As political leaders gather for the 60-nation Afghanistan summit in London, there is heavy speculation that the meeting will produce a proposal to reach an accord with the Taliban.
“There seems to be an emerging consensus that when all is said and done, the Afghan jihadist movement — in one form or another — will be part of the government in Kabul,” according to Stratfor, a U.S. think tank.
Reports suggest that a “forgive and forget” amnesty will be extended to rank-and-file Taliban and junior commanders. But the militants’ leadership will also be offered an accommodation in a comprehensive “bottom-up and top-down” settlement at district, provincial and national levels.
“We see this program as the main pillar for bringing peace to Afghanistan,” said Shaida Mohammed Abdali, Afghanistan’s deputy national security adviser.
“There’s an ideological motive for an insurgency like this, and the trouble will not be resolved unless you reach out to the leadership; they are the food of the foot soldiers and where they are getting ideological and political incentives,” he told The New York Times. If we only concentrate on the foot soldiers it will not be a sustainable program.”
But Afghan democracy and human rights advocates will be vigilant about ensuring that hard-won liberties – especially on women’s rights – are not sacrificed on the altar of security.
Democracy advocates recently warned that sustainable security should not be secured at the expense of women’s rights, especially since women often spearhead efforts to moderate extremism.
“In war-weary western capitals, rhetoric about democracy and women’s rights may be less important than guarantees that the Taliban has severed ties with leaders of al-Qaeda,” the Financial Times notes.
But Afghan women have “the most to gain from peace and the most to lose from any form of reconciliation compromising women’s human rights,” said Mary Akrami, Director of the Afghan Women Skills Development Center.
“There cannot be national security without women’s security, there can be no peace when women’s lives are fraught with violence, when our children can’t go to schools, when we cannot step on the streets for fear of acid attacks,” she insisted.
Conceding on human rights and democracy issues will be all the more tragic and short-sighted now that the country is starting to see the albeit hesitant and embryonic emergence of grass-roots democracy.
Former British soldier Patrick Hennessy returned to Afghanistan and offers an insightful perspective (check out the video too):
For people who have no experience of representation or administration, the process is alien and requires a huge effort: hundreds of troops and co-ordination between many agencies, just to hold a small meeting. For those of us grown cynical at home, it might seem too much effort; but, for the youngsters, this first taste of politics and justice that doesn’t involve terrorism or medieval religious doctrine is revelatory.