In a keynote speech delivered at a major civil society conference in London Tuesday, former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi reflected on the past eight years of international engagement in Afghanistan and called for a new peace process to bring an end to the long-running conflict.

Governments contributing to the NATO-led UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) underestimated the receptiveness of Afghans to an international force aimed at ensuring security in 2002, Mr. Brahimi said, adding that more troops at the outset “would have made all the difference in the world.” But the military strategy itself was “wrong” from the beginning, said Mr. Brahimi, in whose opinion the international force should have been constructed for peacekeeping rather than ongoing offensive counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency operations.

Looking ahead, Mr. Brahimi emphasized the need for a regional security approach, involving Afghanistan’s neighbor’s including Iran, and for engagement with Taliban willing to lay down their arms and be part of a political solution to the conflict.

In the question and answer period, Afghan human rights activist and Amnesty International researcher Horia Mosadiq rapped Mr. Brahimi for his role in thwarting efforts by Afghan civil society to prevent past human rights abusers from laying claim to key positions in the Afghan Government in 2002. “And now you want to bring back in the Taliban?” she asked. Much of the audience applauded in agreement with Ms. Mosadiq’s sentiment.

In later panel discussions, Afghan civil society and government representatives were divided on the ethics and efficacy of talks with members of the insurgency, but there was unanimous consensus that respect for human rights and acceptance of Afghanistan’s constitution should be strictly enforced preconditions for any negotiations with the Taliban.

 

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