The Time Is Ripe for a National Dialogue on Reconciliation

   •    December 14, 2011

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This article was originally published by Huffington Post.

After the tragic assassination of the head of the High Peace Council — Professor Burnahuddin Rabbani — in late September, many pundits took to the airwaves, blogosphere, and Twitterverse to predict the death of the reconciliation effort in Afghanistan. While the brazen killing was undoubtedly designed to derail the peace process, it has instead opened space for a conversation about what is really needed to move beyond 30 years of conflict: a national dialogue on reconciliation.

Secretary Clinton describes the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan as composed of three tracks — fight, talk, build. The U.S., however, doesn’t address the inherent tension in the need to eradicate insurgent elements while courting insurgent leaders to engage in peace negotiations. The peace process in Afghanistan rightly continues to be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, but this has allowed the U.S. to avoid defining a coherent political strategy. The talk pillar falls short of fight and build, undervaluing local political reconciliation as a means to achieve and sustain security gains.

Growing haste and exclusivity of the current reconciliation effort have contributed to reduced confidence in and acceptance of the attempt to devise a viable political solution that will end this war. Afghan civil society organizations, particularly the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), have made a clear argument that a reconciliation process that lacks a national dialogue designed to engage ordinary Afghans in defining the future of the Afghan state will inevitably fail.

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