The program of peace itself is based on the discussions of the former parliament. It discussed this issue for days and recommended to the government that to bring peace the Government of Afghanistan should have an agenda for bringing peace and ending war. How can they accuse the government over this? When the government is provided with a duty by the parliament, and it debates it, and then the government creates an agenda, then why we should follow this vicious circle?
[Kakar] But Mr Stanikzai, governments are always subject to the law. The Constitution of Afghanistan says that the basic principles and internal and foreign policies of the government should be ratified by the parliament of Afghanistan. It has been two years since the new government gave the parliament its basic governance principles, but the parliament has not ratified them.
[Stanikzai] The parliament itself had some entanglements; there was a parliamentary election and so on.
[Kakar] It has been two years, two years should have been sufficient for the government to send its policies to the parliament.
[Stanikzai] As far as I am informed, it sen t them to it. At each step it has kept the parliament informed. You might remember that, before our program went to the Kabul Conference, our agenda went to parliament. I went to the parliament and answered the questions of the representatives.
[Kakar] Do you want to say that their complaints are baseless?
[Stanikzai] They have always been consulted and some members of the parliament are members of the High Peace Council, as well as some members of the upper house of the parliament. It is not the case that the High Peace Council has brought together some people so that they can be used instrumentally.
[Kakar] There are some claims that some members of the High Peace Council even do not attend the sessions of the council. For example, in most of your session Mr Ismail Khan is not there, Ustad Sayyaf is not present, Ustad Mohaqiq, and Peer Said Ahmad Gilani is not there. Also, those who are criticizing you say that those who are conducting the main negotiations are not members of the High Peace Council. They claim that the High Peace Council is a smokescreen. How far do you find these criticisms to be correct?
[Stanikzai] I want to tell you that the issue with the ministers who are members of the council is they are a little busy. However, the sessions of the council are being attended by a super majority. In the sessions of the Executive Council's members who have been elected by the members of the High Peace Council, they all attend regularly the session of the council regularly and debate and deliberate on issues. Then they provide information to the rest of the members of the High Peace Council.
I mentioned a little while ago that, when you are engaged in a complex process, then the main lines and the strategy is decided and debated and determined in a large council. Then there is a small team that has been appointed as the Executive Council who will work on different issues and subsequently report it to all members of the High Peace Council. If you expect that all 70 members should be present in every session, it is a very difficult task. Naturally, there are different committees assigned different tasks that go about their work and then come and report to the rest of the members of the High Peace Council that they have done their work and so on. The good thing is that, if in a place there is no disagreement and no one can raise their voice, then things can go astray. I believe this is the strength of an institution that believes in this.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, I want to ask you if you would want to negotiate with Mullah Omar Mujahid, or with the Haqqani Network, either with Jalaluddin Haqqani or Sarajuddin Haqqani, or not? [Stanikzai] I would like to say that this decision lies with the council; no individual can decide about it. [Kakar] What is the general viewpoint and trend in the High Peace Council?
[Stanikzai] The general viewpoint is that any initiative that can eventually bring permanent peace and stability in which the interests of the people of Afghanistan are ensured should be embraced to end the war in Afghanistan, but not those initiatives that ensure the interests of one at the expense of the other. There is no issue about individual interests.
[Kakar] How far do you have the support of the international community, and particularly the support of the United States?
[Stanikzai] A very comprehensive debate has taken place. All of these questions you are raising and that the people are raising have been thought through several times. Today, the United States at a very high level, including the president and the secretary of state, has officially declared that they will support the peace initiative led by the Afghans and the Government of Afghanistan. It has said that it will support the principle under which peace negotiations are conducted. That is why any step toward peace has been supported by both the United States and the international community.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, how far have t he negotiations with the opposition been successful to date?
[Stanikzai] The process of negotiation with the oppositions has several dimensions. One dimension involved the level of their leadership, another dimension entails a local engagement, and the other dimension has to do with the regional level, which attempts to create some capacity for the negotiation to start. The main issue that we face is not only that the armed opposition of Afghanistan should have a specific address from where they can conduct talks. The second issue is their immunity, which is very controversial. The third issue that also involves diplomatic problems, is the United Nations 1267 list, which includes the name of those who have problems of mobility and other issues. The High Peace Council tries to tackle all these issues in order to preempt pretexts such as: I had a proposal and I wanted to bring it to the negotiation table with my Afghan brother, but I was not allowed, the situation was not suitable for such a thing and I wanted to negotiate but it was not possible; that is why I was forced to continue war.
