Afghanistan since long years has been in a while of unending war, and unfettered turmoil, where peace is now like a distant dream. Even state of normalcy is far from expectation. It also been piled up in perpetual conflicts where peace and normalcy is far from the lens and seems the political elites of the country have a long bumpy road to fix it.
In this bumpy way, Afghanistan is going to exercise forthcoming presidential election to be held in 20 July—a key pillar of democracy that yet to functionalize properly. The last presidential election in 2014, and Wolesi Jirga election in 2018 indicated the weakness in the process that was marred by widespread fraud. Reforming electoral bodies is another headache for the government that so far failed to manage the leadership.
Moreover, Kabul administration seeking ways how to own the current peace talks as direct talks with the Taliban group, who had held several meetings with US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalizad in Qatar with different demands, including troop’s drawdown, did not happen. Nevertheless, Taliban representatives recently met Afghan influential figures in Moscow in first such kind of intra-Afghan dialogue, generating hope for intra-Afghan talks to at least occur.
US administration is also seemed to take hasty decision over troop’s pullout from Afghanistan as Taliban group during meeting with US envoy Khalilzad asked for immediate withdrawal. As whole, the current landscape has created many questions, like where Afghanistan heading in the presidential election, what would be the political pattern in Afghanistan. How peace talks are progressing, and what would be the regional roles in promoting peace and stability. To help put rest to such anxiety, Afghanistan Times conducted an interview with the most well-known political figure Abdul Karim Khurram who also served as Chief of Staff to former President Hamid Karzai. He, like many other Afghans, is desperately looking for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. What appeared during interviewing him that he is a great patriot but unhappy with performances of the National Unity Government.
How Khurram considers current political situation?
The political situation is in its very critical period, the result depends on our politicians’ plans where to lead it and how to manage it. This could be a milestone for the future of our country’s political situation and it also could lead the country to another misery. In the meantime, the US efforts for Afghan peace are going on, so let’s see whether these efforts would help for a real peace or would result in another civil war due to meddling by some evils. However, there are some indicators through which we can guess if a real peace is coming if Pakistan and the United States make deal on Afghanistan as they did after the jihad process and Taliban. If some points of Pakistan-US deal emerge, our people will definitely face another round of problems.
Secondly, if the United States cooperates with our neighboring countries and run the peace efforts based on their total interests, then we will be optimistic, but if our neighboring states realize that the United States tries to ignore their interests, then they will absolutely resort to some acts that is not in the benefit of peace process in our country. In the other hand, some changes in the US policy are visible such as negotiations over its military withdrawal and appointing a special envoy for Afghan peace. Separately, the role of government is also important over the peace process. If the government makes obstacles before the peace efforts to maintain its continuation and refuses to sacrifice for national interest, we will have again problems. If the government accepts that national interests are more important than its continuation, it will also be a milestone for the future of our political situation.
What role does the government play for the peace process?
The government sabotages all peace efforts including the efforts made by Dr. Khalilzad (the US special envoy for Afghanistan peace) and efforts for intra-Afghan negotiations. The efforts of president’s office are focused on the continuation of their government.
Will people trust the government if peace process goes to presidential election time?
It will be injurious to hold elections because half of the ground is out of government’s control according to a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report. The dismissal of electoral bodies’ commissioner including Mr. Ahmadzai who helped the unity government take power was legally wrong. Secondly, the electoral commissions are now notorious bodies and people will not trust improvement in election management when the commissioners are dismissed and appointed. Dismissals and appointing of former electoral commissioners as well as decisions made by the lawmaker are illegal because the parliamentarians are not authorized to make such decisions in their last year of service.
How does the US support Afghan government?
If the United States is honestly running the peace process and the supports Afghan government despite its meddling in the process, then it’s an illogical support, unless Washington is not honest in its efforts for peace.
Are Pakistan and US transparently working on peace talks?
As Pakistan was present in the peace talks held in Qatar and Abu Dhabi, it seems that Islamabad is coordinated with Washington over the negotiations.
Don’t you think Taliban are under Pakistan pressure, is considering their demands over disintegration of the national army and recognizing of the Durand Line as an official border crossing?
