On January 15, 2020, a group of FES Kabul’s Young Leaders Forum (YLF) alumnae and alumni from different YLF generations were kindly invited by the German Embassy in Afghanistan for an exchange with Mr. Niels Annen, member of the Bundestag and Minister of State at the German Foreign Office, Mr. Andreas Krueger, Head of Department for Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as Ambassador Peter Pruegel and his team at the German Embassy in Kabul. We exchanged ideas and perspectives on recent developments in Afghanistan including the peace negotiations, the prospects for intra-Afghan talks, and the role of various Afghan groups – particularly youth - in these talks. Already during his welcoming remarks, Ambassador Pruegel reiterated that Afghanistan has a crucial opportunity that should be used to reach an end to decades of war and conflict in the country.
Mr. Annen, who served for many years in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag and visited Kabul and other cities as part of a greater South Asia trip, has closely been engaged with Afghanistan and the region for a long time. In his opening remarks, he addressed recent developments in the country particularly the current peace negotiations with the Taliban, where Germany has been actively offering mediation support in the past years. Because Afghanistan’s security situation unfortunately has not improved over the years, he emphasized that peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan remain a high priority also for Germany. In his eyes, Afghan people have a unique opportunity to advance peace negotiations which requires candid efforts by all parties to genuinely support the process and utilize the opportunity for reconciliation – with German support by their side. Mr. Annen expressed his admiration for the strong role of Afghan youth in national developments, including the peace negotiations and his interest in the YLFees’ perspectives and aspirations.
For the next two hours, we made great use of the opportunity to reflect on issues of peace, rule of law and governance, the roles of youth, women and that of all Afghans in the peace talks. We talked about the importance of inclusive representation in the talks in order to achieve a sustainable peace. We highlighted the constructive roles and representation of women in the peace talks and discussed how significant it was to preserve the fundamental values of human rights enshrined in the Afghan Constitution.
Decades of war and conflict has created an environment of distrust among the warring parties. Hence crucial and conciliatory measures are to be taken by all parties in order to create preliminary conditions for Intra-Afghan talks to begin. We also discussed the crucial role of the Afghan government in taking the lead on these negotiations. To build ownership and trust, we stressed the importance of these talks to happen inside the country. We also expressed that it is crucial and significant for all parties including the Taliban to agree on a nationwide ceasefire as an immediate stop to bloodshed in all parts of the country, cities and villages alike. Regarding the role of government, we talked about the importance of continued efforts towards rule of law, institutional reforms and tackling corruption, transparency and accountability, and equitable provision of services to improve state legitimacy across the country. Furthermore, discrepancies and differences in political positions among Afghan politicians and the importance of a unified approach and position by the Afghan government to advance peace talks, were debated as well.
What is needed is a strong narrative for peace and reconciliation and, in addition to a ceasefire, warring parties should refrain from anything that could possibly impair the momentum currently generated for intra-Afghan talks and peace negotiations. We also discussed how flexible all parties could and should be regarding their red lines. All parties need to be flexible to making compromises where possible; also with regards to power sharing.
Nevertheless, we also expressed our concerns regarding uncertainty and ambiguities surrounding the Doha peace talks and stressed about the need for Afghan people to know as many details as possible of the current negotiations. For a sustainable peace, inclusive participation of all social groups including women and youth is key as well as trust building between all social groups through transparency.
We would like to thank – also on behalf of our fellow YLFees – Mr. Annen and the German embassy for their continued support to Afghanistan’s development and peace, as well as great support to youth for many years and look forward to future exchanges and dialogue!
Faraidoon Shariq is a 2012 YLFee and CEO of APEX Analytics