A hopeful article in the Guardian claims that peace discussions between the US and Taliban have reached the stage where the Taliban may open a political office in Qatar to conduct negotiations, and that some of their leaders may be released from Guantanamo. Let us hope this is all true.
Those who have read The Catholic Orangemen of Togo will immediately see that the basic issues mooted in the Guardian are the same I was dealing with as UK Representative to the Sierra Leone peace talks, and indeed the very stuff of conflict resolution – the transformation of opposing armed forces into a political process. Demobilisation, rehabilitation, funding of political activity. It all gets very emotive and sticky. There is another similarity with the Sierra Leone process in that ostensibly the main participant is the government (be it Sierra Leone or Afghanistan) but in fact the real decisions are taken for that government in the West.
Sitting here with my laptop in Ramsgate, I believe that I would be able to make a contribution to the peace process. I am a highly experienced diplomat who knows the region. I am almost uniquely placed, as a western person with high level diplomatic background and experience of treaty negotiation, who might nonetheless be trusted by the Taliban. I resigned my career in an effort to stop the persecution and torture of Central Asiam muslims in the “War on Terror” and have campaigned consistently and in public to end the occupation of Afghanistan. I was Ambassador in neighbouring Uzbekistan and have spent the last three years studying Afghan history.
Whether they realise it or not (and I suspect they do) the Taliban will need assistance and advice in dealing with the peace negotiations and drafting of peace agreements. My opposition to neo-con foreign policy means the UK and US would never use me in the peace talks, and would block my role with any mediating agency. The only possible route to involvement – and a difficult one to achieve – would be to offer my services as an unpaid independent adviser to the Taliban side of the talks. I have at present no route of direct contact to the Taliban: if the office in Qatar materialises, I will turn up and knock at the door.