Peace negotiations and truces in Afghanistan

Peace negotiations and truces in Afghanistan

Truces, peace negotiations and reconciliation processes.

Government sources


Peace, Reconciliation and Justice in Afghanistan: Action Plan of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, 31 December 2005.

Afghanistan is taking important steps towards building a stable, lawful and democratic state. At the same time, it is facing with the legacy of egregious human rights violations committed in the context of more than two decades of armed conflict and which has cast a dark shadow over the peaceful and just co-existence of the people. In his report on rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies, the UN Secretary-General has stressed that justice, peace and democracy are not mutually exclusive objectives, but rather mutually reinforcing imperatives. To build sustainable peace and stability, deal with past abuses, reconcile victims, perpetrators and other stakeholders, and to move from a divided past into a shared future is a difficult task in almost any post-conflict situation where institutions tend to be weak, there are few resources, unstable security and a war-affected population. In order to transition into a peaceful life and to strengthen national reconciliation in Afghanistan, the past should be dealt with in a bold and just way that avoids revenge. We should explore ways to build co-existence amongst the citizens of this country based on the principles of tolerance, forgiveness and the requirements of a social order premised on law and order.


Ministerial Statement on Afghanistan, Senator the Hon John Faulkner, MIN100318/10, Department of Defence, 18 March 2010

Australia supports ISAF’s involvement in Afghan-led efforts to reach out to elements of the insurgency that might be prepared to permanently lay down their arms and rejoin their community.  These efforts need to be consistent with the conditions set out by the Afghan Government. This includes acceptance of the Afghan Constitution and severance of links to terrorist groups. The Government has made it clear that we will not negotiate with hardline terrorists like al-Qa’ida.

Political reconciliation and, ultimately, settlement between the Afghan Government and insurgents is essential to a lasting and durable solution. The insurgency is not a monolithic and tightly structured organisation. There are a variety of reasons why different fighters take up arms. And there are also good reasons why some of them might want to contemplate an alternative to fighting.  If provided with options such as employment and training opportunities in their communities, or participation in local decision-making processes, some insurgents may choose the peaceful alternative.

For these reasons, Australia supports Afghan-led reintegration efforts. As announced at the London Conference this year, Australia will contribute $25 million to the proposed Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund, subject to the establishment of appropriate governance arrangements.  I have also agreed to place an ADF officer into ISAF’s newly formed Force Reintegration Cell. This small cell has been set up by General McChrystal to support reintegration as an essential element of his counter-insurgency strategy. It will provide support to the Afghan Government to establish conditions which will give disaffected individuals an incentive to reintegrate into the mainstream.

Parliamentary sources

Musa Qaleh truce and British forces

The Musa Qaleh Agreement, UK Operations in Afghanistan, Thirteenth Report, Defence Committee, House of Commons, United Kingdom, 3 July 2007.

“102. In October 2006, Governor Daoud adopted an approach different from the Platoon House strategy to demonstrate the reach of his authority. The MoD submission states that the Musa Qaleh agreement between Governor Daoud and the tribal elders of Musa Qaleh established an exclusion zone around the town in which ISAF troops would not enter in return for the tribal elders denying Taliban Forces access. The agreement, which General Richards told us had not been supported fully by the US, broke down on 2 February 2007, when the Taliban commander Mullah Ghafour and his forces entered the town.

103. During our visit to Afghanistan in April 2007, some of the Helmand MPs we met in Kabul expressed disquiet at the agreement and clearly believed that a deal had been struck between the UK and the Taliban. General Richards told us categorically that, ‘I did not do a deal with the Taliban; it was something that came out of Governor Daoud and was endorsed by President Karzai for a while’. General Richards also said that the agreement, which had lasted for 143 days, had had unintended positive consequences:

Musa Qaleh in one sense was successful in that 5,000 odd people now bitterly dislike the Taliban because they have seen them in their true light, and do not forget in early February they rebelled against the Taliban in the area and fought against them and arrested Mullah Ghafour, who was then subsequently killed I think on the morning that I left.

