Recent positive developments in the Afghan peace process have renewed hopes that the country’s 17-year-old conflict could come to a close. Direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, however, are likely to involve complex constitutional questions. This Special Report provides a practical resource to guide Afghan and international policymakers’ thinking on crucial aspects of a possible peace agenda.

Summary

  • Following several months of US-Taliban talks on the international dimensions of the Afghan conflict, attention is expected to increasingly turn to the goal of intra-Afghan negotiations.
  • During 2018, the Afghan government and the Taliban separately released their most detailed visions for peace to date. A key sticking point is likely to be the possible review of Afghanistan’s constitution offered by the Afghan government.
  • Key questions include who would draft constitutional amendments, how these amendments would be approved, and how existing amendment procedures might be followed. These questions are likely to become proxy battlegrounds in the political contest over the legitimacy of the existing constitutional order.
  • The main substantive issues that could be raised in a constitutional review include the organization of the Afghan state; the fundamental rights of Afghan citizens, especially women; and Afghanistan’s foreign policy orientation.
  • The role of the Taliban in the Afghan political system immediately following the signing of a potential peace agreement will also be a fulcrum point for negotiations. This issue broadly comes down to the government’s proposal for the demobilization and integration of the Taliban into the current order and the group’s controversial calls for an interim government.
  • Afghan stakeholders should devote early efforts to developing common positions on these key procedural and substantive issues. They should also seek to ascertain to what extent Taliban positions on political and social issues have evolved since they ruled Afghanistan.
  • If and when intra-Afghan peace talks begin, preparation on these key issues could reap important strategic benefits for Afghanistan relative to security, stability, national cohesion, and social uplift.

About the Report

The Afghan government has expressed a conditional willingness to negotiate a review of the nation’s constitution and to integrate the Taliban into the Afghan polity as part of potential peace talks. Supported by USIP’s Asia Center, this report provides Afghan and international policymakers with a practical resource to address procedural and substantive issues implicated by this part of an intra-Afghan peace process.

About the Author

Sean Kane worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2014. He was also an adviser to the 2006–7 Iraqi constitutional review process and facilitated local constitutional dialogues in Libya. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or any other organization.

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