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Any agreed Afghanistan settlement should have regional support: Experts

  • April 30, 2021

ISLAMABAD   –  The Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East Africa (CAMEA) at the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI) held a panel discussion titled The Next Chapter for Afghanistan today. The distinguished panel of experts included: Mr. Mirwais Yasini, Former Deputy Speaker of the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament; Dr. Jonathan Schroden, Director of Countering Threats and Challenges Program (CTCP) at the Centre for Naval Analyses (CNA); Ms.Suzanne Schroeder, independent analyst on Afghanistan and Ambassador Riaz M. Khan, former foreign secretary of Pakistan. Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Director General ISSI and Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BOG ISSI joined in the interactive discussion which followed.

During her introductory remarks Ms. Amina Khan, Director CAMEA, said that while President Biden has stated his withdrawal plan, the onus has been shifted on the Afghans. 

The four month period is meant to provide the Taliban and the Afghan government room to demonstrate their willingness to compromise and ultimately achieve negotiated settlement. However, there are serious concerns as to whether both sides will be able to accommodate each other and agree on a workable compromise as well as fears of  the possibility of a rejuvenated civil war after US troops leave. 

Answering a question on what policy does he envisage from Biden’s policy and what does he visualise for the future of the peace process, Mr. Yasini first outlined the history of the violence in Afghanistan and elucidated how internal corruption also contributed to the damage in the country. 

He said that Afghanistan fought the war against terrorism for the whole world. Similarly, he hoped that President Biden and the international community would not abandon Afghanistan. 

Dr. Schroden outlined how the US experience with terrorist groups was more problematic in places where the internal structure of the country has completely broken down because complete state collapse leaves space for terrorist groups to fill the void. 

He believed that the US administration would try and navigate its way through the various players and it should be expected that the Biden administration would continue to try and generate as much leverage as possible without leaving its troops on ground.

On the topic of the chances of a civil war happening, Ambassador Riaz M. Khan said that elongation of US presence in Afghanistan would lend some legitimacy to the Taliban to continue fighting and would continue to prolong the status quo. He stated that over time the Taliban have also realised that international cooperation is a requisite and that they will remain isolated if any military ventures are undertaken. Concurrently, sustainable peace will have to start with certain recognition of the Taliban because they have proved that they are a part of the political landscape of Afghanistan. 

Ms. Schroeder sketched how over time the Taliban have gained a certain level of legitimacy. Even though splits within the Taliban can be taken as an indicator of a brewing civil war, what is more problematic is the strengthening of private militias and increasing sectarian fault lines in Afghanistan. Moreover, there is the absence of a strong government structure across the country. Now the US needs to regard the Taliban through a different lens but this in no way means to let go of the violence.

During the interactive discussion, Ambassador Aizaz stated that a major concern is that once the US forces withdraw and the attention of Afghan factions is towards infighting, the focus of militants – especially Al-Qaeda and ISIS – will be in the direction of ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan. 

Ambassador Khalid outlined different scenarios of what Biden’s proposed withdrawal would entail for Afghanistan. He said that any agreed settlement should enjoy regional support as well otherwise it will be very fragile.


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