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View of a Afghan Women on Afghanistan Peace Talks

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    Posted: 06-Feb-2019 at 1:47pm

Zakia Wardak is an Afghan businesswoman who campaigned for parliament in last year's election.

The Taliban and the United States are negotiating over the future of Afghanistan. You might expect me, as a woman, to say that's wrong. But these talks are a positive development as long as they ultimately clear the way for a truly "Afghan-owned" peace process. Let me explain what I mean.

View of a Afghan Women on Afghanistan Peace Talks

Over the past 40 years, no era has been entirely safe for Afghanistan's people, let alone for its women. Having left the country for the United States in 1989, I gradually began to travel back to my homeland, until I returned for good in 2008. I visited during the civil war, during the years of Taliban rule, and during the era that began with the presidency of Hamid Karzai in 2002, when 140,000 foreign troops enabled the Afghan people to experience a glimpse of freedom. More recently, though, violence has returned, and life has again become unsafe.

People should not have to live this way. President Ashraf Ghani recently stated that we have lost 45,000 soldiers since he took office in 2014 a shocking number. The United Nations says we have suffered more than 30,000 civilian casualties from 2014 through the August 2018. We don't have any solid numbers on how many Afghans from the Taliban have died in the same period. What we do know, though, is that these, too, are Afghan lives that should not have been lost.

Last June, the Taliban and the government agreed to a cease-fire over the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Violence stopped completely for two days, as the Taliban joined other Afghans in celebrating our holiday in the major cities. It showed that peace is possible.

Now, with Osama bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda largely eliminated as a threat, the United States' interest in staying in Afghanistan is fading. If the Afghan government failed to eliminate the insurgency when it had the help of 140,000 foreign troops, the chances of victory now with just 14,000 are very slim, indeed. This is not because I doubt the Afghan security forces. It's simply because the enemy's attacks are too unpredictable and are coming too fast.

So why not talk to the Taliban? They are Afghans, after all. We need an intra-Afghan dialogue, one that addresses questions such as: How do we stop the violence? What kind of peace settlement will find such broad acceptance in all parts of Afghanistan so that a huge military won't be needed to maintain stability?

I know perfectly well, of course, that during their reign the Taliban imposed strict policies on women. Women could only leave their homes if chaperoned by men. Wearing the burqa was obligatory. Female Afghans were banned from school and work. It was difficult.

But it was also difficult to see how a mob of men killed a young woman named Farkhunda Malikzada in a Kabul street nearly four years ago because of a false blasphemy accusation. Only a few of the killers were imprisoned, while others went free. The bitter reality is that it will take time to overcome all the darkness the Afghan people have endured over the past four decades. The only way to improve is to try to move ahead together.

That is why we must keep in mind that peace is in the national interest. We've had enough bloodshed. Here are three recommendations for how we should be moving ahead.

First, when we finally begin genuine talks among Afghans, we should not allow the process to be restricted to the capital. We need a truly national dialogue, one that will mean talking not only to the Taliban but also talking to each other. More than 80 percent of the Afghan population lives in rural areas, and some of the women of the villages have been sending their sons and brothers to fight. We also need to talk to them, to understand their grievances and to explain our own. It won't be easy. We may fail at first, but we have to keep at it until we're successful.

There will be huge political challenges. Women, ethnic minorities, weak tribes, non-Muslims, the landless poor and many other groups will struggle for their rights. But everyone must have a voice.

Once we have launched a national dialogue, we can forge a common understanding that will help us to identify areas where compromise is possible and where it is not. Once we have done that, we can begin to talk with the Taliban with full confidence. If we do not talk to each other, and if we allow these grievances to live and grow, it is only a matter of time until another group is formed and funded by certain actors to disrupt Afghanistan once again.

My second piece of advice is aimed at the international community: please stay neutral toward our domestic politics. Keep in mind that an "Afghan-owned" peace process must embrace all Afghans and only Afghans.

My final recommendation is not to rush any peace initiative or dialogue. We are dealing with many different interests and powerful emotions. We will need time.

Let's talk.

Source: The Washington Post

Edited by AfghanistanNews - 06-Feb-2019 at 1:49pm
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