104. General Richards told us that similar agreements between the new Governor of Helmand, Asadullah Wafa, and tribal leaders had been negotiated in other parts of Helmand, and also by the US in the East of the country. Such agreements, he said,

allow the local population to take the war into their own hands, if you like, and to govern themselves. Some of them will be successful, others will not, but at some point we will hit on the right formula. If you do not try it, what is the alternative? You are constantly fighting the population, or there is a risk of you constantly fighting the population.

105. The agreement brokered in October 2006 between the Governor of Helmand and tribal elders to exclude Taliban Forces from Musa Qaleh Province proved ultimately unsuccessful. However, the achievement of establishing peaceful conditions in the town for 143 days should not be underestimated. We were told that similar agreements are being negotiated in Helmand and elsewhere. While agreements of this kind carry risks, it is only through dialogue with local communities that a lasting peace will be achieved [emphasis in original].”


Insurgent faction presents Afghan peace plan, Carlotta Gall, The New York Times, 23 March 2010

Representatives of a major insurgent faction have presented a formal 15-point peace plan to the Afghan government, the first concrete proposal to end hostilities since President Hamid Karzai said he would make reconciliation a priority after his re-election last year.

The delegation represents fighters loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar… His representatives met Monday with President Karzai and other Afghan officials in the first formal contact between a major insurgent group and the Afghan government after almost two years of backchannel communications, which diplomats say the United States has supported.

A spokesman for the delegation, Mohammad Daoud Abedi, said the Taliban, which makes up the bulk of the insurgency, would be willing to go along with the plan if a date was set for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. Publicly, a Taliban spokesman denied that.

The plan, titled the National Rescue Agreement, a copy of which was given to The New York Times, sets that date as July 2010, with the withdrawal to be completed within six months.

Afghanistan held secret peace talks with Taliban, Deb Riechmann and Kathy Gannon, AP, 16 March 2010

The arrest of the Taliban’s No. 2 leader has raised some questions about Afghanistan’s involvement in secret peace talks with high ranking members of the group.

Abdul Ali Shamsi, security adviser to the governor of Helmand province, confirmed talks between Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar – second in the Taliban only to one-eyed Mullah Mohammed Omar – and the Afghan government. Several media reports have suggested that Baradar had been in touch with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s representatives, but these are the first details to emerge from the discussions.

U.N. set for more discreet talks with Taliban: envoys, Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, 15 March 2010

The 15-nation U.N. Security Council will discuss Ban’s report on Thursday and vote next week on his recommendation to renew the mandate of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for another 12 months. Ban said UNAMA’s mandate “allows it to provide good offices to support the implementation of Afghan-led reconciliation programs” with which President Hamid Karzai is trying to reach out and offer an amnesty to Taliban insurgents.

“It’s a request for an explicit implicit wink from the council” to allow secret political talks with the Taliban to continue, one U.N. diplomat said. But diplomats said the former U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, had been repeatedly in contact with the Taliban, despite his denial of reports that he met with Taliban representatives in the Middle East earlier this year. One U.N. diplomat dismissed Eide’s denials, saying he “did talk with the Taliban, and on more than one occasion.”

Last shot in Afghanistan, The Diplomat, 19 February 2010

I think there were two stories that came from the conference. One was the idea of buying moderate Taliban–trying to get them to leave the insurgency and join the mainstream in Afghanistan. But there was also a more important, deeper, story on the sidelines of the conference about talking to the leadership of the Taliban and starting to lay the groundwork for a political settlement between the Taliban leadership and the Kabul government.

Afghan neighbours seek common approach to conflict, Simon Cameron-Moore and Darren Butler, Reuters, 26 January 2010

Neighbors of Afghanistan met in Istanbul on Tuesday to find a “single voice” in their approach to the conflict ahead of a major conference in London. Karzai is expected to give details of a programme to “reach out” to Taliban insurgents as part of a political settlement. That plan appeared to win the approval of top Western generals, including General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, who has held out the possibility of talks with the Taliban leadership to end a war now into its ninth year.

