Few have hope for Afghanistan
Supporters of the U.S. government’s decision to withdraw forces from Afghanistan see no path to victory for U.S. forces and NATO allies over the Taliban. Meanwhile, opponents of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal proposal are less interested in the welfare of the Afghan people than in laying the groundwork for developing a terrorist shelter.
However, this general pessimism about the current state of affairs in Afghanistan lacks a central fact: that not since 1979, before the Soviet invasion, there were never as many possibilities for peace as there are now.
Part of this is how neither side of the conflict (neither the Taliban nor the Afghan government) has the capacity to subdue the other.
The Taliban are, at best, a guerrilla insurgency with no capacity to capture the entire country. He has an estimate 50,000 to 60,000 fighters, a force five times less than that of the government. Even during the reign of the Taliban, 15 percent of the country remained under the control of its opposition, the Northern Alliance.
Today it is believed that the Taliban control about 15% of the country and the government claims to control about 50 percent, with the rest contested.
The Taliban have also lost the ability to justify more conflict: in the past, the claim was that foreign invaders had to be expelled. Now, the US and NATO are making a gesture that they are more than ready to hand over the country’s political reigns to national forces.
For the Afghan government, its military support it may appear to be threatened by the withdrawal of the US and NATO. But the downside of troops is not total abandonment. The Afghan government has a military force of 300,000 troops that will remain with financial support by the US and NATO. He US military leadership he has also made it clear that he is willing to use force in the near future if hostilities continue.
These comments and commitments show that the United States will remain behind the scenes, somehow, for years. The elimination of troops does not include the use of advisers, nor the potential use of the air force to make limited and targeted attacks in the future.
It is true that since President Biden announced the withdrawal of American troops, violence has increased across the country, both on the government side and the Taliban. However, these twin demonstrations of strength are best understood as evidence of a strategic positioning; this temporary escalation shows that both parties retain the ability to blow things up and kill each other.
More to the point: this short wave of violence illustrates how neither side can bend the other at will.
What we have is a stalemate, but not without hope.
In this situation, the art of making a sustainable peace depends on interests, some within; others, outside the country, aligning with longer-term perspectives.
What could lead different economic and political interests to consider peace in Afghanistan as desirable?
First, there is a lot of money to be made.
How? There is lithium, natural gas, cobalt, and gold all other types of mineral deposits currently sitting on the floor, intact. Development can mean jobs for the people of Afghanistan, as well as income for all involved. Given that the most pressing issue in the country is fam, a steady stream of money will definitely ease the conflict.
In addition, international projects such as the TAPI gas pipeline, which will transport natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, should strengthen regional peace through cooperation and generate millions of dollars in rights for Afghans and neighboring countries.
The $ 10 billion project will not only provide gas, but will increase regional peace and stability by connecting the economic and energy interests of the countries involved.
There is also the possible refugee catastrophe that can result from the continuation or worsening of the conflict.
Look no further than the Syrian civil war for what may happen if nothing changes or if the conflict gets worse. That conflict shifted more than 50 percent of its population and the consequent refugee crisis added fuel to the xenophobic forces of the far right across Europe. The population of Afghanistan is twice that of Syria. An Afghan refugee crisis would make what happened in Syria seem minimal.
Is Europe ready to receive millions of new refugees?
The European Union has the capacity – and the interest, that is, for fear of another refugee crisis – to use its diplomatic experience to intervene and help the parties to the Afghan conflict to settle and agree.
In history one can find a practical path to peace; in other words that is, the Chapultepec peace accords which ended the more than twelve years of Salvadoran civil war in 1992.
El Salvador had been caught in a civil war that began in the late 1970s. The country broke up as the United States supported the military government and the Soviet Union, Cuba and Nicaragua helped the leftist insurgents of the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front). Years of violence led the parties to the conflict to seek United Nations mediation in 1989. Meeting in 1990, after a resurgence of violence it was shown that neither side could defeat the other. , the peace talks really started.
The resulting peace agreements contained political and economic elements.
Politically, the military came under civilian control, human rights training became part of the reformed police and military forces, and institutions were created to ensure electoral integrity. In addition, the FMLN agreed to lay down its arms and make the transition to a political party.
Economically, land redistribution was promised, as well as creating an institutional space for unions, business leaders, and government officials to discuss politics.
Peace negotiations were successful in ending the conflict, but they did not achieve everything they could have to form a sustainable peace in a post-conflict society. What is positive without any doubt is how the guerrillas became politicians and a multiparty democracy replaced a military dictatorship.
Still, economic reforms took a back seat. This was the critical deficiency of the agreements and that is why El Salvador remains a country devastated by inequality and drug-related violence.
Those who negotiate peace in Afghanistan must learn from the Salvadoran experience.
To begin with, a third mediator, such as the United Nations, is key.
In addition, the Taliban must accept the ceasefire and integrate into the political system. Reports are displayed that this is, in fact, on the table.
Human rights cannot be ignored, especially with regard to women. Even here, despite some predictions of the end of the day of final judgment, the Taliban have made changes, especially with regard to women’s rights. Knowing that they cannot simply erase the freedoms that women have gained in government-controlled areas since 2001, the Taliban’s position has softened on women’s participation in the public sphere, such as the acquisition of education, employment and participation in social life.
These changes should provide hope for the potential future of human rights in the country, not to be despised for not immediately creating a perfect world.
Still, the key to lasting peace lies in economic issues.
The question is how to develop infrastructure and promote mining in ways that benefit the Afghan people by providing employment and resources for critical public services such as education.
For a country as corrupt as Afghanistan, ranked in the top 12 in the world, the danger is that most of the profits will go to a few.
Therefore, economic agreements must be integral to peace negotiations, including the dedication of copyright to the provinces, the promotion of international monitoring to ensure transparency and the goal of spending on infrastructure for schools and hospitals.
This money would help prevent young people from choosing the path of war and instead rebuilding their country. Therefore, local Taliban leaders would have more difficulty recruiting people who wish to devote their time to jobs, families and school.
Taliban leaders will also benefit by getting involved in these companies and seeking to direct resources and provide services to their future constituents.
The international community and most people in Afghanistan agree that war is not the answer. Peace is inevitable, it will be advantageous to most and ultimately possible. The enlightened interest of various stakeholders could lead to a sustainable peace for a people that deserves much more and absolutely no less.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.