We are trying our best to provide possibilities and we have high-level contact that will make direct talks possible.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, has there been any direct contact with the Quetta Council and Peshawar Council or the North Waziristan Council to which the Haqqani Network belongs or not? [Stanikzai] All Afghans have contacts with each other, and this is not something hidden. Hence, no one can say that they could not find or contact anyone. What I want to say is that most of our contacts are with the elders of tribes, with personalities who have the capacity to be effective in the process. [Kakar] To date, specifically have you not been able to make contact directly or not? [Stanikzai] At this moment I do not want to talk about the details of this, as it is too early, as it might be premature, and we have not arrived at a point where all sides are prepared to come to a negotiation table and talk about how to end the war. We have not reached such a point. These contacts have had their effects. In the meantime, there is a lot of support from the people of Afghanistan for this process, some pressure has been exerted by the people for this process to kick off, and this process had very specific and tangible results in localities. If you, for example, go to Badghis Province, or Uruzgan Province, or even to Konduz and Baghlan Provinces, this has had a positive effect. May God bless General Daud, we were working very closely with him on this issue. As result of joint endeavors, a large number of opposition joined the peace process. This process had a lot of positive effects on the security of some provinces. This is not only in the north of the country, but also in the south of Afghanistan: in Ghor Province, in Badghis Province, in Faryab Province, Sar-e Pul Province, in Konduz and Baghlan Provinces. This is a process and you cannot expect to see its success in one day, in one month, or in one year. The war that goes on in Afghanistan demands patience. Perhaps, war is not that difficult to wage, but peace is. [Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, one issue that has been always there in the minds of the people, is that, when there has been an invitation to peace by the Government of Afghanistan, it has been rejected by the Taliban opposition. Very specifically, the spokesmen of the Taliban and their leaders know the Government of Afghanistan to be a puppet government that has been brought about by the foreigners and governs through their force. They have declared out of the question any negotiation with the Government of Afghanistan. How can you posses a belief that you can negotiate with the leadership of the Taliban?
[Stanikzai] The situation that the Government of Afghanistan is in is totally different and the situation of the opposition is also different. Most of the time, several people talk with the name of one spokesperson and provide information. Sometimes it is very difficult to know from which side this information has been provided to them. Whatever incident takes place, they suddenly take responsibility for these incidents.
[Kakar] However, the policies of the Taliban are being declared in a specific place and by specific people.
[Stanikzai] Until you have arrived at an environment of trust and until you have reached a situation where an official negotiation can start, everyone will have their own reason and put their position in the way that they want, but when you get to the specific point, then things are different. One thing is clear: there are things that are provided in the media as different, but on the other hand there is an extreme interest from the other side among the individuals sent and contacts established. They have said that, yes we Afghans should be able to negotiate among ourselves and get to an understanding that brings an end to the war and we can arrive at national sovereignty.
[Kakar] Hence, you have had some contacts with the leadership of the Taliban and you have received messages from them that show their interest in this process.
[Stanikzai] There are some messages that show their interest, but my point is that the Government of Afghanistan has taken some measures on how to eliminate the pretexts that provide a reason for the war; these reasons should be eliminated. One of them is that the foreign forces should get out of Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan says, yes the foreign forces are leaving, but we have a timetable agreement with them, have to go through a transition, and this transition should be successful. When the international community wants this, and when the Government of Afghanistan wants this to happen, we have a previous experience similar to this. In the past, the Russians had to leave and eventually the Mujahidin were successful, but there was no peace in Afghanistan. Why? Because there was no planning and program on how to make the regime and we went through a civil war. Today, also if it a question is of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan without strengthening our national security and civil institutions and without the opposition coming forward and cooperating so that this transition process should be successful, it is surely that Afghanistan will move toward another crisis. That is why the fundamental principle is that slowly the minds of the people of Afghanistan, both those who are supporting the opposition and those who are supporting the regime, have come to a conclusion that mutual cooperation can expedite the process of transition.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, what guarantee is there that, if the process of transition became a reality and if after the transition the withdrawal of the foreign forces even starts from Afghanistan, the opposition does not engage in peace and starts to send Afghanistan again toward a civil war? This is the experience that we have witnessed before.