It was apparently explained in the Abu Dhabi and Qatar meetings that Taliban are not under pressure from Pakistan because the militants rejected requests from Pakistan and some other countries to hold talks with Afghan government’s delegation, unless there is secret deal between Taliban and Pakistan. The national army is a moral capital of our country and people and Mr. Stanekzai’s (Taliban chief negotiator with US) demand is a great misery. The demand means destroying of our national infrastructures. But regarding the Durand Line, demand from Taliban is in ambiguity. I can say that Taliban’s stance over the Durand Line is stronger and clearer than the incumbent government as they had a strong, clear and decisive stance regarding the Line during their government. Also, the intra-Afghan meeting weakens the thought that Taliban are under Pakistan pressure. We need to continue these meetings.
How can we approach an international consensus regarding peace process considering the power confrontations in Afghanistan, regional and trans-regional political rivalries?
Americans’ acts in fight against terrorism in Afghanistan have created a mistrust space in the regional countries. In the beginning of the US presence in Afghanistan the regional states were somehow cooperating in the fight against terrorist groups in our country, but increasing of terrorist groups and also the current government’s decisions and stance against policies of regional countries made them doubtful in honesty for struggle against terrorism. The current government somehow pretended to helping the US in increasing terrorist groups including Daesh, while the former government did its best to maintain regional countries’ trust. The former government made efforts to convince regional countries that the US presence does not jeopardize their interests. The current government has to regain regional countries’ trust, but its effort in this regard is poor.
What is your opinion regarding the US troops’ drawdown?
The US drawdown without coordinating with the people and government of Afghanistan will create a big vacuum. The US withdrawal should take place based on the peace negotiations and the situation in Afghanistan. A specific timetable and plan is needed for the US pullout from Afghanistan because they have created some axis in different parts of the country which are managed by no government and security bodies.
What do you demand from the people and government in the current political situation?
This is a pride for every government to bring basic changes in the lives of people. The government is better to cooperate with the peace process and record it as an achievement instead of hampering the process. Otherwise, the government’s time is legally over. In the other hand, our political elites and people should be vigilant. They should not think only of their little and short-term interests, but think of the great and long-term national interests and should not be careless regarding the situation of their country.
Is Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan peace process a matter of concern?
Afghans are the main owners of the peace process. The government should be honestly involved in the peace process instead of hindering it. Although the government’s acts so far have invalidated the peace process and the High Peace Council that has also made the United States lose its trust as a close partner to the process. Therefore, the government’s approaching to the peace process will cause Pakistan’s retreat and not give them ground to play.
Do you mean the government needs to be involved in the peace process?
The government is reluctant to cooperate with the peace process as Taliban have repeatedly refused to hold talks with it and the government is worried of an alternative administration to Dr. Ashraf Ghani if he gets involved in the process. This is while Mr. Ghani had earlier claimed to sacrifice even his life for peace, but now he is not ready to step down. In such situation, ground will be paved more for Pakistan’s interferences.
Maybe Hamid Karzai (former president) was not invited to the Moscow meeting, but he took part for the people’s interests. What was the reason of negative propagandas regarding Moscow meeting and calling Karzai responsible?
Let me explain that Hamid Karzai focused mostly on the peace. He formed the High Peace Council in 2010 and never retreated in this regard. Those who launch such negative propagandas fear from Karzai’s stance in bringing peace.
What President Ghani wants from US President Donald Trump by sending him letter?
Dr. Ghani should have offered a mechanism for peace and should have asked President Donald Trump to ensure peace in Afghanistan and pull his troops back instead of begging him not to withdraw from the country to help him remain in power despite cutting donations.
What do government’s negative propagandas mean over peace? It says Afghanistan would go back to the dark years if the foreign soldiers withdraw.
If the government and politicians are not honest in the peace process and Pakistan finds chance to interfere, if the US only thinks of drawdown, people will definitely face unpleasant consequences. The result of government’s policy will have the same results. But we should not let the situation continue like this.
The interview was conducted by Afghanistan Times and Dunya Daily media teams.