The planned withdrawal of the majority of international military forces from Afghanistan, coupled with a recognition that force alone will not lead to success in the destabilized region, demands a serious consideration of a negotiated end to the current war.
To date, negotiations have been limited to closed door ‘talks about talks’ between high-level leaders in the Afghan government and armed opposition groups, as well as among regional governments, armed opposition groups and members of the United Nations mandated, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
There have been limited attempts to demobilize rank-andfile opposition fighters and to initiate a national dialogue through a national Peace Jirga and High Peace Council. While these efforts might lead to a Government-Taliban pact for power-sharing, they are unlikely to stop the fighting and even less likely to lead to a positive peace, as conceptualized by Johan Galtung.
A positive peace would restore relationships, meet the needs of the whole population, provide ways to manage conflicts constructively, and hence be widely regarded by Afghans as legitimate, fair, and worthy of support.
A lasting, positive peace can only be achieved through a comprehensive peace process that addresses the major causes of three decades of war and includes all major stakeholders.
Any peace process will be neither comprehensive nor lasting without the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325 and 1889 or without the full inclusion of women. Women play a transformational role in peacebuilding and have a particularly high stake in a more just, open, and tolerant society; a society that allows for their participation in politics and the workforce, and respects the expansion of their rights along with the human rights of all residents. A legitimate peace process should be guided by the core values of accountability, transparency, inclusivity, and transitional justice, along with trust building, nation building, and the rejection of impunity.
Positive peace requires a transformation of society, a process that takes generations. However, the peace process provides a window of opportunity to sow the seeds for achieving this change. A move in this direction would require:
• links between grassroots and national processes through elected representatives, a structured consultation process, and/or the effective mediation of civil society organizations;
• participation of men and women from all sectors of society in local and national dialogues; and
• peace education and trust-building to prepare people for participation in the comprehensive peace process, and to transform a culture and mentality of war into an appreciation for human rights, participatory governance, and non-violent conflict resolution.