This report is a preliminary mapping of initiatives designed to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. It is a snapshot in time, focusing on practices or arrangements that were still ongoing during the second half of 2008, or had recently been undertaken and stored, as it were, in the public inventory of conflict mitigating and peacebuilding measures.

The report focuses on initiatives related to the insurgency mounted by Taliban soon after they were driven from power by the US and the Northern Alliance forces in late 2001. The insurgency steadily gained strength after 2004 and, while most strongly entrenched in the east and the south, by the end of 2008 the insurgents had moved closer to Kabul. They posed a serious threat to the authority of the government, were a growing source of regional tension, particularly in relation to Pakistan, and challenged the very credibility of NATO, which failed to get the military upper hand despite increasing force deployment. By the end of 2008, the international force level in Afghanistan had reached 79 000. With scheduled additions of US troops in 2009, it would rise to around 100 000, approximating the size of the Soviet contingent before Kremlin started the withdrawal in 1989.

Until late 2008, the parties to the conflict concentrated their efforts on weakening or defeating the adversary. There were some attempts to build bridges, or at least establish contacts, among the adversaries, but with little result. The inauguration of President Barack Obama and the appointment in January 2009 of Richard Holbrooke as a "super-envoy' to Afghanistan and Pakistan raised some hopes that a peace-deal was on the horizon. Holbrooke's prominent role in brokering the Dayton peace agreement for the former Yugoslavia was duly noted. It is therefore an opportune moment to consider what infrastructure for political conciliation already exists on the ground in Afghanistan.

 

This report provides an overview of the following kinds of initiatives that have been tried or developed since 2001:

  • Negotiations aimed at political inclusion/power sharing
  • Facilitation and confidence building measures: Assemblies  to explore common grounds or strategies for peace (peace jirgas)
  • Co-optation or integration: social outreach programmes by the government towards actual or potential opponents
  • Arrangements for peaceful-coexistence on the local level
  • Peacebuilding activities: joint activities, improved communication or mediation among actual or potential adversaries
  • Programmes for amnesty and surrender
  • Programmes of transitional justice as a step towards reconciliation

This report covers the principal events and programmes in these areas. It is a preliminary study, designed as a pilot project to explore conciliatory approaches to the insurgency in Afghanistan. It draws on fieldwork (interviews, meetings, observations, document analysis) in Afghanistan in July and October 2008 as well as additional desk studies. The research team produced four background papers, mostly based on field notes, which are included in the Appendix to the summary report.

The report is the work of a joint CMI/PRIO team in collaboration with Afghan partners. The report was commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Section for Peace and Reconciliation.

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