This report draws on a series of workshops entitled “Anticipating a Political Process in Afghanistan: How Should the International Community Respond?” These workshops brought together some thirty analysts, both Afghans and foreigners, who have spent many years in Kabul, Kandahar, and other parts of Afghanistan. Participants considered a range of possible scenarios for Afghanistan over the next five years and the drivers of events in Afghanistan, then developed scenarios based on a five-year perspective and constructed along two main axes: the degree of political inclusion and the degree of state capacity and control.

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Summary

  • The proposition that a political settlement is needed to end the war in Afghanistan has gained increasing attention in recent months. Channels for preliminary talks with Taliban leaders have been sought and a High Peace Council created.
  • However, despite upbeat military assessments, the insurgency has expanded its reach across the country and continues to enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan. Afghans increasingly resent the presence of foreign troops, and the Taliban draw strength from grievances by ordinary Afghans against their government. External money to supply military bases and pay for development projects often ends up fueling conflict rather than creating stability.
  • For their part, President Karzai and many Afghan political elites lack genuine commitment to reform, calling into question the viability of a state-building international strategy and transition by 2014.
  • Missing is a political strategy to end the conflict that goes beyond dealing with the Taliban; it must define the kind of state that Afghans are willing to live in and that regional neighbors can endorse. Knowing that such a settlement could take years to conclude does not diminish the urgency of initiating the process.
  • Given doubts about Karzai’s ability to manage the situation effectively, the international community needs to facilitate a peace process more pro-actively than it has. To be sustainable, the process will need to be inclusive; women’s rights, human rights, and media freedoms cannot become casualties of negotiations.
  • Afghanistan’s international partners should commit to a peace process and lay the groundwork to appoint a mediator. This includes gauging the interests of parties, identifying actual participants in talks, and structuring an agenda. In the meantime, international military efforts must be realigned to avoid action that contradicts the ultimate aim of a peace settlement.

About the Report
This report draws on a series of workshops entitled “Anticipating a Political Process in Afghanistan: How Should the International Community Respond?” These workshops brought together some thirty analysts, both Afghans and foreigners, who have spent many years in Kabul, Kandahar, and other parts of Afghanistan. Participants considered a range of possible scenarios for Afghanistan over the next five years and the drivers of events in Afghanistan, then developed scenarios based on a five-year perspective and constructed along two main axes: the degree of political inclusion and the degree of state capacity and control.

The workshops were held in Kabul, London, and Washington, D.C. in June 2010, supported by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and facilitated by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). This report also incorporates comments to an earlier version that was circulated as a nonpaper to senior policymakers ahead of the July Kabul conference. The report focuses on examining the role of the international community and the key challenges to a sustainable peace process, creating an inclusive peace process, gauging the interests of parties, identifying actual participants in peace talks, and structuring an agenda for sustainable stability

 

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