Optimism and scepticism over Afghan peace plans | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 08.06.2010
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Optimism and scepticism over Afghan peace plans

At least 13 NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan in the last two days. The latest casualties come just days after a peace jirga.

Delegates listen to a speech of a committee member during the Peace Jirga

Delegates listen to a speech of a committee member during the peace jirga

Political activities seem to have intensified in the wake of the peace jirga. During the meeting some 1,600 delegates from across the country agreed upon a plan to pursue reconciliation with Taliban who are prepared to lay down their weapons. The three day conference ended last week with a 16 point declaration, calling on the Afghan government to form a peace commission and to start talks with the Taliban. The declaration also urged the Taliban to cut ties with al Qaeda and renounce violence.

The Taliban have officially so far rejected any talks with the Afghan government, saying negotiations can only take place once foreign forces are out of the country.

Mohammad Omar, the provincial governor of Kunduz

Mohammad Omar, the provincial governor of Kunduz

In an exclusive interview with Deutsche Welle, Mohammad Omar, the provincial Governor of Kunduz however admitted cautiously that after the peace jirga there have been some contacts with the 'enemies of the government'. A term often used for Taliban:

"Last night someone spoke to me over the phone and said, 'I am from Helmand, and we have influence in Kunduz!' He promised me that he could possibly reach an agreement with us in the final analysis."

Review of Taliban prisoners

The other crucial point of the peace declaration was the release of Taliban prisoners who have no solid evidence against them. President Hamid Karzai has already ordered a review of Taliban prisoners in detention, saying that where evidence against suspects was doubtful, they must be released.

President Karzai has ordered a review of the cases of Taliban suspects in the country's prisons

President Karzai has ordered a review of the cases of Taliban suspects in prisons

Michael Steiner, Germany’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, sees this as a positive signal. Steiner is currently attending an informal meeting of special representatives for Afghanistan from some 40 countries and organizations in Madrid. He spoke to German public radio "Deutschlandfunk":

"I must tell you that the representatives of 40 states with whom I had the honor to chair a long and intensive discussion yesterday - support this process. It is important, I believe, that the reconciliation process should get underway and should also be brought up at the upcoming international conference in Kabul, and that this is a process that must come from the Afghans. We as the international community should support it from outside."

Doubts over peace plans

However not everyone in Afghanistan sees reconciliation with the Taliban as an effective way to achieve peace. Recently the former head of the Afghan intelligence service, Amrullah Saleh, resigned along with Hanif Atmar, who was the interior minister. Karzai's office said the two top officials had quit because of security lapses that led to an insurgent attack at the start of jirga last week.

Former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh

Former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh

But there has been speculation that the two had been at odds with Karzai over the peace plan.

Haroun Mir, Director of Afghanistan's Centre for Research and Policy, agrees there is general scepticism about the peace process in Afghanistan.

"President Karzai has problems within his coalition. Firstly, two of his major allies - the Shiite leader Mr. Moheqiq and Uzbek leader Mr Dostum - boycotted the jirga, describing it as an illegitimate institution. And even people within the government like the two senior officials have resigned. This is a big problem for Karzai. Without having a unified voice, how will he convince the Taliban who are fighting for an ideology to come and accept his proposal?"

The US has meanwhile welcomed the peace overtures in Afghanistan. US special envoy Richard Holbrooke said Washington supports the peace efforts to reach out to the Taliban, if certain conditions are respected, which include cutting off ties with al Qaeda and accepting the Afghan constitution.

He has also urged the Afghan government to outline how international funding for a plan to reintegrate Taliban fighters will be overseen, adding that more funds for the peace plan are likely to be pledged next month at the international conference in Kabul.

Author: Disha Uppal
Editor: Grahame Lucas

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