Building Peace and Connectivity through Research and Dialogue


The Heart of Asia Society (HAS) released the “Lessons Learned from the Past Intra-Afghan Peace Negotiations of 1980s and 1990s” paper on April 17, 2021. In this paper, HAS examined the failures of peace processes in Afghanistan’s past, including the peace negotiations among various Afghan warring parties during the decades of 80s, 90s, and until 2001. The paper also discusses the regional and international dynamics related to past peace processes in Afghanistan.


Following the release of the paper, HAS launched two separate webinars in English and Dari/Pashto languages, featuring the presentation of the paper, followed by an experience-driven discussion about the contents of the paper with the distinguished panelists including Fareed Zarif, former Representative of Afghanistan to the UN; Dr. Sima Samar, former Chairperson of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission; Fatima Gailani, member of the peace negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; and Hakim Mujahid, former diplomat of the Taliban in Pakistan.


Enriched by the insights of the expert panelists, this paper extrapolates a number of worthwhile recommendations that apply to the present Afghan peace process:


  1. Negotiations should not be about trying to win through negotiations what you could not win militarily. Conversely, negotiations will fail if they are merely a tool to win a victory that destroys the prospect for a sustainable peace.


  1. Sustainable peace requires compromise by all and acknowledgement of shared values, shared respect, and the essential elements of a future together – a unified vision for Afghanistan.


  1. A successful agreement will anticipate and answer the question: what next? Failure to anticipate and address foreseeable consequences will make failure – sooner or later – inevitable.


  1. Parties do not have to agree on all the details but they do have to agree on fundamental elements and on the processes to arrive at answers.


  1. Parties to the negotiations must bring to the table a coherent position on the fundamental elements.


  1. There must be a shared commitment to a peaceful resolution of differences and the desire for a sustainable peace.


  1. Negotiations should be about the fundamental elements of a future Afghan state, not about personnel and positions.


  1. Afghan society should not be defined by those at the negotiating table and by political, tribal and military actors. Civil society should be included in the negotiations.  They can provide the voices that speak for the wider Afghan society found in the villages, towns and cities of the nation.


  1. Afghans from all sides have been suffering. The suffering of those on the Taliban side may be less widely known but this does not make it any less painful or real.  The parties must strive to understand and recognize the suffering of all. Any settlement should include actions to try to heal those who have been harmed and to provide resolution for those who have lost loved ones.


  1. A sustainable peace rests on respect for the right of all Afghans to live in Afghanistan, to pursue their own faith, to enjoy basic human rights and to create economic opportunities for their families.


  1. Sustainable peace will only be realizable if based on persuasion, not on threats and fear.


  1. Trust is the glue that binds together any negotiation and that lays the foundation for a sustainable peace. Trust must be earned. It is not given.


  1. Peace in Afghanistan requires support from its neighbor nations and the international community. What Afghanistan needs from these external actors is a commitment to the well-being of Afghanistan, not a pursuit of different interests nor the use of proxy actors to push for a separate outcome nor the settling of scores.


  1. Neighboring nations must be clear about their interests with respect to Afghanistan and negotiations should seek to address legitimate concerns related to those interests.


  1. A trusted, skilled mediator has always been key to helping parties arrive at a negotiated settlement. One is needed now to assist the Afghan parties. All the stakeholders to the Afghan peace, including the region and the wider world should support the appointment of a mediator ideally with a UNSC mandate.


  1. History can teach us lessons. But it is not a substitute for present realities. Afghanistan today is not what it was in the 80s, 90s or even 2000. Nor is the world.


  1. The Heart of Asia region is a geographic reality. It has the potential to become an economic and security reality and the hub for growth and opportunity through trade, energy and transportation. Linking that potential to the future of Afghanistan will benefit all.


  1. The Afghan people must learn from the past, and must sit with regional and international stakeholders to find solutions to problems in Afghanistan which also impact the region and beyond.


  1. The region should show genuine commitment to Afghan peace by taking actions which contribute to a peaceful settlement.


  1. A peacekeeping force, endorsed by the UN, should be installed for the better implementation and enforcement of commitments made as part of a peace settlement.


  1. The Taliban should accept the call for a ceasefire. Without a cessation of violence, criminal and terrorist actors including drug dealers and organized crime groups will continue to act as spoilers and destroy the prospect of a peace settlement.


  1. The policy of divide and rule must be resisted by all external and Afghan actors in the peace process if there is to be a common home which all Afghans can share.




Please refer to the following links for the paper and the webinars:


Lessons learned paper in English: 


Lessons learned webinar in English: 


Lessons learned webinar in Dari/Pashto: