The objective of this report is to examine the attempts to seek a durable resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan through a political process, including the possible role of Norway in this regard. In the area of transitional justice the post-2001 Afghan polity has basically cemented the victors’ peace in terms of the Bonn treaty, and with amnesties for all pre-2001 crimes, the essence is that all government associates are freed of responsibility for their actions, while insurgents are not. Amnesties have also been tested as a more generic measure to invite individual insurgents to defect, but despite a massive new programme from 2010 onwards seem to have had only modest impact. Political talks have been discussed for a long time, but became a real option only when the U.S. insistence on so-called “red lines” was abandoned in early 2011. Numerous attempts to build confidence, establish reliable communication channels and start talking about talks have occurred over the past few years, but seem to have yielded relatively little. By 2012 – very understandable, given recent experiences – a deep concern had developed that a peace treaty might be rough and dirty, as a means by which the U.S. and its allies could cut their losses and get out.
A durable peace may require a more patient and comprehensive approach in which consultations within the various groups that should be at the table, combined with input from various civil society actors, are as important as talks between the main adversaries. An effective regional compact is pivotal, and here processes are under way, with Norway engaging with Turkey, the U.S. and the Afghan government. Doubts remain as to whether the U.S.-inspired model of Afghanistan as the centre of a large, potentially prosperous neighbourhood veils the impact of conflicts within each of the three regional complexes (Central Asia, South Asia and the Gulf region) surrounding Afghanistan or how its neighbours engage in its internal conflict.
Norway has engaged in a number of activities key to a possible political resolution, but does not appear to have played a leading or pioneering role, probably because such a role has been difficult to pursue in a situation where the country’s own commitment to NATO and the U.S. is essentially defined by its willingness to contribute militarily.