This article by IWP student MAJ Adam MacAllister was published in the Small Wars Journal. MAJ MacAllister is an Active Duty Infantry Officer and has served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Please click here to view the whole article.
The policy of reconciliation and reintegration in Afghanistan is not a new concept, but in 2010 it has received renewed emphasis. This, in large part, is due to NATO’s acceptance of President Hamid Karzai’s withdrawal timeline – a timeline that advocates 2014 as the final year of Coalition occupation. Focusing on Afghanistan’s future takes the casual observer in many directions that includes an analysis of economic matters, geo-political alliances, and the daunting potential of a reinvigorated extremist presence inside of the country. Additionally, given the importance of cultural geography, it can be argued that another significant factor is being purposefully overlooked. The critical factor in question is the close examina-tion of the key players associated with the current Afghan reconciliation and reintegration program. And yet, it is believed that “absent a viable, broad-based reintegration and reconciliation plan, the Afghan conflict will not end within a politically acceptable timeframe.”
Well articulated by Dr. Amin Tarzi, director of Middle East Studies at the Marine Corps University, the current reconciliation and reintegration program, originally articulated in the Bonn Agreement of 2001, has suffered continuous ambiguity, an absence of clear objectives, and competing, if not contradictory, efforts by ISAF and Afghan Government officials. This point is made even more salient by the recent imposter who posed as the number two Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who received an audience with the Afghan President and intelligence officials. Consequences of events such as these could precipitate the undesired movement towards personali-ties for which we are historically familiar. Specifically, a reliance on the personality of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar could be a par-ticularly fateful decision by Afghan and ISAF leaders.
The reintegration and reconciliation process is a critical element in the long-term success of Afghanistan. The process relies upon prudent decision making, which potentially runs counter to a socio-political environment that is seeking immediate successes to bolster its strength and legitimacy. The purpose of this paper is to inform the reader of the historical role that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has played in the history of Afghanistan and demonstrate why his exclusion from the current reconciliation and reintegration efforts is absolutely critical to the long-term objectives of Afghanistan and the region. This is a matter of pragmatism and not one of social relativism or mirror imaging.
There are many who believe that as a foreigner it is our obligation to appreciate and accept the cultural norms in Afghanistan that cater to survival and the attainment of power. In 1857, Joseph Ferrier described this pension for reinvention best when he said, “they will change their protectors as often as it suits them; for fear and the greed of gain are the only motives which influence their conduct, but they rarely pay their tribute to whichever suzerain they attach themselves for the time.” He then continued, saying that this trait “has existed from the earliest times, and will certainly be the same a thousand years hence.”