War, and another peace plan
By Syed Saleem Shahazad
ISLAMABAD – As peace overtures with the indigenous Afghan resistance move forward, the United States is stepping up efforts to eliminate al-Qaeda and other foreign militants.
In what could be a severe blow to al-Qaeda, Sheikh Fateh al-Misri, its chief commander in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is reported to have been killed at the weekend in a drone strike in Pakistan. The Egyptian Misri, previously not a member of al-Qaeda, in May replaced Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, who was also killed in a drone attack in the North Waziristan tribal area. 
The development coincides with Washington impressing on all key players in South and Central Asia to combine efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. The groundwork has already been laid for the US to negotiate with the Taliban, with the Pakistani military and Saudi Arabia acting as go-betweens.
However, Taliban sources in the southern regions of Pakistan confirmed to Asia Times Online that while different Taliban groups had been approached, the Americans would prefer to talk to one of the major anti-US forces in Afghanistan, the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) led by former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The HIA is likely to strike a deal with the Americans before the Taliban, and notably HIA fighters showed no hostility during this month’s parliamentary elections in the areas they control in Kunar, Nuristan, Baghlan, Qunduz and Kapisa provinces.
Talking to Asia Times Online from Los Angeles on phone, Hekmatyar’s main negotiator with the Americans, Daoud Abedi, confirmed that in the ongoing backchannel negotiations, Washington is leaning towards the HIA, the reason being that the HIA’s plans for Afghanistan are considered more practical than those of the Taliban. The Taliban are insistent on the revival of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, which crumbled following the US-led invasion of late 2001. The Taliban do, however, agree to give representation in government to “clean” people of other groups.
“At the moment, the HIA’s peace plan, which we presented to the Afghan government early this year, is now the central focus at all relevant forums,” Abedi said.
Abedi was invited by the White House-appointed Afghanistan Study Group and the Center for International Strategic Studies to give a detailed presentation of the HIA’s plan on September 17 in Washington. The plan, “Mesaq Milli Nejat” (Afghanistan Rescue National Agreement) covers internal and external issues .
The plan calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops and a subsequent commitment to expel foreign militants. The draft does not aim to immediately dissolve the government or the presidential parliamentary system. However, it aim is that once foreign forces leave, fresh elections will be held at all levels and power should be transferred accordingly.
“At the moment, the Americans don’t want to make public their viewpoint on this proposed agreement as the [November] mid-term American elections are near. They want to form their opinion next year,” Abedi said.
In the Taliban camp, the activity in the HIA camp is viewed as a bid to divide the resistance.
In parallel with the peace efforts, the top US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, is stepping up the battle, with gunship helicopters this week crossing into Pakistani territory to kill about 50 insurgents. Petraeus has also established an extensive intelligence network in the tribal region. This led to the extremely reclusive Fateh being pinpointed and then eliminated.
According to an American official who spoke to Asia Times Online, peace agreements will slow down the war antics of the insurgents. If the US succeeds in getting a complete ceasefire, that would be good. Alternatively, partial peace agreements would provide breathing space before next summer and increase the pressure on the Taliban to come to terms.
1. Asia Times Online broke the news of Misri’s appointment (seeAl-Qaeda’s new man eyes Pakistan July 8, 2010) and remained the only media outlet to detail his activities (see Tension ramped up a notch in Pakistan July 21, 2010.)
2. The proposed agreement reads:
We, [Afghans] promise to assist each other, to take our country out of its miseries, to end the war forever, have confident security, have an Afghanistan free of foreign forces and foreign interferences, empower our national conciliation, allow our nation to choose their leader(s) and establish our own type of governancebased on our ideology and belief.
In order to reach these holy and high-value goals, we have agreed to the following plan:
1. Foreign forces to start departing from Afghanistan in July of 2010 [the plan was drawn up earlier this year] and complete their departure within six months.
2. Within this time period, the foreign forces are to leave the cities and gather in their military bases for their scheduled departure.
3. Within this period, security to be completely handed over to the Afghan National Army, police, and foreign forces must not have the right to engage in military operations, searching of homes or imprisonment of any person on their own in any part of Afghanistan.
4. The current government and parliament can continue their daily work until according to this agreement an election is held and a newly elected parliament and government is formed, nonetheless, controversial personalities as well as corrupt people, national traitors, atheists and war criminals must not be included in this government; also, leadership of the three branches of the government must not include those members of the parties who have fought on behalf of one party against another.
5. With the agreement of all Afghan parties, a seven-member council in the name of National Security Council will be formed which will have the authority to make the final decisions in regard to important national issues of the country. The head office of this council (NSC) will be in such a province of the country where the security of that province is completely under the control of Afghan security forces and no foreign security force(s) will be present there.
6. After the departure of the foreign forces, elections based on proportional representation should be held simultaneously for the presidency, the House of Representatives, and provincial councils.
7. Those cabinet members and governors of the current government who wish to take part in these elections can do so only if they resign three months prior to the election date from their current governmental positions.
8. In the first elected government, all sides’ shares in the government will be honored based on their achieved percentage of votes, but after the first election the high vote winner in future elections is not obligated to form a coalition government.
9. Those parties or political alliances will have the right to participate in the future elections that received 10% of the votes (of eligible voters) in this first election.
10. A complete ceasefire will be held among all warring sides, all political prisoners are to be released. All sides must promise that from now on they will not search for unconstitutional ways for reaching political goals nor will they take up arms against their political rivals.
11. The first elected council [House of Representatives] has the right to review the drafts of the constitution offered by the three sides and make a final decision in regard to the Afghan constitution.
12. No foreign country has the right to have prisons inAfghanistan, imprison any Afghan or punish him/her, send and take him/her out of Afghanistan for investigation, imprisonment or court processing.
13. Corrupt persons, drug smugglers, thieves of national wealth and war criminals will be handed over to the Afghan courts and no one will have the right to defend them in illegal ways, publicly or privately.
14. After the departure of the foreign forces, foreign fighters will not be [allowed] in Afghanistan.
15. Any internal or external force which disagrees to this reconciliation agreement and insists in the continuation of fighting, we all agree that together we will fight them until we rescue our nation and country from them.