Not 'Peace Or War,' But To Betray Afghan Feminists, Secularists And Democrats, Or Not.
You still wouldn't know it from the world's English language press, but the backroom agenda that found its way to London last week has been percolating for years, and its re-emergence was sparking an unprecedented revolt by Afghanistan's growing civil society movement. Long before last Thursday, Afghan secularists, women's rights leaders, and democrats were frantically raising the alarm.
Only three days before the London conference, representatives from more than 200 Afghan women's rights and civil society organizations gathered at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. After a day's deliberations, they released an eight-point consensus statement. The very first point: "Based on the persistent violation of the rights of women and men by the Taliban, whether when in power or after, objections were clearly and strongly expressed by all parties participating in this meeting regarding any negotiation with the Taliban." . . . For several weeks -- even in the Pashtun heartland, where the Taliban is entrenched -- progressives, socialists and pro-democratic parties have been attempting to raise the alarm of a looming sell-out, but their appeals have gone completely unnoticed by their erstwhile counterparts in the rich countries of the west.
Last month, the Awami National Party and its allies among the traditional "Red Shirt" secularist movement gathered with several civil society organizations and the Amn Tehrik peace coalition in a two-day conference. The result was a comprehensive peace plan, the "Peshawar Declaration." Among its key recommendations: "NATO and ISAF are sent to Afghanistan under UN mandate. NATO and ISAF should stay in Afghanistan until terrorism is uprooted, foreign interference in Afghanistan must be stopped and the institutions of army and police are established on solid footings."
In the tribal areas on the east side of the Pakistan frontier, last year's truce deals with the Taliban resulted in scores of school burnings, hundreds of murders and a reign of terror that has forced more than a million people from their homes. The Peshawar Declaration expresses support for the NATO efforts at a troop-withdrawal timetable to hand over security to Afghan authorities, but the half-dozen centrist and leftist parties that are its main authors are clear that appeasement of the Taliban will not work: "If the terrorists succeeded in Afghanistan their next target would be Pakistan. Therefore, this policy is destructive for Pakistan and should be abolished above board."
Especially in the Taliban-infested districts of Waziristan and the Northwest Frontier Province, the ordinary people want Taliban sanctuaries destroyed: "These people do not support any peace deals with the militants," the declaration asserts. "It is the [U.S.] drone attacks which they support the most. . ."