Meanwhile, back in Kabul…

To be completely honest, I don’t know what to make of the 15 point peace plan offered by Afghan warlord/insurgent/former U.S. ally/Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, but my first thoughts are two-fold. First, this isn’t an offer Karzai or NATO will or should accept. It calls for foreign troops to start withdrawing this summer (not gonna happen), and ...

Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Stephen M. Walt
By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

To be completely honest, I don’t know what to make of the 15 point peace plan offered by Afghan warlord/insurgent/former U.S. ally/Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, but my first thoughts are two-fold.

First, this isn’t an offer Karzai or NATO will or should accept. It calls for foreign troops to start withdrawing this summer (not gonna happen), and that “foreign fighters” (e.g., non-Afghan allies of the Taliban, or al Qaeda) "will not remain" after NATO et al  leaves. Hard for me to imagine NATO leaving without more convincing assurances that al Qaeda will not be welcome back on Afghan soil.

Second, the fact that the offer was made at all does strike me as significant, as do reports that this initiative has tacit backing from interested foreign powers (e.g., U.S.)  The BBC reports that “there is a growing recognition, both within Afghanistan and from its foreign partners, that insurgents have to be part of any peace settlement and that military operations alone will not be enough to bring peace to the country." That sounds right to me. 

To be completely honest, I don’t know what to make of the 15 point peace plan offered by Afghan warlord/insurgent/former U.S. ally/Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, but my first thoughts are two-fold.

First, this isn’t an offer Karzai or NATO will or should accept. It calls for foreign troops to start withdrawing this summer (not gonna happen), and that “foreign fighters” (e.g., non-Afghan allies of the Taliban, or al Qaeda) "will not remain" after NATO et al  leaves. Hard for me to imagine NATO leaving without more convincing assurances that al Qaeda will not be welcome back on Afghan soil.

Second, the fact that the offer was made at all does strike me as significant, as do reports that this initiative has tacit backing from interested foreign powers (e.g., U.S.)  The BBC reports that “there is a growing recognition, both within Afghanistan and from its foreign partners, that insurgents have to be part of any peace settlement and that military operations alone will not be enough to bring peace to the country." That sounds right to me. 

As for Hekmatyr, he has the reputation of being a pragmatist and he may be trying to position himself at a moment when he thinks the contest is shifting from insurgency to negotiations.  Whatever his motives, this is a process we ought to encourage. In the best case, the Afghans negotiate some sort of peace agreement and  power-sharing arrangement that stabilizes the country and allows economic development efforts to continue, but also allows us to get the hell out. In the worst case, we get a flawed arrangement that still gives the United States a fig leaf for disengagement, at which point Afghanistan falls apart again. 

Since I don’t think the latter outcome would be disastrous from the U.S. perspective (though it is obviously not desirable from a purely humanitarian perspective), I’m open to a pretty wide-range of alternative outcomes, provided that they reflect an Afghan consensus. But like I said, this is just my initial reaction, and I may change my mind after I read more and ponder further.

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt

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