Is the High Council for National Reconciliation a spectator or mediator in the peace process?

According to the political agreement signed between Ghani and Abdullah on May 17, 2020, the leadership of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) is one of the basic duties of Abdullah Abdullah, the chairperson of this council. In addition, the leadership of the peace process is under the authority of this council. Creating national, regional, and international consensus is one of the main tasks of the High Council for National Reconciliation. At the same time, Abdullah Abdullah and Hanif Atmar traveled to the region in search of a regional consensus, which never materialized.

Even after President Ghani appointed the members and leadership of the High Council after a three-month delay with a decree, today the Presidential Palace and National Security Council are more active in peace efforts than the Council. Although the two bodies must coordinate with the High Council for National Reconciliation in terms of their position and the issue of their declarations on peace, in many cases there is a discrepancy between the positions of the National Reconciliation Council and the positions of the Government of Afghanistan.

Moreover, President Ghani has an advisory role in the peace process, according to the political agreement under which the High Council for National Reconciliation was formed, but as it turns out, he now controls the Council. Abdullah even owes the formation of the Council to a declaration issued by the heads of the EU Delegations in Kabul on November 26, 2020, in which they called for the immediate start of the work of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

In a situation where the two sides are at daggers drawn, the need of the hour is for the High Council for National Reconciliation to make its presence felt, rather than leave the task of mediation to foreign countries.

By now, the High Council for National Reconciliation should have opened channels with the Taliban through influential members of the council’s leadership committee, influential ethnic figures, and countries in the region, which would have allowed it to effectively play its role as a mediator in the talks in this time of crisis.

Instead, the HCNR is under the influence of the government and instead of maintaining its position as the reference body in the peace process, in many cases it has taken on the role of spokesperson for one of the parties. It is clear that such an institution cannot gain the necessary trust of the parties to mediate a challenging dispute. This interference of duties has sometimes led to a deepening of conflict and further pessimism about the peace talks on both sides. This politics of playing both sides cannot bring credit to an institution that is responsible for a great and challenging national process. After another stalemate at the peace talks, uncertainty prevails, especially in the HCNR.

At a time when the Taliban in the region are pushing for an interim government and the government is announcing its preparations for war in the spring, the High Council for National Reconciliation must carry out its national duties properly. This institution should not, like a neutral spectator, content itself in publishing idle and ceremonial declarations in a situation where the peace process is on the verge of failure.

Another question that arises is what was the impact of all those costly regional trips on the progress of the peace process? The task of reaching a regional consensus was carried out by Abdullah Abdullah and Hanif Atmar at the same time. Both made several trips to the countries of the region, which resulted in nothing but a process that is on the verge of absolute failure. The High Council for National Reconciliation is looking to Washington to see what plan they have for the Afghan people.

What is clear is that this nation has never had the capacity of solving its problems without the intervention of a foreign mediator. In the present situation, both parties to war and the National Reconciliation Council should have taken the initiative to resolve the impasse, taking into account the interests of the people and the peace and tranquility of the country, but as anyone can see, the High Council for National Reconciliation is more of a spectator.