Afghan peace jirga

Around 1,600 delegates from across Afghanistan’s political and social spectrum participated in the recently concluded three-day national consultative peace jirga in Afghanistan. The peace conference took place at a time when Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s credibility in both the international arena as well as at home has hit rock bottom. Optimists have tepidly hailed the jirga as a success while others have called it a political ploy by Karzai to get back some of his lost credibility.

The US-led NATO forces are waiting for an honourable exit from Afghanistan after fighting a nine-year long war, which has not met with the success the West had hoped for. Now there is pressure on the Afghan government to reconcile with the Taliban so as to fast track the ‘exit’ of the foreign forces. But the Taliban are not interested. They could not have been more obvious about it when the jirga was attacked on the very first day. At least five rockets were fired by the Taliban but a suicide attack was foiled by the security forces. The Taliban are not interested in talking to the Afghan government because they sense the approach of endgame. Even if they do not get an outright victory once the foreign forces leave Afghanistan, they will be in a much stronger position than the Afghan security forces. The US-led NATO forces have failed to bring about any substantial change because of poor conceptualisation, performance and planning in countering militancy. Great uncertainty after their exit therefore looms large on the horizon.

Mr Karzai has called on his ‘angry brothers’ (read the Taliban) to come forth and accept the olive branch being extended to them. He has ordered a review of all cases involving Taliban suspects being held “without legally binding evidence of conviction” in Afghan jails. But if truth be told, the political show of strength at the jirga was a grand failure. The West needs to rethink its Afghan policy and instead of leaving it in the lurch, more concerted efforts are called for in order to attain a credible ‘exit strategy’.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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