The Afghan peace plan

The jirga called by Karzai is exploring ways of encouraging the Taliban to renounce violence.

    More than 1500 community leaders and tribal elders continue to meet in a large tent on the edge of Kabul. The peace jirga, called by president Hamid Karzai, is aimed at trying to push forward the peace process by exploring ways of encouraging Taliban fighters (and possibly their leaders) to renounce violence.

    The tribal leaders have now divided into 28 committees, but all are examining the same issues in parallel. The 28 conclusions will then be examined to create an agenda for a full session on Friday.

    Critics say the agenda is being tightly controlled, and it is clear that the government already have a detailed peace plan, which they would like to put in place.

    The plan, drawn up by Karzai’s internal affairs adviser Masoom Stanikzai, was taken by President Karzai to Washington DC last month the Obama administration reviewed and accepted the document. NATO and the UN are also pleased with the draft.

    Organisers say the Stanikzai plan has not been given to the jirga delegates, and that they are deliberating freely and independently of government.

    But if the jirga’s final recommendations end up looking very similar to the plan the Americans have already approved, there will be many claiming that the jirga has been used simply as a rubber stamp.

    The Stankizai plan has already been widely leaked, but at this point in time, I thought it would be useful to post a summary, with the key quotes. The copy I was given has 36 pages, and is dated April 2010. Each page is stamped, “DRAFT”.

    The aim of the programme

    "It will encourage Taliban fighters and leaders, previously siding with armed opposition and extremist groups, to renounce violence and join a constructive process of reintegration.

    "We are weary of war and division, and have shed too many tears. Out of division let us build unity."

    The programme is "open to all compatriots and communities who are willing to renounce violence, live in peace, accept the constitution and return home to join us in a building a new Afghanistan".

    It will be an Afghan "led and owned" programme, which "should not favour a particular ethnic of tribal group". The protection of rights, including rights of women, are highlighted in the document.

    The financial cost will be substantial and the money will come from the trust fund set up (with pledges believed to total about $160 million) at the London conference on Afghanistan, which took place in January.

    The programme, the document says, has the support of UN, Nato/Isaf, regional partners and the wider international community.

    Three phases of the programme

    There will be a flexible framework, with a combination of "top down" and "bottom up approaches". There are three phases:

    Outreach and confidence building: Provincial and district leaders will hold gatherings and shuras “to conduct outreach to upset brothers”. Recognition will be given to the views of victims, as well as combatants.

    There will be a "menu of options" on offer to those who wish to reintegrate:

    1. 1) Community security.

    2. 2) District and community-led reintegration projects

    3. 3) Integration to Afghan National Security Forces.

    4. 4) Vocational, literacy, and deradicalization training. This will mostly take place at a district and provincial level, but a National Service Training Centre will also be set up.

      Deradicalisation training will use “prominent and respected religious figures” drawing on "material and guidance that makes the case for peace, reintegration, and reconciliation".

    5. 5) Transfer to Engineer and Construction Corps and Agriculture Conservation Corps. These two corps are new public works job creation schemes. The ECC will rebuild national highways and work on major infrastructure projects, while the ACC will concentrate on agriculture, deforestation and irrigation projects.

      All of these options will be backed by trust fund money. There will be a new system of "accelerated financial release", so that money from the international trust fund can be released quickly.

    6. "The success of the reintegration programme will stand or fall on the speed with which the commitments made during the reintegration process are met."

      Demobilisation process: During this three-month period, there will be a process of “verification, vetting, biometrics, weapon management and immediate care and support, and security assistance".

      Civil society groups will be requested to support grievance resolution. "A range of reintegration packages and approaches" will be on offer, based on the "different ranks of ex-combatants".

      “Amnesty will be granted to ex-combatant commanders, and foot soldiers, vetted by security institutions and communities, where local grievances can be resolved, and where ex-combatants will live in accordance with the laws and Constitution of Afghanistan, renounce violence, and have no current or future ties to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups."

      "Amnesty will allow for ex-combatants to peacefully assimilate into their communities without the fear of prosecution for their political actions (although individuals will retain the right under the Constitution to pursue criminal cases.)"