Zardari (President, Pakistan) would not be drawn into the plan to negotiate with the Taliban, but told a news conference alongside Karzai on Monday: “If there are any people who are reconcilable, democracy always welcomes them back.”

Truce with Taliban in Afghan district, Carlotta Gall and Sangar Rahimi, NYT, 29 July 2009

The Afghan government said that it had arranged a truce with a group of Taliban in a district in northern Afghanistan in order to allow elections to go ahead on Aug. 20 and allow development projects to proceed in the area. Local elders negotiated the truce with the local Taliban commander in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis Province, and the commander agreed to have election officials open a registration office in the area, said Ahmad Zia Siamak Herawi, a deputy spokesman for President Hamid Karzai.

As U.S. weighs Taliban negotiations, Afghans are already talking, Carlotta Gall, NYT, 11 March 2009

Even as President Obama floated the idea of negotiating with moderate elements of the Taliban, Afghan and foreign officials said that preliminary discussions with the Taliban leadership were already under way and could be developed into more formal talks with the support of the United States.

Secret Talks With Taliban Under Way, Al Jazeera, 27 February 2009

Secret negotiations are under way to bring troops fighting alongside the Taliban into Afghanistan’s political process. The talks, between Taliban-linked mediators, Western officials and the Afghan government, are believed to involve a proposal for the return to Afghanistan of Gulbaldin Hekmatyar, the country’s former prime minister, who has been in hiding for seven years.

A Mad Scramble over Afghanistan, M K Bhadrakumar, Asia Times, 15 October 2008

“What we may expect in the period ahead is a deal whereby the “good” Taliban profess disengagement from al-Qaeda, which the US and its allies will graciously accept, and, in turn, the “good” Taliban won’t insist on the withdrawal of Western forces as a pre-condition. The Saudis will ably lubricate such a deal.

“Ultimately, the objectives of nation-building and legitimate governance in an environment of overall security that allows economic activities and development can only be realized by accommodating native priorities and interests. Washington has been far too prescriptive, creating a US-style presidential system in Kabul and then controlling it. But such a regime will never command respect among Afghans.”

Taliban Disunity, Open Source Center, 2 October 2007

‘Afghan daily says Taleban groups not unified, talks impossible’, Cheragh (Light), 1 26 September 2007, [USG Open Source Center Translated Text]

“The Taleban are divided into the following groups: 1. Afghan Taleban. 2. Foreign Taleban, including Arab, Uzbek, Chechens, Kashmiris and Taleban from Pakistani tribes. The Taleban do not have a unified military structure, they operating like small groups. Ultimately, they are ruled by a 30-member council. Every Taleban commander has autonomy in the region under his command. The Taleban have a loose structure. Moreover, Pakistani officers influence their activities. Each Taleban commander has limited authority in the region under his command. Hence, holding talks with the Taleban is very difficult since they do not have one decisive leader.”

“There are already negative and positive forecasts on the probable talks of the Taleban with the government, considering all these, we could say that the way is clear for both sides, who claim to be honest, to act very honestly at least once. The examination should be free of cheating and deceiving. Then, we can be hopeful that the situation is paved for peace and stability. If it is against what we said, proposal of talks would be a short-term deal. It will be intangible and unsustainable as if they come to a conclusion. But, if it did not carry positive results, it will be an opportunity for preparations and resumption of fighting.”

What chance Afghan peace talks? Chris Morris, BBC News, 25 September 2007.

“The government is putting out feelers, trying to work out whether there is a genuine desire for contact among the central leadership of the Taleban. Finding out what the Taleban really think is not easy. We reached a Taleban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, by phone somewhere in southern Afghanistan.He told the BBC that the government should agree to the Taleban’s demand that foreign troops leave the country, before serious negotiations begin.”


