By Lt Col Farhan Ali, Pakistan Army, US Central Command: Strategy Plans and Policy Directorate; Combined Strategic Analysis Group
3 Feb 2021
Almost 20 years in, the Afghanistan war has entered a phase where the peace dividend outweighs the potential benefits of continued conflict. Major warring parties have reached a stalemate as NATO cannot eliminate the insurgents and the Taliban cannot oust the foreign forces. While both sides may have the capacity and/or the will to continue fighting, neither is likely to achieve tangible gains in the foreseeable future. The conflict, however, suits some who thrive on the instability and anarchy. Those spoilers serve their own narrow self-interests by countering efforts to bring peace to this war-torn country. To logically conclude the Afghan War, NATO forces must: pursue an orderly and well calibrated withdrawal; leave a relatively stable Afghanistan which is at peace within; and address regional and broader security concerns emanating from Afghanistan.
- The Afghanistan war has entered a phase where the peace dividend outweighs the potential benefits of continued conflict.
- Coalition efforts have nearly eliminated the threat emanating from Afghanistan, the country is no longer a primary US security interest.
- All parties involved in the conflict have a stake in its resolution and must share the responsibility as well.
- The International community must remain cognizant of conflicting interests of some in the Afghan Government, violent extremist organizations, certain regional countries, and parties who thrive on the war and drug economy.
- A chaotic US withdrawal or a collapse of the current peace process would generate space for violent extremist organizations and transnational criminal organizations to operate in Afghanistan.
- The true frame of reference identifies the conflict’s two major parties as the Taliban and the US, with Afghan forces of subsidiary importance.
- The Doha Peace Process is the logical way forward, so it demands perseverance, commitment, and willingness by all to concede, cooperate, and agree for an inclusive outcome.
- Due to Afghanistan’s tribal socio-cultural traditions and financial/institutional instability, the international community must have realistic expectations from the Peace Process.
The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.