A recent Open Letter to President Obama written by a host of well-known and experienced Afghan experts, which includes a recommendation to end the escalating war in Afghanistan and Pakistan through a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban, presents itself as a realistic new alternative.
This "call to reason" comes from individuals purportedly well-equipped to recommend a workable solution that fits the needs of the United States, its Western allies and, of course, the affected populations of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Unfortunately, when it comes to Afghanistan and the Taliban what passes for reason has already been revealed as a series of loaded arguments based on false assumptions which repeat exactly the same mantras that produced Afghanistan's Taliban tragedy to begin with. And this letter is no exception. During the Clinton administration the pressure came to recognize a Taliban regime that had seized control through the direct efforts of America's ally Pakistan. Posing as an indigenous force the Taliban fooled the war-weary Afghans into laying down their arms but upon assuming control acted as vicious occupiers while engaging in brutality towards women and the ethnic cleaning of Afghanistan's non-Pashtun minorities. Now we are told again that the "Taliban today are now a national movement."
Yet today's Taliban are no more a national movement chosen by the Afghan people than they were in the 1990s. The only difference to today's Taliban is in their level of military sophistication and their ability to control the false narrative of their creation to their advantage. Today's new Taliban narrative amounts to a formula for state collapse. So why is this distinguished group of experts willing to accept it? One cannot rightly blame this group for its effort at reconciliation with the Taliban when no other viable options are known to be available. However, the clear defect in the open letter and all other medicaments bandied about to date is the lack of genuine indigenous feedback. And this is exactly what we at the New World Strategies Coalition (NWSC) firmly believe, because there is only one solution for peace in Afghanistan -- and that is an Afghan solution. Fixing the problem does not lie in a presupposed remedy but in the process itself -- one constructed from scratch that will place the totality of the future design of the Afghan state into the hands of the Afghan people. It's time to abandon the standard approach of purely focusing on U.S. and NATO collective security interests at the expense of Afghanistan's national interests. And the NWSC rejects the notion that we have to work with Afghanistan as it is and not how it can be. Contrary to the conventional wisdom espoused in the open letter being pushed by the likes of Alex Strick van Linschoten, co-editor of My Life With the Taliban, Afghans do not have to choose between the lesser of two evils -- Karzai or the Taliban -- because there is another path to peace and national reconciliation. The current situation is so intractable that to fix it requires more than simply "thinking outside the box" -- it requires throwing the entire box away, as Afghans symbolically tell friend and foe alike a new age is dawning. Afghanistan in its current state is unrecognizable to most Afghans anyway; hence a major paradigm shift is in order. We propose restoring indigenous tribal institutions and resuscitating national solidarity by holding a series of three "All-Afghan Jirgas" to select a new national government and leadership -- the first two of which will be conducted in neutral foreign countries outside of the destabilizing and corruptive war zone, with the finale held back home in Afghanistan to announce the results of a legitimate national self-determination movement that will express the true will of the Afghan people.
This plan might sound similar to the Bonn Process that established Afghanistan's current system of government, yet no foreign influence will be allowed. The Bonn Accord, in contrast, was crafted under UN auspices with heavy involvement from Westerners and other regional actors and is the source of much of today's chaos. The U.S. installed Karzai as a puppet, violating the wishes of three fourths of the delegates at the 2002 Loya Jirga.
And the ultra-centralization that the Americans afforded to be written into the Afghan constitution has been almost as tragic a mistake as propping up Karzai in the first place, enabling maligned actors to indulge in unprecedented levels of graft and corruption. The NWSC has developed a game-changing process and a tool, outlined in a white paper entitled Afghanistan National Reconciliation, which will revive Afghan nationalism and empower Afghanistan's "silent majority", so they can, finally, choose their own destiny.