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Experience file Dossier : Conflict Transformation

Grenoble, May 2009

The Bonn Accords

Neglecting the importance of inclusiveness.

Keywords: | | | | | Afghanistan

This file illustrates the problems that can result from the exclusion at the negociation table of a significant party to the conflict.

The Bonn Accords, signed in December 2001, after the military attack on Afghanistan by the US-led coalition, were supposed to put an end to the conflict. A few years later there was a resurgence of violent conflict. One of the reasons for this is that the negotiations and the agreement did not included all the warring parties.

The conflict in Afghanistan, pre-September the 11th 2001, was a prolonged civil war that ended up being a conflict between two parties: the Taliban, ruling the country, and the different factions that contested their power. Most of these factions gathered within the Northern Alliance when the US led coalition started its attack. Neither of these sides had a good reputation with the population, the main goal of their struggle being for power.

When the US led coalition came into Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks on their country they allied themselves with the Northern Alliance in order to crush Al-Qaeda (and their Taliban allies).

The UN sponsored Bonn Accords were signed in December 2001, but contain several problems:

  • Lack of inclusion of all the actors involved in the conflict as the Taliban, major party in the conflict did not participate;

  • United States influence in the process;

  • And it did not address the root causes of the conflict.

The Bonn Accords were signed by the following parties:

  • The Northern Alliance (primarily Tajik);

  • The Rome Group (representing the former King, Mohammed Zahir Shah);

  • The Cyprus Group (allegedly Iranian-backed);

  • And the Peshawar Group (primarily Pashtun).

Notably absent are the parties making up the Taliban government (see the link below). This is quite obviously a huge problem in a peace agreement, which cannot really claim to be so if one of the main parties in the conflict is missing. The obvious result of this is that a party to the conflict is not represented in the accords or the ensuing government, and cannot express themselves in the political process. The obvious result, which we now see in Afghanistan, is the resurgence of violence.

The influence of the US in the process, though not a problem in itself, in this case (especially with an incomplete presence at the negotiating table) may have increased resentment of those already alienated by the process. Under US leadership the Accords created a model of centralized government, in a country traditionally with strong localism.

The most obvious way in which the conflict did not address the root causes of the conflict is in the lack of representativity in the process. However, it also did not address the root problems of splits down ethnic lines, and the regional influence of the ‘warlords’. The faction leaders used their participation in the process in order to pursue personal power and gain influence rather than achieve stability in the country.

The Bonn Accords neglected the importance of integration and inclusiveness; the Taliban have not been discredited in their fight with the “coalition” forces, on the contrary they were subsequently able to catalyze discontent arising from the slow advance of the reconstruction of the country.


In a peace process, and the creation of a peace agreement it is important to maintain a proper balance between the involvement of internal and external actors. External actors are undoubtedly important in the creation of a peace agreement in the capacity of negotiators, mediators and in order to monitor and aid the implementation process. However though their role is important, it cannot achieve anything without the proper involvement of internal parties in the agreement in the process.


  • 1. The file is based on Modus Operandi’s analysis on the political transformation of conflicts. More extensive analysis can be found in French.

  • 2. Authors of the file are Karine Gatelier and Alexia Stainer.

  • 3. The outcomes of above mentioned research serve as content for the online course on “Post-conflict politics: state and society relations”. For more information, go to or contact Modus Operandi directly at or