At a three-day national jirga, some 1,600 delegates representing Afghanistan's complicated mix of ethnic, tribal, geographic and gender interests will try to define mechanisms for brokering peace with the Taliban.
Will Karzai be able to convince the assembly of his plans for peace?
At the beginning of last year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his most ambitious political aim was to bring about reconciliation with the Taliban and an end to the war in Afghanistan.
He announced that he would call a peace jirga to achieve this aim according to Afghan tradition. However, it took the Afghan head of state a year and a half to convince his partners at home and abroad of the value of this daring move.
"The national security jirga is taking place very soon in Kabul," he recently announced. "Influential tribal chiefs, religious leaders, scientists, intellectuals and many of our sisters will participate. Together they will discuss what shape the process of re-integrating our brothers into society should take."
Security is high ahead of the jirga - thousands of security personnel have been deployed
A process of reconciliation and understanding
Karzai did not elaborate as Faruq Wardak, one of his closest collaborators and the minister for education, is in charge of the details. He is the chief organizer of the National Consultative Peace Jirga, which he says will mark the beginning of a process of understanding and reconciliation with all opponents.
"When we talk about understanding with opponents we have to clarify what we want to understand and with whom we need to reach understanding, where and through whom? We also hope this peace jirga will define clear mechanisms for drawing up plans of understanding with opponents," Wardak said.
Wardak has also insisted that it is not the government but the Afghan people that will have the say at the jirga, without mentioning the fact that a 36-page document stating what Kabul wants to propose to the Taliban already exists.
The document suggests that simple fighters should be exempted from punishment and that Taliban or Hizb-e-Islami leaders might be offered the path of exile if they disassociate themselves from al Qaeda.
A jirga is traditionally a tribal assembly of elders where decisions are made by consensus
Until now, the Taliban have categorically rejected all discussion with Kabul. According to the organizers of the jirga, Taliban leaders have not been invited to attend. However, they will not be turned away if they come.
Win-win solution for Karzai
Security expert Wahid Mojda says Karzai has clear tactical reasons for insisting that the peace jirga go ahead as it can only be a win-win solution for him.
"At home, he can show that he has a great part of the society behind him and the jirga will show his foreign partners that the Afghan people no longer want war," Mojda said.
Karzai wants to bring peace back to Afghanistan
If the insurgents do not respond to his proposals, they will be held responsible for the continuation of the war and not Kabul. The peace jirga could thus help Karzai, who has been criticized for the miserable state of his country and his controversial reelection, regain the upper hand.
He will be able to present himself as a politician for peace but this won't help him to solve the huge problems in his country, says Wahid Mojda. The people want solutions to the precarious security situation, widespread corruption and drugs. A "one-sided peace jirga" won't be enough to satisfy the people of Afghanistan.
Author: Ratbil Shamil (act)
Editor: Disha Uppal