The Honorable Don Ritter, Sc.D., Chairman
Member of Congress 1979-1993
209 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 700
Washington, D.C., USA 20003
Tele (202) 543-1177
Fax (202) 543-7931 & (202) 543-1942
For more information:
Dr. Tom Greene, Executive Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 14, 1999
Assassination Endangers Potential for Afghan Peace
The Afghanistan Foundation strongly condemns the assassination earlier this week of family members of Afghan Commander Abdul Haq in Peshawar, Pakistan. A prominent figure and U.S. ally in the Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation, Abdul Haq assisted UN peace efforts as a mediator and serves as a key architect of the Intra-Afghan Dialogue process. He remains a consistent voice of moderation among Afghan leaders as the dialogue process gains momentum.
The murders of Haq’s wife, eleven-year-old son, and bodyguard are only the latest in a series of violent killings that have attempted to silence moderate Afghan leaders actively involved in efforts to end the conflict in Afghanistan through peaceful negotiation. The rising numbers of violent acts against Afghan leaders of Abdul Haq’s stature indicate that the Afghan crisis has escalated to a new level.
The Afghanistan Foundation and its Chairman, former Congressman Don Ritter, believe strongly that a solution to the continuing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan can occur only if multi-ethnic, pluralistic, and representative institutions are revived and promoted through efforts such as the Intra-Afghan Dialogue process. It is of grave concern to the Foundation that Afghans involved in such efforts are now actively undermined with impunity.
Recent assassinations and the murder of Abdul Haq’s family are not the only indications that peaceful negotiation efforts are under attack. The ruling Taliban faction, which controls 90 percent of the country, recently rejected the creation of a "mediating party" by two moderate Afghan leaders. The Association for Peace and National Unity for Afghanistan has recently sought rapprochement among the warring factions. In response, the Taliban announced through state radio that "the time for negotiated settlement is over" and that the only solution to the conflict is a military defeat of all opposition to the Taliban.
The chilling effect that the threat of violence will have on those seeking a just and durable solution to the Afghan crisis highlights the urgent need for U.S. engagement in Afghanistan and support of broad-based peace efforts like the Intra-Afghan Dialogue. The process has expanded substantially from an initial meeting of twelve Afghans in Frankfurt, Germany in 1996 to over 200 in Bonn, Germany in July of 1998. Representatives from all of Afghanistan’s provinces and ethnic groups, including tribal leaders, religious leaders, intellectuals, factional leaders, prominent non-aligned Afghans, and key representatives of humanitarian aid organizations have actively participated in the ongoing effort to convene traditional representative institutions.
Despite the critical and historic role that the Afghan people played in partnership with the United States to bring about an end to the Cold War, high-level U.S. policy makers have devoted relatively limited attention to Afghanistan. The Foundation believes that the U.S. has underestimated its interests in Afghanistan. Our efforts to combat international terrorism and narcotics trafficking and our capacity to encourage energy and economic development in Central Asia largely center on how events unfold in Afghanistan. As a result of its neglect, the U.S. has lost several opportunities to act, thereby handing regional powers with parochial interests the chance to advance their own agendas at the expense of U.S. interests and security.
The U.S. has an opportunity and an obligation to fulfill its historic and moral debt to the war-weary Afghan people. The U.S. must condemn such acts of violence and must support peaceful efforts to end the conflict through active, high-level engagement in Afghanistan. It is also imperative that the U.S. urge local authorities in Pakistan to launch an investigation and prosecute those responsible for the murder of Abdul Haq’s family members.
The U.S. must aggressively work to end the suffering of the Afghan people and to support a stable, independent, and peaceful Afghanistan that encompasses the values that we shared when we fought together to expel the Soviets. If the U.S. does not now elevate its policy toward Afghanistan to a level of priority equal to the interests it has at stake, beyond any historical debt, we will pay a staggering price for our inaction.