Opinion: Peacemaking in Afghanistan

Thisanjali Gangoda

Thisanjali Gangoda

Thisanjali Gangoda is an applied conflict management major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

When considering the current status of Afghanistan in relation to the United States, the “War on Terror,” the Taliban and the current Karzai government, any concern over peacemaking sadly seems to be a moot point. There have been attempts at organizing peace talks, but there is a lot of controversy over the issue.

Many argue that it is futile to try and negotiate with the “terrorist organization” that is the Afghani Taliban, saying they will only worsen the current situation of crumbling infrastructures, violence and political corruption in the country. Some say that it would be effective only if the organization is completely disarmed, with little to no support from neighboring Pakistan. VThe argument is that if the Taliban distances them from weaponry, only then can they move forward and function as a true political party.

Amrullah Saleh, who headed Afghanistan’s spy agency from 2004 to early 2010 said, “Demobilize them, disarm them, take their headquarters out of the Pakistani intelligence’s basements. Force the Taliban to play according to the script of democracy.” He went on to say that if this were to happen, the Taliban would fail to maintain their structures via lack of intimidation strategies and guns.

This is an interesting point to make when addressing concerns over what parties to involve in peace talks and negotiations. I firmly believe it is vital to include all parties involved in dispute or conflict in order to work toward positive resolve, but what is to be done when certain parties are already deemed as being the perpetrators of violence and disruption? The United States should support talks between the Karzai government and the Taliban but under particular conditions of disarmament and inclusion of NGOs in the process. There needs to be more moderation of peace talks in Afghanistan because of allegations of corruption. If peace talks include community-based parties in negotiations, equality and fairness can be addressed.

The most fascinating aspect of peacemaking in Afghanistan with external parties like the United States is the tendency to push for Western-centric ideology amidst negotiations. There will be different perspectives on issues of establishing a democratic state, as well as human rights. The stark cultural differences between how Western society engages in negotiations and outcomes, verses what the predominantly male-oriented, Islamic society is organized, can lead to further disagreements.

How can we overcome these differences and create peace? And are we to consider the possibility of having to negotiate with fundamentalists, or would this derail any progress in negotiations? It is difficult to assess these issues because of the global prejudice against the growing Islamic movement. Many individuals and countries feel threatened by Islam and its followers, which overshadows the purposes of negotiating and establishing peace in Afghanistan.

If the international community took the time to establish new perspectives on these issues and took the lens of basic human needs, then perhaps we can create an appropriate setting for peacemaking in Afghanistan. 

Contact Thisanjali Gangoda at [email protected]