AFGHANISTAN’S WAY FORWARD
The Conservative Friends of Afghanistan (CFA) is an influential British lobby group, based in London, and supported by a wide range of Conservative MP’s. CFA’s mission is to provide independent analysis and engage in campaigning, advocacy, policy-work and lobbying to improve understanding of Afghanistan’s complex context and propose new mechanisms and solutions through influencing decision-makers within the Conservative Party, UK Government and international partners.
Her Afghanistan is an online platform that provides technical support to Afghan females in the field of Technology, Foreign Policy, Security and Peace. Her Afghanistan partners with other organizations to conduct strategic level discussions and studies for issues relating to Afghanistan.
The recommendations expressed in this report are those of the panelists and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conservative Friends of Afghanistan or Her Afghanistan. The panelists made recommendations that pertain to issues in the five areas the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GOIRA) grapples with on a regular basis:
(1) US-Afghanistan affairs;
(3) Foreign Policy;
(4) Intra-Afghan negotiations;
(5) International development
The intention of The Conservative Friends of Afghanistan and Her Afghanistan is to enhance the ongoing efforts through discussions. They also aim to advocate for the implementation of the recommendations made by the panelists.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
The Conservative Friends of Afghanistan in partnership Her Afghanistan held a panel discussion on ‘Afghanistan’s Way Forward and Recommendations to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GOIRA) and its International Partners.’ On 29th February 2020, the US Special Envoy Zalmai Khalilzad signed an agreement with the Taliban for a non-military solution. Since the landmark signing, efforts to reach the next phase in the Afghanistan peace process have faced numerous obstacles. The recommendations proposed to Conservative Friends of Afghanistan with Her Afghanistan are based on discussion held on 18th May 2020.
The upcoming elections to be held in the United States will determine the course of engagement between the US administration and the Afghan Government because of the strong bipartisan support for withdrawing forces from Afghanistan. The Trump administration is committed to withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan by the time of the US primary elections. There have been tremendous regional endeavors to support the Intra Afghan negotiations. However, the panelists in the online webinar made it clear that merely envisioning a comprehensive peace agreement for Afghanistan is not enough, there is a need to enhancee several elements to build the nation.
To optimize the opportunities for success going forward, it is broadly agreed that the Afghan government and its international partners should continue to focus strategic efforts on addressing six key challenges. First, understanding Afghan grievances. Second, incremental improvements in the endeavors to reintegrate the Afghan Taliban into society. There is also a need to address the corrosive effects of integrating the Taliban into Afghan society. Third, understanding that the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) are fighting regional and international terrorists and criminal activity, which has spiked in recent years. Fourth, US impatience with the inability of Kabul to launch a formal peace process. Five, fighting and eliminating corruption. Six, managing geo-political pressures.
- US-Afghanistan affairs
To provide short and long-term recommendations for the US and Afghan government that will enable them to come to an agreement and in expediting the peace process. In the long-term, it is essential to conduct sustained discussions between the new administration and the donor community to envision what the financial aid is going to constitute of when there is no US military presence in Afghanistan. The absence of the US military presence provided by the US or NATO is likely to make many donors uncomfortable.
Sufficient financial support to Afghan government will enable it to maintain and sustain the peace process. The first step in this direction will be building the case for continued assistance for maintaining political and economic stability and growth despite donor fatigue and the setback of a post-pandemic economic crisis.
All the leaders of the Afghan security forces must stop appropriating funds, food, fuel and ammunition being provided for the forces. Corruption, in the forces, especially amongst the leadership is a huge problem and significantly undermines the fighting ability of the forces. This is a critical issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
Recruiting for the army should be made a priority. The reason that the Taliban has been able to acquire more territory and control larger tracts is because the Afghan army is significantly short of manpower. This has not been a priority for either the US or Afghan governments for reasons best known to them. This is an agenda that requires renewed attention.
The police force in Afghanistan needs to be completely reformed. The country has too many different types of policing systems. Hence, it becomes ineffective and the police forces are not being utilised properly across the country. As the country looks towards reforms, it needs to look at creating two types of forces. One will be a provincial force, which can operate as effectively as a para-military force in rural areas and a city police force that would operate within cities using community policing models. Such models are used throughout the world.
- Foreign Policy
Professionalize the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is a need to bring together a core policy planning group to prioritize foreign policy focus and issues through an evidence-based approach. Bringing in experts and advisors to lead on foreign policy priorities. This is a necessity as the country battles with myriad issues ranging from security – both internal and external, geo-political, geo-economic, refugee repatriation, narcotics and trans-national smuggling. Afghanistan should reduce tensions with neighbours and address some of these long-standing contentious issues and find practical solutions. As far as the peace and political settlement track is concerned, it is going to be a major driver of foreign policy hereon. We cannot afford to have more dissension and division amongst the leadership of the nation when it comes to the next steps ahead.
- Intra-Afghan negotiations
Trends and data show that the current situation on the ground for the Afghan government is that of an eroding status quo with the Taliban Forces. The Afghan government needs to move forward with the peace process and the deal that has been agreed upon despite how flawed it may be. Given the terrible consequences of the risks involved, the government may want to tread cautiously but there is a need to move ahead without further delay. The death toll in Afghanistan is one of the worst in the world and hence there is a grave need for the negotiations to be conducted at the earliest rather than later when the position of the government may become weaker.
- International Development
Turning the lens on the development needs of Afghanistan in the foreseeable future, we see a situation of increased needs and decreased resources. The intent should always be ensuring that despite the existing limitations, the people of the nation do not suffer. All the players in the developmental sector need to come together and there should be a focus on coordination and collaboration, which has not been there earlier. The Afghan government needs to step up and prioritize areas where it does or does not need international assistance. International partners should work towards empowering the Afghan government to take the lead.