At Afghan Peace Talks, Hoping To End Their Fathers’ War

In Doha, Qatar, peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are taking place, hoping to end their fathers’ war. Since the opening session on September 12th, negotiations have occurred to establish a peaceful solution to the extensive conflict in the region. On both sides, the children of the men who played key roles in the Soviet dispute in the 1980’s carry legacies of substantial loss, along with crimes committed by their own generation. As both sides intend to end this cycle of violence, an agreement has never been so crucial, considering a failure of a mutual deal could break into another civil war.

In an interview given to the New York Times, Fatima Gailani, President of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, stated, “If we lose this opportunity, we have lost Afghanistan.” Fatima is the daughter of Ahmad Gailani, the leader of the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan who battled against the Soviet Union in their occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Fatima’s father convinced her to call off her pursuit of a Ph.D. to become a spokeswoman for the Mujahideen, members of the guerrilla groups during the Afghan War. However, the outcome was not what she hoped, as the majority of members believed women had no place in the government. Now, Fatima is determined to create peace in Afghanistan, while protecting women’s rights. “If we lose this opportunity, we have betrayed the people of Afghanistan — we have betrayed every child, every woman, above all we have betrayed the people who died in this war,” she said.

The Taliban side consists of children whose fathers fought in the anti-Soviet war as well. Anas Haqqani, son of the rebel leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, is one of the negotiators at the table for the Taliban. His father was once an ally with the United States but ended up on the opposite side, as he urged the process of forcing Americans out of Afghanistan. He is responsible for a significant amount of deaths and misery in the war, and although Anas acknowledges the pain his father has caused, he argues his family has been accused of more than it has actually done. 

In order to establish long lasting peace it will require more than just Afghans agreeing in the talks. Both sides must consent to a deal of power-sharing, or another war might be around the corner. Violence is part of Afghanistan’s history and is difficult to overlook, but at least promises can be made to not create more. According to the New York Times, Batour Dostum, son of the former Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, said, “Unfortunately, all sides have made mistakes in the past 40 years, and you can see everyone is tired — everyone just wants to silence the guns,” and added that “We need to learn from the past, we need to be careful in the future not to repeat the mistakes. We are young, we should not be repeating those mistakes.”

The country will still be in need for a great amount of aid, and international partners should be expected to stay active in the region. However, foreign nations should have the future of Afghanistan in mind, and not let political and economic interests guide their involvement. Moreover, one of the most important discussions at the talks will be about women’s rights, as they play a central role for the peace and development of Afghanistan as a country. The concern is that women’s issues will be traded for a possibility of ending the dispute. However, disregarding women’s rights is a counterproductive choice, as their involvement and political participation reduces the risk of war.

During the Soviet occupation, the Afghans and the Taliban fought alongside each other with the goal of achieving independence. Nevertheless, when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988, a power of vacuum remained and both sides turned their guns towards one another. The Afghan Civil War broke out in 1989, and since then the country has experienced a vast amount of violence and misery. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the United States intervened in the conflict to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda, a move that received international criticism for aggravating the conflict even further. However, on February 29th this year, the United States signed a peace agreement with the Taliban to end the 18-year war.

The ongoing talks in Qatar are crucial for the future of Afghanistan, and in order for there to be long term peace in the region, both sides will have to come to an agreement of power-sharing, as long as women’s rights are respected and not infringed upon.