[Stanikzai] I think that the Government of Afghanistan has enough experience, as well as the people of Afghanistan, experience and a fear of the bitter experience of the 1990s that it should not be repeated once more. Also, the international community knows about this and there is a commitment so that Afghanistan should not be abandoned once more as the price of this would be dear for both the people of Afghanistan and the world several fold more than before. I think today the regional countries also know that the continuation of the crisis in Afghanistan is not in the interest of anyone and it can go beyond the borders of Afghanistan. However, we have to be careful and we have to take our own measures, as well as we should take forward the transition process with care and being very calculated. Also, we have to take forward the process of peace similarly with care and in a very calculated manner so that the Afghans can eventually together become dominant over their own fate.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, on the one hand you have declared a one-sided process of peace, but on the other side President Karzai consistently demands the foreign forces stop their night raids. Even today, he made a warning to them in his speech. Some believe that, if there was not a certain pressure kept up on the Taliban, they would not be prepared to negotiate as in the current situation the Taliban think they are winning this war. They believe that the forces inside the regime do not have the capacity to crush them and that is why they might want to take over the government. On the one hand, you want your allies to decrease their pressure on the Taliban. On the other hand, every day there are some blows that the security forces are suffering from the attacks of the Taliban and there are some views that some of these actions are very suspicious and there might be some cooperation from the within the regime. Now, given all this, how can there be a guarantee that the Taliban are going to stick to this process as they are thinking that they are winning? Why should they come and join the process while this is the case? Why would they need negotiation?
[Stanikzai] The situation is the other way around. There is one view that we are sitting in Kabul and we are thinking that they are winning, but it is the contrary. They are facing a lot of pressure from the military, as well as every day the pressure from the people against them is increasing. Every day, those who are killed as a result of the bombings, suicide attacks, or mine explosions, the majority of the victims of these are the ordinary people of Afghanistan. The president of Afghanistan, as the president of all the people of the country, has to be attentive to the pain and suffering of all of its citizens. When a police officer or a soldier or officer of the National Army is killed, the president has to share their pain. This is the same way when in the Zeyray District the elders are saying that they do not want instability in their region and when they go to the district they should not be killed, and also on another day 14 civilians were killed in Helmand in one family and all of these people of are the children of this land. The president has a duty to provide security and immunity to the people of Afghanistan. If anything happens in which the immunity of the people of Afghanistan is not provided for, but on top of that they suffer, then the president has to make his voice heard. However, principally, all the attention is on how the National Police, the National Army, and the National Directorate of Security can be strengthened as they are doing valuable work. In the meantime, it should be ensured that there is no infiltration inside their ranks, as it is one of their responsibilities that they are responsible for this security of others, but they have to take care of the responsibility of their own.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, there are two questions here. It has been said that, on the one hand, you have prevented the police forces and the Army from attacking the Taliban, but on the other hand you are pressur izing the international forces to stop their attacks on the Taliban. However, meanwhile, the Taliban have stepped up their attacks on both civilians and the military, which has cost some casualties among the military as well as among civilians. The way you complain about the foreign forces, you should also complain and condemn the Taliban. On the one hand, attacks on them have been stopped, while on the other the Taliban have increased their attacks. In this environment the political opposition believes that there are certain circles inside the regime that have links with the killing and terrorist attacks on the authorities and personalities and they have said this in their statements. This has created a weird situation of distrust in the country. What is your reply to this?
[Stanikzai] My message is very clear; we should not become so childish as to be carried away by the propaganda from the outside and those who want to spoil the national unity of the people of Afghanistan. Naturally, the heart of any Afghan, and especially that of the president of Afghanistan, goes out to a soldier of this country, an officer of this country, a personality of this land. This means whoever it is and in whatever corner of Afghanistan they are. We have lost the cadres of Afghanistan, the sons of this soil, how painful it is that in just one province in the past five years we have lost over 600 tribal elders, officers, and officials; all of this is painful. Instead of talking about whom to blame, what we need is that those who are in the opposition and those who are inside the regime have a common cause. This is to support this regime, and in the framework of this regime there should be a capacity opened up for those who either have been forced to become opponents; there should be a door that leads them to us without ways of violence.
About the issue that has been put forward that there is some plot inside the regime against one another, I think it is outside propaganda and this is a political monopolization that will not benefit any Afghan.
