DPPC Statement Regarding the Oslo Summit
The Afghanistan-US Democratic Peace and Prosperity Council (DPPC) expresses extreme frustration and regret about the Oslo Summit. For all the good that the Norwegian government may have intended, what the Afghan people will remember most is the imagery of Taliban leadership, including a senior member of the Haqqani network, summoned on a private plane to Europe. Without giving up anything in return, the Taliban got one step closer to normalization on the world stage.
Norway rewarded the Taliban for months of human rights abuses, gender apartheid, ethnic violence and other injustices that followed a violent overthrow of a democratic government and NATO ally. Undoubtedly Afghanistan needs support from its NATO allies and the world will need to interact with the Taliban in order to help the Afghan people. But Afghanistan’s allies must give thoughtful consideration to symbolism, public perception, and its use of both carrots and sticks when dealing with the Taliban. Indeed the symbolism of Taliban leadership traveling freely to Norway, while hundreds of thousands of at-risk Afghans are desperate to receive travel permission to Europe is a cruel irony.
The Oslo summit also sought to foster dialogue between the Taliban and Afghan civil society leaders. Again, while well-intentioned, the effort was misguided. The Taliban are known to be adept at diplomacy and will say what their hosts want to hear. While meeting in a room in Europe, surrounded by westerners, the Taliban’s top diplomats will aim to please. Moreover, since the Taliban’s command structure is so opaque, the ability of this delegation to influence policy or policymakers is unclear at best.
This type of frank dialogue between the Taliban and Civil Society needs to happen in Afghanistan, with all stakeholders and western observers present. We commend the women’s rights activists and human rights defenders who raised the voice of the Afghan people in Oslo, but another sad irony of the summit is that some activists had to use their limited time with the Taliban to plead for the release of women’s rights activists who had been beaten and forcibly removed from their homes by the Taliban last week.
The US and its NATO allies face global challenges from authoritarian regimes like the Taliban. They must not lose sight of the fact that twenty years ago, the US was attacked by Al Qaeda allies of the Taliban. Appeasement is not a viable strategy with the Taliban. The world cannot afford to normalize or legitimize the Taliban unless and until they verifiably meet the following demands:
Stop the unlawful arrest, intimidation, and persecution of women
Create an inclusive and participatory government through local and national elections
Respect and observe the Constitution and other applicable laws
Respect the national flag and societal norms of Afghanistan
Repeal all laws that discriminate against women
Universal education for all Afghans without hindrance or discrimination
Political participation and the right to run for elected office without hindrance or discrimination
The right to work without discrimination
Freedom of expression without censorship
Allow unfettered access for international peacekeepers and humanitarian aid corridors