President Biden has announced that the United States will withdraw all remaining military forces from Afghanistan before September 11, 2021 — likely marking a definitive end to America’s longest war just months before its two-decade anniversary. The decision fundamentally changes the dynamics of the Afghan peace process, as the Taliban have defined their insurgency by opposition to perceived occupation by foreign troops. With those troops leaving, will the Taliban negotiate with fellow Afghans or seek an outright military victory? And will U.S. troop withdrawal push Afghans to unify around preserving the current democratic constitution, or to seek deals that give the Taliban more power in a political settlement to the conflict?
On the diplomatic side, President Biden’s announcement comes on the heels of a major effort to increase momentum for the Afghan peace process. Just one day prior to the decision, the United Nations, Turkey and Qatar had announced dates for the Istanbul Conference on the Afghanistan Peace Process, where high-ranking officials from the Afghan government and Taliban were meant to convene on April 24. After weeks of refusing to confirm, a Taliban spokesperson subsequently announced the insurgent group will not participate in any foreign conferences on Afghanistan’s future until all troops are gone, leaving the fate of the Istanbul talks — as well as that of the Afghan Republic — even more uncertain.
On April 21, USIP hosted a discussion with leading experts on the immediate implications of these developments, as well as a look at what the future of the Afghan conflict and peace process might look like as U.S. troops begin a final withdrawal from the country.
Continue the conversation on Twitter with #AfghanPeace.
Partner, QARA Consulting, LLC
Program Director, Asia, International Crisis Group
Senior Expert on Afghanistan Peace Processes, U.S. Institute of Peace
Afghan Government Negotiation Team Member; Chairman of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission
Country Director, Lapis Communications
Scott Worden, moderator
Director, Afghanistan and Central Asia Programs, U.S. Institute of Peace