      "Ex-combatants will be placed on a restricted list and will lose their amnesty if they return to fighting. Ex-combatants will receive a reintegration identity card, with their biometric data."

      There is a commitment to set up a process to remove those who join the peace process from the UN blacklist, which imposes financial and travel restrictions on mid- and senior-level members of the Taliban and its allies.

      Reintegration and consolidation: This will consist of “community-led reintegration, vocation sessions and deradicalization sessions,” as well as the ex-combatants starting work or training - in either the Afghan security forces, or the two new reconstruction corps.

      Two levels of the programme

      There will be two levels on which the APRP will operate:

      Tactical and operational. The focus will be on the foot soldiers, small groups, and on local leaders

      Strategic and political. This will focus on leadership of insurgency. “This is a highly sensitive issue that needs a broad approach." Options may include "addressing the problem of sanctuaries, measures for outreach and removal from sanction list, ensuring the severance of links with al-Qaeda, securing political accommodation and potential exile to a third country".

      Organisational structure of the programme

      High level peace council. The program will be overseen by a high council “of distinguished Afghans to provide strategic direction."

      CEO. The program will be executed by a joint secretariat, headed by a CEO, of ministerial rank. The UN and ISAF (the Nato-led force in Afghanistan) will support and coordinate with the programme, through the joint secretariat.

      There are also detailed proposals for the legal framework, financial management, and public information aspects of the program.

      Rollout of the programme

      It will not be rolled out in all provinces and districts at once. The CEO will decide the timetable. However, the document says the initial focus will be on Kandahar and Helmand, Herat and Badghis, Nangarhar, and Kunduz and Baghlan.

      Some observations:

      The accelerated release of money from the international trust fund is probably sensible, but in Afghanistan, it is almost certain to mean that some of the money disappears. Corruption exists throughout the system of governance in this country.

      The phrase “weapons management” has been carefully chosen. The word “disarmament” is not used at any point in the document. Nearly all Afghan men possess weapons. In Pashtun areas, it is an issue of culture and pride. It is clear they intend to let fighters keep all or some of their weapons, although they will almost certainly have to be registered.

      Who defines whether past actions are political or criminal ones?

      The UN blacklist, the so-called 1267 committee, was set up by UN Security Council resolution 1267 in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11th 2001. Nearly all the leadership of the Taliban and its allies, past and present, are on the list. In the Stanikzai plan, there is a commitment to set up a process to remove names from the list. How far would the Obama administration and American public opinion allow this process to go? Would Mullar Omar’s name ever be removed?

      The talk of exile in a third country is not new. Most recently, the discussion has been about the group Hisb-i-Islami, a “semi-detached” ally of the Taliban, and its leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, with the suggestion that he could be found a new home in Saudi Arabia.

      The roll out schedule is interesting. Helmand and Kandahar are at the top of the list - these two provinces are where US and Nato commander General Stanley McChrystal has put most of his new military assets. Herat has long been seen as one of the most prosperous areas of Afghanistan, but violence has been spreading there in the last eighteen months, and its neighbouring province Badghis is a place where Taliban activity has been increasing. Nangarhar, and its provincial capital the city of Jalalabad, are seen as the key to controlling the east of the country. Kunduz and Baghlan are the two provinces in the North, where the security has deteriorated a great deal in the last couple of years.

      The selection of CEO of the APRP will be crucial. At present reconciliation efforts are led by Sibghatollah Mojaddidi, widely seen as a venerable elder statesman, who is also a close political ally of President Karzai. In 1980’s, when Mojaddidi headed one of the Mujahiddin political parties fighting the Soviet Union, his spokesman was Hamid Karzai. However Mojaddidi, who for a very brief period served as Afghanistan’s President, is an elderly man, who many consider to be lacking the drive and organisational skills to lead this new effort.

      Taliban prisoners are not mentioned in the plan at all. Some Jirga members have told Al Jazeera that the release of prisoners should be offered as an nearly step in any peace process.


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