“Senior officials at Nato and the UN say they are interested in the idea of formal discussions between the government and the Taleban, provided that the Afghan constitution is respected. As for the Americans, for a long time their mantra has been “no talks with terrorists”. But it is a little more nuanced now. ‘We would think that this proposal for talks should be handled in such a way by the government of Afghanistan,’ he said, ‘that it does not in any way undermine or prejudice all the important political, social and economic accomplishments that have occurred in this country since 11 September 2001.'”

Talks with the Taliban gain ground, Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, 24 August 2007.

“The process of reconciliation with the Taliban continues on both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. A former top Taliban commander and present member of the Afghan Parliament, Mullah Abdus Salam Rocketti, and the former Taliban ambassador in Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, are two key figures who have been holding talks with Taliban elders in southwestern Afghanistan for a political settlement at the behest of Western coalition forces. On the Pakistani side, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, recently traveled to Quetta, Balochistan province, to meet with local Taliban commanders under Mullah Mansoor (brother of slain Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah), and apparently Rahman made a major breakthrough.

“‘If there is a positive response from the Taliban, it could mean a ceasefire in the near future, at least in Kandahar and Helmand [provinces in southeastern Afghanistan]. Once this process goes on smoothly, it would guarantee regional peace,’ a senior Pakistani official told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity.

“Pakistan’s leadership unanimously agrees that a peace deal with the Taliban is the only solution to the region’s unrest. President General Pervez Musharraf stated as much during the peace jirga involving hundreds of representatives from both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It remains for Washington to commit fully to a permanent policy for a political settlement.

“An official of a Kabul-based European body that has had a major role in facilitating the talks between the Taliban and coalition forces confirmed to Asia Times Online, on condition of anonymity, that high-level talks between Taliban commanders and coalition forces through Rocketti and Zaeef had taken place in an attempt to find a broader political settlement.”

Taliban, US in new round of peace talks, Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, 21 August 2007.

“The few weeks between the visits to Pakistan of Richard Boucher, the US assistant secretary of state who left last week, and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who arrives on September 10, could prove crucial in determining the fate of Afghanistan. This is the timeline for secret three-party talks to establish teega (a Pashtu word for a peace deal that resolves a conflict) between the Western coalition forces in Afghanistan (with Pakistan), the Afghan government, and the anti-coalition insurgents of Afghanistan. The first round of talks has already begun in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, Asia Times Online has learned.

“The talks are based on previous Pakistan-inspired efforts to secure peace deals between the insurgents and the Western coalition in specific areas in Afghanistan with the longer-term goal of incorporating the Taliban into the political process both in Kabul and in provincial governments. The negotiators are Taliban commanders, Pakistani and American intelligence members, and Afghan authorities. The Taliban, under the command of Mullah Mansoor (brother of the legendary Mullah Dadullah, who was killed in battle this year), are in Satellite town, Quetta, to talk of teega. The next rounds are scheduled for Peshawar, the provincial capital of North-West Frontier Province, and in the Waziristan tribal areas with Taliban commanders of the southeastern provinces. Specifically, the deals aim to stop violence in selected areas and give the Taliban limited control of government pending the conclusion of a broader peace deal for the country and the Taliban’s inclusion in some form of national administration.”

Taliban Talks: Secret Negotiations with the Islamists Proved Fruitless, Matthias Gebauer and Holger Stark, Der Spiegel 34/2007, 20 August 2007.

“[The Zürich talks in July of 2005:] Under the supervision of then BND [Germay’s Federal Intelligence Service] director August Hanning, contact with the Taliban was established via a middleman in Afghanistan. Two Taliban from what the intelligence agents call the ‘middle management’ were selected: a stocky, impulsive man nicknamed ‘the commander’ and said to already have fought the Soviets under Mullah Omar; and a younger, more reserved Afghan who acted as an advisor. Both allegedly belong to the circle of people around the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s council of leaders.

“The sensitive question as to whether or not the German government should begin a dialogue with the group — considered a terrorist organization by the United Nations — is currently nagging politicians in Berlin. The country’s official policy is unequivocal: no contact with terrorists is allowed. Like last week. Thomas Steg, deputy government spokesman and a member of the Social Democrat Party (SPD), made a careful remark saying that the issue was that of getting “moderate, reasonable Taliban who are interested in reconstruction and reconciliation” to commit to the peace process. The conservatives promptly intervened.

