News / Asia

Afghanistan's Postwar Future Uncertain

An Afghan woman walks among U.S. soldiers from on patrol in Kandahar City, Afghanistan, Oct. 22, 2010.
An Afghan woman walks among U.S. soldiers from on patrol in Kandahar City, Afghanistan, Oct. 22, 2010.

Even as the fighting still rages in Afghanistan, some preliminary talks have been taking place between U.S. and Taliban representatives.

The talks, which cannot be labeled negotiations, have reportedly focused only on Taliban demands for a release of prisoners in U.S. custody.  But with 2014 looming as a U.S. combat troop withdrawal date, a political settlement of the conflict in Kabul is clearly on all sides’ minds.

The United States has repeatedly said it supports what it calls an “Afghan-led peace process.”  According to former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, who chaired the Obama administration’s 2009 review of Afghan policy, the United States has nothing to lose by supporting a political settlement of the conflict.

"We should not be the ones against a political approach," said Riedel. "If there is no viable political outcome, let it not be because the United States is the one that said no.  Let’s find out if there is a basis for political accommodation between the Karzai government and the Taliban insurgency."

But Riedel called the prospects for compromise between the Taliban and the government of President Hamid Karzai slim.  The Taliban view the Karzai administration as an illegitimate creation of the United States and its allies. And it is only interested in talking with the United States, the main party to the conflict, said Francesc Vendrell, former European Union special envoy on Afghanistan.

"They do not want to negotiate with Karzai. And Karzai is helping them by almost sabotaging what the Americans are trying to do," Vendrell said. "There is a kind of unholy race between the two governments as to who is going to be first really talking to the Talibs, which must make the Talibs very amused and rather happy."

If real peace negotiations do get off the ground, what do the players hope to gain?

An Afghan affairs analyst with the private conflict resolution group Swisspeace, Can Deniz, believes the Taliban want all foreign forces out of Afghanistan, and the United States and NATO are looking for a safe exit for its forces.

"One of the main goals, I think, of these peace negotiations is to ensure that the withdrawing troops will not be attacked by the insurgents," Deniz said. "So this office built up in Qatar recently is, I think, is to negotiate the orderly withdrawal of the troops and to ensure that they are not being attacked by insurgent groups."

And that could be a starting point for the negotiations, said David Cortright, policy studies director for Notre Dame University’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

"We say we’re going to end the combat operations.  So why do not we make that part of a negotiation?  We could offer it to the Taliban representatives that we are supposedly beginning to talk to now, offer to them that we will suspend drone strikes, house raids, combat operations if you’ll do the same," he said. "And then we could sit down and talk about what kind of a coalition, what kind of a power-sharing arrangement will be sufficient to satisfy all the parties there and end all the violence."

But on the political side of the ledger, whether the Taliban want to enter into some kind of power-sharing arrangement in postwar Afghanistan is not clear.  Given their antipathy towards Karzai, many analysts believe they will balk at having to join a coalition government with him.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Former EU envoy Francesc Vendrell, who knows President Karzai well, points out that the Afghan president has proven to be a difficult and often uncooperative partner for the U.S. and its allies.  Vendrell said he would not be at all surprised if the United States loses patience with him - or already has - and would cut a separate deal to facilitate the troop withdrawal.

"He has not got his act together.  He has not got a proper negotiating team.  He has not reached any kind of consensus or understanding with the northern opposition [alliance], with the other political elite in Kabul.  So I would not be too surprised if the Americans eventually reach an agreement with the Taliban, like the Soviet Union did in ’89, or how the Americans did with North Vietnam at the back of the South Vietnamese government in 1973," said Vendrell.

But neighboring Pakistan, where the Taliban take refuge, cannot be shut out of any peace process, said David Cortright. Echoing other analysts and Western officials, Cortright said Pakistan's military and intelligence service have backed the Taliban in order maintain strategic influence in Afghanistan.

"Much as we may not like it, but they have been the paymasters and the controllers of the Taliban for many years.  There is no secret, everybody knows that.  And if they are not brought in they will continue to spoil and undermine the peace process.  They have done that several times already.  They have arrested Taliban interlocutors who have been there to speak with the Americans or with Karzai.  They want a piece of the action.  And if we want to end the war we’re going to have to bring them in somehow."

Analysts warn that without a comprehensive political settlement satisfying all parties, Afghanistan could again descend into the kind of civil war that gripped the country in the 1990s.

You May Like

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs