Despite the bloody security incidents and deep internal political divisions, the “Kabul Process” was held in Kabul last week. The representatives of several international entities and more than 23 countries including Pakistan, Iran, the US, and the UK had participated in this conference.
The responsibility for the management and implementation of the decisions made in the Afghan Government’s initiative “Kabul Process” lies with the Afghan government, a point which differentiates this process from the other similar processes. Speaking at the conference, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, “Today, we have gathered here, to unite against terrorism and to show that we want peace; we have the capacity to bring peace and that we are honest about peace… If there is agreement to develop a peace roadmap acceptable to both sides, the Afghan government would allow the Taliban to open a representative office.” 
What was the primary objective of the Kabul Process? What role will it play in reinitiating the peace process? With this process launched, has the government’s peace policy changed? What is the evaluation of the National Unity Government’s (NUG) peace strategy before Kabul Process? These are the questions that are analyzed here.
The NUG and its peace policy
Since the formation of the NUG, ending the Afghan war, strengthening the Afghan forces, and the peace process was the main elements of the Afghan foreign policy. Seeking to undertake measures for the peace process, the Afghan President started a series of foreign trips from China, and Saudi Arabia, to Pakistan and in order to have Pakistan’s assistance in the peace process, he gave Pakistan many privileges. Hence, Kabul’s peace strategy largely relied on Pakistan.
Moreover, the trilateral efforts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China were another initiative launched regarding the Afghan peace process; the Urumqi talks are projection of this initiative. Efforts were also made to include the Taliban in these discussions because before that in the Urumqi talks the Afghan Taliban were not represented.
The only achievement that the Afghan government had from the whole trend was the Murree talks. However, these talks were also stalled after the enclosure of the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar. Later, the Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, and the US quadrilateral peace talks started. Nonetheless, this process did not have any practical achievement either, and the Afghan Taliban refused to take part in it. Hence, the way for direct talks was not paved. The main reason for the failure of this process was the fact that, instead of giving the Taliban a proper representation, the Afghan government invited them through Pakistan and threatened to take steps against them in case they did not come to the negotiation table. Although Pakistan accepted the responsibility of bringing the Taliban to the talks and made promises in this regard, however, it did nothing later. Thus, the bilateral relations between Kabul and Islamabad become more tenuous than ever.
The primary objectives of the Kabul Process
The main aims of the NUG for launching the Kabul process are as follows:
- An Afghan led, Afghan own peace process; although regarding the Afghan peace and security, many conferences were organized both before and after the formation of the NUG, but one particularity that differentiates the Kabul Process from other conferences is that it is initiated, led and managed by Afghans.
- The “last” offer of peace for the Taliban; in this conference, first the Afghan President alluded to its sincerity in the peace process and then stated, “We have already said that we aim for peace, but we cannot make peace if the Taliban are not prepared to do the same. If there is an agreement to develop a peace roadmap acceptable to both sides, we will allow the Taliban groups to open a representative office. We are offering a chance for peace, but we must also be clear that this is not an open-ended opportunity.”
- Closing other regional processes; the first conference of the Kabul Process was held five months after the Moscow trilateral process. The Moscow process regarding the Afghan peace process began after some geopolitical changes occurred in the region. However, the Afghan government criticized this process because this process was launched without Afghanistan’s representative taking part in it. Indicating to the point, the Afghan President said in the conference that, “The dialogue around peace is badly fragmented. There are many players running parallel tracks with too little clarity on who they are and what they represent. It is a recipe for misunderstanding and confusion when what is most needed right now is focus… But in return, we also ask that you respect the integrity of an Afghan owned and led consolidated process and not set up separate tracks of your own. Separate channels are not effective, we will succeed only if we work together.”
- Resumption of relations with Pakistan; since the past several months, relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan was in the most deteriorated state ever, and regarding the Afghan peace process, the Afghan government had become very suspicious on Pakistan. The Afghan government rejected the $500m aid offer of Pakistan in the Heart of Asia Conference. Nevertheless, during the Kabul Process, the Afghan President said that the top priority for the Afghan government was to find an effective way for negotiations with Pakistan. “Although we offered friendship to Pakistan, we were rejected. We have tried bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral, and even multilateral negotiations to bring an end to conflict and terror. But we have made little progress. Still, we want to be able to trust Pakistan. Our problem, our challenge, is that we cannot figure out what is it that Pakistan wants. What will it take to convince Pakistan that a stable Afghanistan helps them and helps our region?”, Ghani said.
In addition, delivering his speech to the conference, the Afghan President called on Pakistan to clarify its demands and present its agenda and mechanism for the Afghan government, so that peace and stability can return to the region.
- Cooperation with Kabul in areas of security; in the post-2001 years, the regional consensus was created regarding the Afghan issue, but after 2011, this consensus was affected and after the formation of the NUG, it is challenged more than ever. The Moscow Conference on Afghanistan and the remarks of the senior officials of Russia and some other countries are evidence of the fact. Speaking at the conference, Ashraf Ghani said that Afghanistan was the frontline state to fight terrorism and drug trafficking and that the Afghan government fought other countries’ war. Therefore, Ghani called on regional countries to increase security cooperation with Afghanistan because he said this way the Taliban would be defeated. He also reiterated on creating security coalitions between the regional countries to eliminate the common threat of “terrorism”.
Has the new trend of peace begun?
Although the scheme presented by President Ghani in the Kabul Process was not much different from his previous policies, it had some new and important points in it. A projection of the Afghan government’s honesty, emphasizing on negotiations with Pakistan and the Taliban, the Afghan government’s stance about undertaking measures against those who would not accept negotiations, and creating a regional consensus to strengthen the Afghan forces were elements of the past strategies in the Kabul Process.
Creating security coalitions to eliminate the common threat (terrorism), implementation of the UN Counter-terrorism convention, and undertaking academic discussions under this process were new elements in the Kabul process.
Although to a larger extent, the Kabul process was what pointed out above and the Afghan Taliban have not issued any official statement in this regard, however they have published an article on their official web page, give negative reactions to the process. The article wrote that although Ghani called on Taliban to join the peace process, he was addressing Pakistan. The article adds that now they [Pakistan] have to come forward and present a mechanism for the Afghan government. The article also criticizes Ashraf Ghani’s rhetoric statements against Taliban, and finally concluded that the process will not bring peace.
 President office, President Ghani’s Remarks At The Kabul Process Conference, June 06, 2017, see it online: