A better way forward for Afghanistan

March 14, 2021

US troops patrol at an Afghan National Army (ANA) Base in Logar province, Afghanistan. (Reuters/File)

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Afghanistan news channel TOLOnews last week disclosed the contents of a letter that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had written to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. It concerned the slowness of progress in the peace process and the US’ intention to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by May 1. This was one of the first major concrete steps of the Biden administration in terms of foreign policy.

Both the content and narrative of the letter varied from the established diplomatic practice. Since it was signed by the secretary of state, it should have been addressed to Blinken’s counterpart, the foreign minister of Afghanistan, or it had to be signed by President Joe Biden and addressed to Ghani.

Blinken’s letter stated: “We are considering the full withdrawal of our forces.” The established practice in international relations requires that, when such an important step is being considered, it is more appropriate to present the move as a common decision of the two countries.

As a reaction to this unilateral approach, Amrullah Saleh, the first vice president of Afghanistan, said: “They (the US) make decisions on their troops, not on the people of Afghanistan. We will never accept bossy and imposed peace.” Ghani, in turn, said that the future transition of power would occur via elections based on Afghanistan’s constitution, not plans made by “others.” The US should have avoided such an exchange of harsh sentences.

In the letter addressed to the Afghan authorities, there was a reference to two sets of meetings with a view to relaunching the peace process. One of them was proposed at the ministerial level with the participation of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and, of course, the US. The State Department declined to disclose whether these countries were consulted beforehand. If not, some of them may decline the invitation simply because this news was prematurely divulged.

We also learned from Blinken’s letter that the second set of meetings is scheduled at the senior officials’ level and that it will be held in Turkey in the coming weeks. The State Department also declined to disclose whether Turkey had agreed to host such a meeting. I presume that, if Ankara was informed beforehand, irrespective of whether it would agree to host the meeting, it would have jubilantly announced it to demonstrate how Turkey could be helpful to the US in its initiatives.

The international community may now reassess the entire process of the Afghan crisis, bearing in mind that the country has been at war for more than 40 years.

Yasar Yakis

Meetings between senior representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban are at present taking place in Doha, Qatar, but the Taliban is doing everything it can to drag the process out. The Biden administration may believe that Turkey has stronger leverage with the Taliban and that more concrete progress might be achieved by moving the meetings from Qatar to Turkey. If this assumption proves to be true, the Afghan peace process may be revitalized. If not, the limits of Turkey’s leverage will be displayed. The US will not lose anything in either case.

Blinken’s letter also says that US military assistance will continue after the withdrawal of its troops, so the emphasis is still on a military solution. The international community may now reassess the entire process of the Afghan crisis, bearing in mind that the country has been at war for more than 40 years. It might be more appropriate to look for nonmilitary options.

The US last year disclosed its military budget for the Afghan crisis. In 18 years — from 2001 to 2019 — it amounted to $778 billion. This does not include the funds spent by the other countries that contributed soldiers to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. More importantly, it does not include the human suffering, casualties and damage caused to the physical infrastructure.

One may wonder whether Afghanistan would not have suffered less if this $778 billion had been channeled into education and agriculture. It is, after all, a mainly agricultural country. It is not easy to quench the defense industry’s thirst, but if even a fraction of the US military budget for the war in Afghanistan were allocated to agricultural development, Afghan society could be transformed. Together with an emphasis on education, this could transform Afghan society completely and the country would cease to be a den for terrorists.

This opportunity has been missed, but we may now turn to the next generations. The time to act is now. If the emphasis could be shifted from military assignments to civilian and developmental assistance, Afghanistan may become a completely different country in just one or two generations.

• Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkey and founding member of the ruling AK Party. Twitter: @yakis_yasar

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

source https://www.arabnews.com/node/1825391

5 replies

  1. The only benefit of the war in Afghanistan was that some US contractors and their Afghan buddies got VERY RICH, while the general population suffered, including the foot soldiers from all over the place. I spoke to one of them: He said that he thought he was `fighting for freedom`: It took him all of two weeks to realize that it was all about some ones cash balance, .and it had nothing to do with freedom for any one.

  2. I don’t understand why the US doesn’t get out of ALL the countries it’s interfering in?

    They should just LEAVE and stop acting like ‘global policemen’ when they are anything but that!

    Stop ALL WARS that they are engaged in, if nothing else than for reducing climate change. All these wars are just adding to global warming…

      • including a special oil company, I think called Delta OIL, which specialises in stolen Syrian oil.

      • Yes, I know that. And the USA, UK, Russia, etc., are the biggest culprits whose weapons factories are working in full swing on the blood and suffering of MILLIONS!

        Then, they complain about terrorism and the way they deal with these add salt to their wounds. The West since YEARS are the cause of much of the world’s suffering and bloodshed.

        They make me SICK when they complain about what other countries are doing to them and they comfy lives. The refugee problem is just one of these reactions to their violent presence in those countries. They shouldn’t complain about the refugees. They have created them and so should ‘welcome’ them with open arms!

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