Peace diplomacy efforts in Afghanistan

Norway has been engaged in peace diplomacy efforts vis-à-vis the Taliban movement for many years with the aim of promoting contact between key Afghan stakeholders and advancing progress towards a political solution in Afghanistan.

In 2006, Norway decided to establish contact with the Taliban in order to encourage the movement to take part in a political process with the Afghan authorities in power at the time. Since then, Norway has pursued a structured dialogue on human rights, women’s participation in society and humanitarian access, in addition to the efforts to promote peace.

Norway has had various roles in different phases of its peace engagement in Afghanistan. For example, Norway has acted as facilitator of communication between the Taliban leadership and the Karzai Government and subsequently the Ghani Government, as a conduit between the US and the Taliban, and as facilitator of an informal, confidential regional dialogue on Afghanistan. Norway was one of few countries that participated in the Afghan peace negotiations held in Doha from September 2020 until the Taliban’s takeover of power in August 2021. At the invitation of Qatar, Norway sent a small team to support Qatar in hosting the negotiations.

The Taliban’s takeover of power altered the framework for Norwegian efforts in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, Norway continues to have contact with the Taliban in order to support Afghans who are seeking to strengthen rights and promote peace and security in Afghanistan by peaceful means. Norway makes it clear in its dealings with the Taliban that it expects the de facto authorities to comply with Afghanistan’s national and international obligations, work towards more representative governance, and improve the human rights situation. Norway’s initiative to invite the Taliban, members of Afghan civil society and officials from a number of allied countries to meetings in Oslo on 23–25 January 2022 reaffirmed Norway’s long-term commitment to supporting Afghanistan. Norway has experience of facilitating meetings between the Taliban and other stakeholders in Afghanistan, including women, and the Oslo meetings drew on this in line with Norway’s long-term objective to create a space for dialogue to promote a more stable, inclusive Afghanistan. 

Norway’s contact with the Taliban and efforts to encourage contact between other stakeholders in Afghanistan and the Taliban in no way represent legitimisation of the de facto authorities. There are no expectations that this contact will lead to rapid change. However, there is broad support in Afghanistan and at the international level for direct communication with the Taliban on difficult issues with a view to achieving gradual change. Without such communication, there is even less opportunity to challenge the Taliban and the policies of the de facto regime.

Regional involvement in and support for political efforts is essential, and Norway has carried out confidence-building measures over a number of years to promote this. Norway serves as the penholder for Afghanistan in the UN Security Council, which enables Norway to play an important role in international efforts to help the country.