the negotiating sides will be more cautious and avoid hard decisions, waiting to see if there are changes in the US policy.
- A major role by all regional and international partners of Afghanistan would be to keep the two parties engaged, especially during the foreseen US ‘electoral hiatus’, and also to help keeping the process an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led one and to prevent foreign interference. Some Islamic countries could also prove particularly effective in pushing for a reduction in violence, especially through the role of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
- The two parties count on the support from the countries organized into the Afghanistan Peace Support Group as well as from other regional and international countries with direct interests and influence over political actors. During the negotiations, there could arise the need for third parties to provide expertise on specific issues whenever required.
HAS and its partners are planning to continue the series of track 2 discussions in order to help facilitate dialogue and provide understanding of the strategies and positions of parties to the conflict, as well as enhancing the role of regional and international actors.
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