‘Unprincipled cut-and-run’ would betray Afghanistan’s fragile democratic process




Does the U.S. risk turning a chance for success in Afghanistan into a shameful failure?

If the result of a quick withdrawal is the collapse of the government and the reestablishment of sanctuaries for terrorists, the United States could be dragged back into the conflict at a far greater cost — as happened in Iraq three years after the pullout, The Washington Post fears. That’s not to mention the loss of all that this country has invested, in lives and treasure, in helping to build Afghanistan’s democratic political system and extend basic rights to women.

A reckless push to leave, without adequate security guarantees and a credible plan, would amount to betrayal on many fronts, argues analyst Simon Tisdall.  It betrays a fragile democratic process, whose next stage – presidential elections next month – is jeopardized by uncertainty over US intentions, he writes for The Guardian.

An unprincipled cut-and-run would betray Afghan women’s groups and civil society activists whose precious gains, in terms of personal freedoms, education, healthcare and travel, may be trampled in the rush for the exit. If the Taliban regain the upper hand religious and ethnic minorities, such as the Shia Hazaras, will suffer badly, he adds.

The Taliban may well see peace negotiations as a means of negotiating a withdrawal of U.S. and other allied forces and a prelude to a peace that it could exploit to win control of Afghanistan, notes CSIS analyst Anthony Cordesman. At the same time, the other options are no better. They either mean leaving without a peace and the near certain collapse of the Afghan government, or continuing the war indefinitely with no clear timeframe for victory or the emergence of an Afghan government that can fight on its own or act as an effective civil government, he writes in The Civil Challenges to Peace in Afghanistan:

The efforts from 2001 onwards to create a more modern, peaceful, and democratic Afghan government have had some successes, but also many critical failures. A new Afghan constitution created a political system with a dominant president and a legislature with too little power and control over the country’s money to be effective – as well as a legislature that had little real responsibility to its constituencies. Local and regional power brokers, surviving warlords, ethnic factions, and gross levels of corruption crippled efforts at progress, divided the country, and left it open to a return by the Taliban.

The proportion of Afghans who said they were satisfied with the democratic process declined, from 73% in 2014 to 57% in 2015, according to the Asia Foundation.

Any serious analysis must also “address the scale of the civil problems that have given Afghanistan failed governance and made it the equivalent of a failed state, and that will shape its future in actually implementing any peace or in attempting to continue the war,” Cordesman adds. RTWT

“We are not cutting and running. We are not looking for a withdrawal agreement. We’re looking for a peace agreement,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration’s envoy on Afghanistan, said recently, NPR reports.

Three main lessons may be drawn from the postconflict democratic transitions in Afghanistan and Iraq, he wrote for the NED’s Journal of Democracy:

  • First, the rules of the game need to be designed in such a way that they produce political dynamics responsive to the host-country’s challenges.
  • Second, external actors should continually engage local leaders and steer them toward political strategies that move their countries forward.
  • Third, organization and mobilization of constructive political forces are crucial. At a minimum, the United States should do more to encourage democratic forces to coalesce in order to exert greater influence.

Afghans want an agreement that sets the country on the path to an inclusive society, says USIP analyst Belquis Ahmadi.

Democracy Awards

“Is the international community, particularly the U.S., willing to stand by Afghans as they turn the page to a new and complex chapter?” she asks. “This chapter will test the U.S. and international community’s commitment to the values and principles enshrined in the human rights charter.”

One problem is that the Taliban have refused to negotiate with other Afghans until America announces a timetable for a complete withdrawal, The Economist adds:

Even if America were to do so, it is unclear whether the Taliban would talk separately to the Afghan government, which it denounces as a puppet regime, or only as part of a group of Afghan political figures.  On July 7th and 8th such a group—including government officials and opposition leaders, as well as members of civil society and journalists—met 17 Taliban members at an intra-Afghan conference in Doha organised by Germany and Qatar.

Afghanistan is  ‘on the path towards completing another monumental struggle for freedom,’ the Taliban claim.

“Our nation is not only the first to gain independence from the British colonialists but also holds the honor of shattering the Soviet Union and freeing itself from the shackles of communism in the 20th century, and is on the path towards completing another monumental struggle of freedom from American imperialism in the 21st century,” it declared, according to MEMRI. Read The Full Report

The FDD takes a look at the Islamic State affiliate’s rise in Afghanistan.

The three recipients of the NED’s 2005 Democracy Award (above) were:

  • Ms. Sakena Yacoobi, the founder and president of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), a leading Afghan women’s organization focused on providing more than 350,000 Afghan women and children with education, health care and human rights training, both inside Afghanistan and in refugee camps in Pakistan.
  • Mr. Mohammad Nasib, the director of the Welfare Association for Development of Afghanistan (WADAN), an NGO working to advance the spread of democratic principles and strengthen local governance by training a network of more than 1000 Maliks, or key local power brokers, in the concepts and practices of human rights and democracy.
  • Mr. Sarwar Hussaini, the chairman and director of the Cooperation Center for Afghanistan (CCA), a well established NGO working to promote citizen participation and democratic institutions in Afghanistan by empowering women and strengthening democratic practices in traditional institutions.


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