A 12-part document entitled “Afghanistan`s Bonn Agreement: A Catalog of Missed Opportunities,” published today by Human Rights Watch, analyzes conditions in the country one year after the agreement that formalized the end of the Taliban regime. The briefing paper outlines a number of areas where the Afghan government and international actors have missed opportunities to improve security and protect human rights. Human Rights Watch makes several recommendations to international and Afghan actors to help implement important provisions of the agreement. Much has happened in Afghanistan since 2001 and uncertainty over the country`s political future is greater, with the transfer of security over, the conflict with the Taliban continuing – despite attempts to start a reconciliation dialogue in Qatar, the withdrawal of international troops is progressing and the 2014 presidential elections are approaching. While the situation on the ground is very different from that of the signing of the Bonn Agreement nearly a dozen years ago, Bonn`s experience can, to some extent, fuel current thinking on Afghanistan`s impending political transition. If we think about these issues, we would probably talk more about how some of the Bonn-era players, who are still important political players today, than about how the political transition could take place in 2014. While some may be excited about behind-the-scenes negotiations, ministerial and other positions are allocated in advance, and perhaps even hoping for an external unit that could serve as a “broker,” the key factors that made the Bonn process viable and kept it for three years no longer exist. Whatever is decided in advance, things could go wrong before, during or after the 2014 presidential elections. Moreover, not all agreements between different actors and political groups (sometimes called the “national agenda”) would necessarily have the international strength and perseverance of the Bonn agreement. Although there may be similarities with some of Bonn`s characteristics, a Bonn scenario seems unlikely for the current political transition.
Nevertheless, the Bonn experience offers an illuminating counterpoint to weave and inform reflection on 2014. Second, the Bonn negotiations were kept on track by strong international pressure (and, in fact, not to fail) in order to quickly conclude an agreement and ensure the timely implementation of the Bonn Roadmap over the next three years. Although the 2014 presidential elections offer a closing period for all pre-election negotiations, their success is not guaranteed. In many ways, the first mistake began before the Bonn conference, at which the convening of the UN headquarters was postponed until the end of November 2001, despite calls from my office to convene such a meeting in October, before the fall of the Taliban. This delay allowed the Northern Alliance (NA) to retake two-thirds of the country, putting participants in Bonn in front of the fait accompli. The result was that the AN successfully claimed the lion`s share of the ministries of the interim administration, allowing warlords and NA commanders to retain or occupy many key positions in the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).