The London Conference

Though the London Conference, as Prime Minister Gordon Brown had wished, could not name some provinces to be handed over to Afghan National Security Forces in 2010, but to believe it was an achievement for President Karzai to gain international support for his reconciliation program with Taliban is also a delusion.

The silent support of the US and NATO—after an intense campaign of highlighting the vote-rigging—to the controversial reelection of Karzai was duty-bound as the western allies in Afghanistan thought Karzai is the only guy who can involve Taliban in talks.

The recent consecutive rejection of Karzai’s cabinet nominees was part of the process. Twice rejection of nominees and later postponement of parliamentary approval due to winter-break seems a behind-the-curtain part of President Karzai’s “reconciliation program” to share power with some Taliban leaders by keeping some ministries open. It was called a political blow, but all the important ministries—defense, interior and finance—got approved in the first round of nomination. Previously, whenever Parliament called for impeachment of any minister, Karzai did a campaign, bribed some members and shut up the parliament. When the President sends his cabinet nominees, he makes it sure they get approved. And this time he didn’t, but just a stage show to appease his election-allies by nominating their suggested ones, who were rejected twice.

The guise of negotiations with Taliban was realized by the US after its NATO allies were rushing for exit.. Dutch troops will leave Afghanistan in 2010. Canada will withdraw in 2011. There is an increasing public pressure on other NATO-member governments. Australia, too, seems to be preparing an early withdrawal. NATO has no preparations for replacement of Canadian and Dutch troops, as they hold the most important insurgency-hit provinces, Kandahar and Urozgan. On the other hand, President Obama wants the withdrawal process started by the time he bids for second-term in White House. Already the anti-war public sentiment in the States is on peak.

The “reconciliation program” discussed in the recent London Conference is an old product with a new advertisement titled “National Reconciliation and Reintegration of Armed Opposition Groups.” Basically it is aimed at reintegration of the insurgents to join the national mainstream. Before the London Conference, the UN Security Council shift-deleted names of some Taliban second-rank top leaders from the blacklist. Prior to that, the Tripartite Meeting in Istanbul was to gain regional support for the plan. The international community has pledged millions of dollars for this program.

The National Reconciliation Project was launched in early 2008 headed by Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, former President and religious scholar. Western allies donated $3 million which all went to corruption of the administrative bureaucracy. The new reconciliation plan is basically the same story, with a different advertisement.

The new plan will pay all those insurgents who give up weapons and join the “national mainstream”. They will be rewarded with financial support, education and development projects. Let’s pay for peace, but there must be financial supervision of this plan. Transparency and accountability is a must. President Karzai was asking for “Afghanization” of this process, which means all the program should be run exclusively by a Government blamed for huge corruption. I wonder how the international community pledged millions without any reservations on accountability and transparency? If the top leadership of who have been the key powers in the Taliban Movement is irreconcilable, why would middle-level leadership reintegrate when they already didn’t in the former National Reconciliation Program?

The international community, particularly the US—critical of the so-called warlords who have long ago given up arms and joined the political process—should act more rational. Former warlord and current Chief of Junbish Party, General Dostum was criticized in Washington during his support for President Karzai in elections. Now the US is ready to forgive the blacklisted Taliban leaders and let them join power-sharing. The question of amnesty and accountability should be the top priority in implementation of new plan. Those particular leadership individuals of Taliban who are responsible for mass genocides of thousands of civilians in Bamiyan, Samangan, Mazar-e-Sharif are war criminals. They must be trialed as per the international standards of amnesty.  Taliban who are ready to give up arms, end ties with Al-Qaeda and accept democracy and constitution of Afghanistan should be tried for reconciliation and reintegration, but mass murderers and war criminals cannot be forgiven.

I don’t believe the new product with old advertisement will work at all, other than some domestic changes in power-sharing while insurgency at its same pace. There is no focus on solutions how to fight financial and ideological sponsorship of Taliban. Karzai is keeping the Afghans in complete darkness about the plan. All out details should be shared with public. All ethnic groups in Afghanistan should be taken into confidence for this plan and it should not be an intra-Pashtoon bargaining. International community should make sure implementation of the reconciliation program is accountable and not at the cost of justice!

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