Intra-Afghan Conference for Peace signals hope for the people of Afghanistan

After four decades of armed conflict, for the first time, representatives of the Afghan government and society and of the Taliban movement met in their personal capacity for a dialogue meeting on 7 and 8 July in Doha, Qatar. The “Intra-Afghan Conference for Peace”, co-hosted by the German and Qatari governments and facilitated by the Berghof Foundation, brought together more than sixty Afghans from a wide range of political and societal groups to discuss shared interests and what a peace process could eventually look like.

Eighteen years after the United States initiated a campaign to overthrow the Taliban movement, the security situation in Afghanistan remains fragile: During the first quarter of 2019, the United Nations yet again documented a high level of civilian casualties. 1773 civilians, including 582 children, were killed. The Institute for Economics and Peace lists Afghanistan as the least peaceful country in the world in their 2019 Peace Index. When it comes to deaths amongst the Afghan government’s National Defense and Security Forces and the Taliban movement, the human cost of the war remains similarly dire.

It is clear that the conflict cannot be solved by military means, nor can the solution be dictated from the outside. The Berghof Foundation strongly believes that the conflict can only be resolved in a sustainable manner through a truly Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process. For the past five years, we have supported our Afghan partners in their efforts to build a sustainable peace process.

“There will only be peace in Afghanistan if the Afghans themselves take over the reins of action. In my own experience, support from international actors is welcome on all sides, provided it is strengthening self-responsibility and helps the Afghans to help themselves in the search for viable compromises.” 

Hans Joachim Giessmann, Executive Director at the Berghof Foundation

Due to our technical expertise and our multipartial approach, the German government asked us to support the preparation and implementation of the Intra-Afghan Conference for Peace. We moderated closed-door sessions, which created an open and unfiltered exchange. This was the first genuine dialogue between the different Afghan actors. The conversations were not always easy, yet resulted in participants establishing a common understanding of shared grievances and pain, and allowed for an initial building of trust.

At the end of the two-day event, the participants issued a joint resolution in which they outlined steps towards future intra-Afghan negotiations. All sides agreed to reduce violence and assured fundamental rights for women and religious minorities. The resolution also called for trust-building measures and outlined a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan. We hope that this signifies a first step towards an inclusive peace process.

“The intra Afghan Dialogue has opened a window of opportunity for peace in Afghanistan. The new momentum should now be used courageously.”

Hans Joachim Giessmann, Executive Director at the Berghof Foundation

Representatives of the Afghan factions, the Taliban movement, as well as international stakeholders reacted very positively to the outcome. As an expression of the hope generated by the event amongst Afghan society, local activists welcomed the participants with flowers and peace doves when they landed in Kabul.

In this atmosphere of optimism and high expectations, however, the different parties’ implementation of the agreement as well as decisions on concrete next steps in the process will be crucial. During the dialogue in Doha, participants found significant common ground between the different actors, but also identified issues of divergence, which will need to be addressed through intra-Afghan negotiations or a dialogue process.

The Berghof Foundation remains ready to support all Afghans in realising sustainable, comprehensive, and dignified peace.

Amir Khan Muttaqi (Taliban) reads out the declaration in Pashto.
Dr. Habiba Sarabi (HPC) reads out the declaration in Dari.