A group of former diplomats and others are proposing a political settlement to end the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, and they recommend beginning that process now.
That process, they say, would involve talks with all parties in the country, including the insurgent Taliban.
Led by former UN Special Envoy for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi and former U.S. ambassador and Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, a group of 15 American and non-American diplomats and scholars put forward their plan in a new report titled, “Afghanistan: Negotiating Peace.”
The U.S. military invaded Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to oust the Taliban regime which had been providing a safe haven for the Al-Qaeda terrorists who had plotted the attacks.
President Obama, when he came into office in 2009, continued — and escalated — the combat against Taliban insurgents.
The diplomats see a continuing military stalemate in the conflict, even in light of President Obama’s surge of combat troops, “war weariness setting in,” and other factors pointing to the need for a negotiated resolution, Pickering says in a press briefing held Wednesday.
“It was time to open the door to a political process,” Pickering says.
The team behind the report note that support for continuing the war both among Afghans, and in Western nations, is declining.
The report authors have put forward 35 recommendations to get the peace process started, noting that the U.S. government has a key role to play in a negotiated settlement.
“Peace is possible in Afghanistan, if Afghans on all sides can overcome their deep divisions and if the international community does not waver or fragment—just as international unity of purpose has contained and then resolved such other intractable conflicts as Cambodia, Mozambique, El Salvador, and Bosnia-Herzegovina,” the report says. “For Afghans and the international community alike, 2011 can be the year when allies and adversaries reach the strategic conclusion that this war must end in a compromise peace, and commence the serious negotiations that will be required to achieve it.
A majority of those behind the report are non-Americans, and that none of the authors have dissented in the recommendations. “I find the unanimity of perspective very important,” says Steve Clemons, a noted Washington foreign-policy expert who supports the plan.
All factions in the conflict should be at the table, the report authors say.
“If there is a candidate for exclusion, it would be al-Qaeda,” Pickering says.
Among basic conditions of the process, the authors note, would be the Taliban severing its ties to al-Qaeda, containment of Afghanistan’s persistent export of narcotics, as well as withdrawal of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force. “Their phase-out will be welcomed by most governments in the region,” the report says.
Instead, the United Nations should deploy peacekeeping forces to support the implementation of the negotiated settlement.
“Neither a belligerent party to the current conflict, nor states bordering Afghanistan, should be part of the force; Muslim countries in particular should be encouraged to participate,” the report says.
Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.