Government’s Efforts for National Consensus; The Composition of the High Council of State to be Finalized
Informed sources in the government say that efforts to form the High Council of State have accelerated and that the composition of the Council is likely to be finalized and announced in the coming days. According to these sources, President Ghani’s recent meetings with a number of politicians are rooted in the formation of this council. The process of facilitating this consensus is also led by former President Hamid Karzai. Earlier, in a meeting between Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which was mediated by Hamid Karzai, the leader of Hezb-e-Islami agreed to attend the council. A meeting between President Ghani and Salahuddin Rabbani is also scheduled to take place in the coming days with the aim of obtaining the consent of the leader of the Jamiat-e-Islami party to join the council. The High Council of State will have 20 to 25 members, so far the presence of two women in this council is final. However, at the request of the United States and the High Council for National Reconciliation, the share of women is set to increase to four-five members. Sources state that the presence of some politicians in the composition of this council has already been finalized. Earlier, the council was held only in the presence of President Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai and Abdul Rab Rasul Sayaf, but the controversial presence of Hamdullah Mohib and Fazl Mahmood Fazli caused Abdullah and Karzai to cancel their subsequent meetings.
What is the High Council of State about?
On May 17, 2020, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah signed a Political Agreement to form the current government. The agreement was drafted in six parts. The first part of the political agreement called for the establishment of a council under the name of the “High Council of State”. The council was supposed to consist of political leaders and national figures, and its purpose was to “create a political consensus.” The second paragraph of the first part of the agreement states that the council “advises” the president on important national issues. In this way, the members of the High Council of State will have a special government protocol and the necessary security measures will be taken for them.
Informal meetings of the council were held earlier in the presence of Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai and Abdul Rab Rasul Sayaf. For the first time, a meeting was held on November 29 last year to discuss the peace process and the structure of the High Council for National Reconciliation. President Ghani, Hamdullah Moheb, national security adviser, and Fazl Mahmoud Fazli, director of the Administrative Office of the President, also attended the meetings. At a meeting in November last year, Abdullah Abdullah left the meeting in protest, and Hamid Karzai said he would not attend any more due to the presence of these people and the absence of other politicians.
Thus, the next meeting of the High Council of State was held on February 27 with the presence of 15 political figures, including Abdul Rashid Dostum, Mohammad Yonus Qanuni, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Mohammad Karim Khalili, and some other politicians away from the eyes of the media. According to sources, a number of people, including Hamid Karzai at the time, opposed the continuation of such a meeting because they believed that the composition of this council was incomplete and should be announced after determining the ethnic and gender composition. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also wrote a letter to President Ghani on March 7 encouraging him to pursue specific goals for negotiating governance with the Taliban, sharing-power and basic principles with Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai and Abdul Rab Rasol Sayaf should consult. Thus, after that, the efforts to form the High Council of State became more serious.
The Possibility of the High Council for State Composition Announcement in the Coming Days
Sources now say that consultations on finalizing the composition of the High Council of State are in full swing. Meanwhile, former President Hamid Karzai has paved the way for President Ghani to meet with some politicians. In one of these cases, President Ghani met with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Islamic Party (Hezb-e-Islami). The meeting was mediated by Hamid Karzai at his house, and Hekmatyar also supported the council. Sources now state that one of the planned meetings is Ghani’s meeting with Salahuddin Rabbani, the leader of the Jamiat-e-Islami party, which will take place these days. Informed sources, however, see the possibility of a Ghani and Rabbani agreement to be slim.
Thus, it is likely that the composition of the High Council of State will be finalized and announced by the end of this week or early next week. The possible members of this council have been called 20 to 25 people, but according to the sources, it is not certain yet. In the past, Ghani and some other politicians have tried to severely limit the composition of the High Council of State in order to speed up the decision-making process. According to sources, the presence of some people, including two women in the composition of the High Council of State, has been confirmed so far. However, in speaking to Afghan officials, the US Secretary of State emphasized the need to increase the share of women. Sources predict that the share of women in the council will increase to four or five because the High Council for National Reconciliation has also emphasized as such.
Currently, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayaf, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Abdul Rashid Mohammad Mohaqiq, Mohammad Karim Khalili, Sayed Mansoor Naderi, Sayed Hamid Gilani, Atta Mohammad Noor and Hossaini Safi are among those who are in this final lineup. Sources suggest that two vice presidents and a national security adviser will also be added to the group from the presidential palace. At the same time, one of the main issues is the authority of this council since it has been agreed that the council will go beyond the role of consultation and play a role in high-level government decisions. Sources suggest that part of the president’s authority will also be transferred to the council.
Earlier, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said in a statement on Eid al-Fitr that the ownership and management of the peace process would be completely national, and that major decisions in the peace process and the future of Afghanistan would be made with “collective brains”, national consultations and political consensus. The council is being formed at a time when the Istanbul Conference is in a state of ambiguity. Sources in the government state that all efforts are now focused on forming the composition of the High Council of State. These sources state that this meeting will not be held until at least the 4th of July.