“The BND was pursuing one goal in particular: It wanted to know whether or not the Taliban were prepared to withdraw from al-Qaida’s embrace. Creating a rift between the two groups is considered by the West as a precondition for the lasting success of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In return, the German government would intensify its involvement in reconstruction by building hospitals, roads and mosques — the sorts of projects that the German public tends to support.

“The Taliban demanded political recognition of the kind once given to Yasser Arafat’s PLO. ‘We do not want to be considered terrorists. We want to be treated as a political force,’ the ‘commander’ is said to have demanded, whereupon the agent leading the BND’s three-man delegation is said to have responded: ‘Then break with al-Qaida.’ The BND agent outlined a multi-stage process in which Berlin would begin by offering civilian aid, to be followed by regular talks — at which point recognition of the Taliban as a political party could be discussed.

“The German talks eventually collapsed, apparently due to the insurgents’ refusal to distance themselves from al-Qaida. The BND took that refusal to mean that the Taliban is not all that interested in civilian reconstruction. But the negotiations only came to an end after eight to 10 weeks of secret diplomacy. The German intelligence agency organized about half a dozen flights from Afghanistan to Europe, shuttling Taliban delegates back and forth. Sometimes the trips were disguised as family visits and sometimes as medical emergencies like that invented to explain the arrival of ‘the commander’ and his advisor.

“The BND terminated the sensitive project because the delegation from Afghanistan was unable to prove it was negotiating in the name of Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shura. Back in Afghanistan, the Taliban leadership is said to have criticized the ‘commander’ and his advisor for this unsuccessful result. Since then, there have been no more talks.”

Taliban Enter Ghazni Province With A White Flag, Musharekat-e Milli,,  14 August 2007.

“The issue of the South Korean residents wasn’t solved this week either. The Taliban requested direct negotiations with South Korean hostages in a political move. Five years ago they were defeated and fled from Ghazni city; today once again they entered Ghazni province officially with a white flag in order to negotiate with representatives of the South Korean government. The interesting point of these political games in Afghanistan is that there are lots of paradoxes in that, on the one hand, the regional peace Jirga stated that terrorism is a huge challenge. But on the other hand, the programmes of the regional peace Jirga haven’t finished yet since Afghanistan is maintaining the security of the Taliban in Ghazni city in order that they can enter successfully and officially along with a white flag into Ghazni city and negotiate with the representatives of the South Korean government.

“However, the Taliban expressed their happiness about the direct negotiations with the South Korean representatives, but the South Korea government didn’t [offer] anything except money to the Taliban. At any rate, the privilege which was received by the Taliban for the direct negotiations with the South Korea representatives blends into this incorrect report, and one can see the sign of further zeal on their faces.”

Musharraf says not all Taliban terrorists, Daily Times, 13 August 2007.

“The Taliban are a part of Afghan society and those among them who are not committed to endless violence must be brought into the political mainstream, President Gen Pervez Musharraf said in an address to the concluding session of the Pak-Afghan Peace Jirga on Sunday, APP reports. “’We must understand the environment. Taliban are a part of Afghan society. Most of them may be ignorant and misguided, but all of them are not diehard militants and fanatics who even defy the most fundamental values of our culture and our faith Islam,’ Gen Musharraf said. He said that military action was necessary against Al Qaeda militants and Taliban diehards who refused to reconcile, but a more comprehensive political and development approach was needed to defeat extremism and ‘Talibanisation’.”

Afghan-Pakistani Joint Peace Jirga Declaration, Afghan Government Press Release,, 12 August 2007.

Afghan leaders urge Taliban truce, Al Jazeera, 9 May 2007.

“There has been growing anger in Afghanistan over civilian deaths in US-led and Nato operations. Outraged by the rising number of civilian deaths, Afghan legislators have approved a bill calling for a truce and talks with the Taliban. The bill passed on Wednesday says military action should be used only in self-defence and calls for a date to be set for the withdrawal of US-led and Nato troops.