Thus, my question comes back to you. Can we provide peace through war alone? It is impossible. The president of Afghanistan has always said that terrorism is not based in the villages of Afghanistan, but instead we have to go to the place where the war is being funded and organized. They are sent from there and eventually the victims of this are the people of Afghanistan. We have to concentrate on the source of this, on how to dry the roots this phenomenon. We should not talk about the villages of Afghanistan.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, you know that there is in practice a war going on in the villages of Afghanistan at the moment.
[Stanikzai] It has been brought there.
[Kakar] The Taliban are present there, they conduct attacks on the security institutions, and in most of the districts the government does not have any control. If they are not fought against in the villages, where they should be fought? When you say that the Taliban are there in some of the villages and they are orchestrating some attacks, then what should be done? When these people are killed, why can you not tell them why they are sacrificing these people? You mentioned earlier Gen Daud and the commander of police in Takhar; why are these people being killed?
[Stanikzai] They are killed because they are defending the security of the people of Afghanistan. All our aim is that, if we cannot provide security for the people of Afghanistan, then why we are fighting? The government of Afghanistan's aim is to strengthen the national security institutions of Afghanistan, the Army, police, National Directorate of Security, and local police. The aim is how to strengthen the security of the people of Afghanistan.
The peace process is part of the bigger strategy that aims to prevent those who are killing the sons of this soil and the children of this country, as well as to reduce violence and open the way for those who do not want to fight; we should not for ce them to fight.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, those families who have lost a member of their family, their brother, their husband, their son, they went to this war and get killed; what you can tell them as to why you want to send them to war and then you go and negotiate with those who kill them? This is with the same people who kill them.
[Stanikzai] It is very unfortunate that you are asking such a question.
[Kakar] This is a question that families are asking.
[Stanikzai] I have spoken to families too. Let me answer this question. My answer is: Would you like that every day more and more and Afghans are killed and every day more blood is shed and more families are destroyed? Then their blood is not honored. Which war you have witness in which eventually there is not a negotiation and the war is ended? Do you want the war to continue?
[Kakar] I want to raise this issue as it was mentioned in the burial ceremony of Gen Daud and the commander of police of Takhar: When they are killed, what is the reason for it? I wanted to ask you what your answer to these families is. If the Taliban do not want peace, in the end you cannot bring about peace forcefully.
[Stanikzai] Our message to them is clear; they are heroes of this country, they have been killed for the defense of this country, for its national sovereignty, and they are the crown jewel of this country.
Any other Afghan who takes this way forward, avoids the violence, and comes to the negotiation table to solve the problem so that we can prevent further bloodshed and the killing of the people of Afghanistan, we must open the way for them and negotiate with them. We have to open up this way of negotiation and finding a way to rescue Afghans from the clutches of those who are used against the national interest of the country or have been forced. If we continue the war, what happens? A lot of wars have taken place in this region and in the country; let's even forget about the Taliban, how many people were killed between local commanders? What message you have for the families of those people? Did people not rise and kill each other and fight each other? We are facing a crisis. We need to work on trust building; we should not further cultivate the seeds split among the people of Afghanistan and not bring face-to-face with each other and say this and that are to be blamed that for those who have been killed. Yes, regarding those who are carrying out the terrorist actions, everyone condemns them. Also, we should not forget that all the people of Afghanistan are not terrorists. All the Taliban are not terrorists.
[Kakar] Those who are carrying out these attacks, are you calling them terrorists?
[Stanikzai] Those who are carrying out these attacks, and they are caught red handed according to the law, they should be punished. However, the issue of negotiation is totally different.
[Kakar] However, would you yourself call them terrorists?
[Stanikzai] I am saying that if someone kills an Afghan then, of course, why not, he is a terrorist.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, my final question is the issue of negotiation with the opposition. One its strongest dimensions is foreign involvement, you mentioned it yourself in your discussions. How can you gain the trust of the Pakistanis in this negotiation, as it has been said that they can and they are playing a vital role in the process of peacemaking in Afghanistan?
[Stanikzai] This is one of the fundamental issues and there are already some discussions under way with the Pakistanis. There are very frank and clear discussions with the Pakistanis. You are aware that, as a result of this dialogue, a joint high commission at the level of the heads of both governments has been agreed and there should be comprehensive and deep discussion about different issues. I strongly believe that, if an honest cooperation starts between the two countries, the problems of Afghanistan can rapidly change, rather than if we try to sort everything through war and violence. Whatever we do, we have to take into consideration the national interest of our country as every country gives priority to its national interests.