Taliban Truce in District of Afghanistan Sets Off Debate, Carlotta Gall and Abdul Waheed Wafa, New York Times, 2 December 2006.

Taliban Reconciliation Fails To Tackle The Real Issues, Kabul Weekly,, 17 August 2006

“Tom Koenigs, the special representative of the United Nations to Afghanistan, in a press conference last week, said that the absence of the Taliban at the Bonn Conference was a massive mistake that is now contributing to the growing number of Afghanistan’s enemies. He said he is hopeful that the reconciliation process with Taliban forces would expand and speed up. These statements by Mr. Koenigs take place at a time when the government has been asking the Taliban in the past four years to give up their weapons and start a civilian life. One of these efforts is the establishment of a commission under the name of the Reconciliation Commission, led by Sebghatullah Mujaddidi, the chairman of the senate, last year.”


Musa Qala truce

Musa Qala, Wikipedia.

Helmand: A Kinder, Gentler Taleban? Aziz Ahmad Tassal, Afghan Recovery Report N. 264, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 21 August 2007.

“In contrast to the rest of Helmand, security is good in Musa Qala. There is little crime, and the bitter battles that have scarred surrounding areas seem far away. Nor do residents live in fear that the Taleban are coming – they are already here. ‘The Taleban control everything in Musa Qala,’ said Mohammad Aref, 26, a shopkeeper in Musa Qala bazaar. ‘They have reinstated some traditions from their old regime of five years ago. They collect food rations from every house, and they drive around in their trucks. But the Taleban don’t treat people badly, the way they did before. They are very calm and they respect people. Everyone is happy with them.’

“So far, there is little sign that either the Afghan government or the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, is ready to intervene and change the status quo. ‘We have no plans to recapture Musa Qala,’ said Ghulam Mahayuddin Ghuri, commander-in-chief of the Third Corps of the Afghan National Army.  Face to face with the Taleban, residents like Mohammad Aref are making the best of things. ‘People are very happy that the Taleban have brought security,’ he said. ‘And they are not forcing families to give them a male fighter, like they used to.'”

The Stance Of The Mujahideen Of The Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan, Press Committee of the Islamic Emirate, Al-Emerah,, 4 February 2007.

“As you may well know, last year as a result of severe face-to-face attacks of the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Musa Qala district of Helmand province, the invader forces and the puppet government forces were faced with many problems and as a result the invader forces repeatedly appealed for a peace agreement through the local elders and influential players. Finally the proposal was accepted by the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate on one condition: that “the invader forces should expel their forces from the centre of Musa Qala and its related surroundings without any preconditions and that they should submit the administration of this to local tribal elders and that they should never enter the region in the future.

“The invaders accepted the condition and they left the district within a week so that until a little while ago the administration was left in the hands of the local elders. The invaders violated the signed agreement and they did not respect the local and tribal elders; they bombed most parts of Musa Qala and as a result some of the civilians were martyred and houses ruined.

“Then the Mujahideen asked the tribal elders whether they were able to prevent the invaders from conducting their military operations. They said that they were unable to do so. After that, the Mujahideen took matters into their own hands and dispatched forces to the centre of Musa Qala last Thursday and took over the control of the whole district from the local elders.

“The truce was violated by the invaders; neither did they fulfil their promises, nor did they respect the tribal elders. The Mujahideen will never sign such a peace agreement again, but if the people of the district request a strong guarantee from the invaders in order to prevent civilian casualties, then the Mujahideen will act in accordance with the requests of their elders.”

Taliban Truce in District of Afghanistan Sets Off Debate, Carlotta Gall and Abdul Waheed Wafa, New York Times, 2 December 2006.

US envoy attacks British truce with Taliban, Tom Coghlan and Damien McElroy , Daily Telegraph, 25/10/2006.

See also



Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Additional research: Arabella Imhoff
Ronald Li
Updated: 8 April 2010