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Afghanistan Stability Riddle: How Can Home, Foreign Actors Help?

Wednesday 1 September 2021
Afghanistan Stability Riddle: How Can Home, Foreign Actors Help?

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Alwaght- With the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan and rapid collapse of the Afghan army that led to the capture of the capital Kabul by the Taliban forces, the future of developments in the Central Asian country is shrouded in ambiguity. 

Meanwhile, the most important issue is the security and stability under Taliban return to power. Although since the takeover of Kabul the security conditions have been relatively calm and the group emphasized that the citizens do not need to be worried about insecurity, there are signs showing that part of the Afghan society is anxious about the future and some even mull forming armed resistance. 

On the other side, the Taliban send signals telling the public they are not seeking a power monopoly. Several key Afghan political figures, including former President Hamid Karzai and former Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, say they are forming a group to manage the transfer of power to the new government and to discuss the nature of the future political system. Actually, at least in claims the Taliban have shown a will to interact with all groups to form a comprehensive government. 

Here are some important questions: How would be the Taliban government? How can they save the territories they seized? Is the resistance to them dead or there is still resistance, possibly armed?

Now that Western forces are leaving Afghanistan after 20 years of military occupation under the pretext of fighting terrorism and restoring stability and progress to Afghanistan, everyone knows that stability is brought to Afghanistan only through political process and not war. 

The current conditions are in an extremely uncertain period and two scenarios are possible: One scenario is formation of a kind of national unity government to bring together the power rivals and to an extent lead to compromises. But this will give the Taliban, naturally, an inappropriate share of power as they were the victorious side of the war. The second scenario is the Taliban power grip using force like in the past that will drag the country into a swamp of instability and even civil war. 

In the middle of this situation, there are internal, regional, and international help requirements to steer clear of instability. 

Internal level 

Certainly, Afghanistan's future depends less on the actions of foreign powers such as the US and more on the ability of its new political and military leaders to administrate in the new government. 

First important issue to shed light on is the power division which is somehow vague. The Afghan Taliban are dominated by Sunni Pashtuns and potentially make a homogeneous social bloc at the core of Afghanistan's new political system and army. However, the Taliban did not topple the Kabul government alone and tens of armed groups, both foreign and ethnic, fought the US presence in Afghanistan for two decades. Now that the common enemy is defeated, how loyal can they be to the Taliban leadership? If their demands for share from power are unaddressed, how long can they keep their allegiance? 

Experiences in other countries show that insurgents move to stabilize the country after their struggle wins. In Rwanda, Ethiopia, China, and Vietnam all pro-liberation movements formed stable governments and armed forces after victory. In these cases, the insurgents made effective rulers because their organizational capabilities allowed them to monopolize military power and build a highly loyal security structure. In addition, the victorious insurgents often seize power because they have the support of a significant number of the masses dissatisfied with the status quo and providing a popular support base for their new regime. 

The Taliban, which have been waging a long and bloody insurgency against the Western occupiers for nearly 20 years, has had ample time to build strong internal discipline, armed forces and solidarity throughout their organization. Many current Taliban leaders have spent decades together on the battlefield or in prison, helping them maintain the loyalty of fighters and field commanders. 

The second important factor is if the victorious insurgent group is representative of a homogeneous or diverse ethnic alliance. At present, although the majority of Afghans are Pashtuns and the Taliban are fighting for the political aspirations of the Pashtun people, the experience of recent years shows that trying to oust other ethnic groups such as Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras will only create political instability and military challenges rock the group with illegitimacy in the future. 

Ultimately, even such group as the Taliban will need recognition from international community and foreign actors. This need encourages the Taliban leaders to throw away ideology and factions which are not acceptable by the international community and entertain engagement of other home players in the power. 

Regional and international levels 

Restoring stability to the country after decades of fight takes support from foreign actors, especially those in the region whose security, political, economic, and geopolitical interests are tied to Afghanistan developments. 

Facilitating intra-Afghan negotiations and mediation to bring the opposite sides' views closer are jobs some regional states have made over the past years. 

Another aspect of regional help can be involving the new Afghan government in the development projects and economic initiatives in the region. Economic interconnection helps solidify political alliances in today's world. A recent conference on communication between Central Asia and South Asia, hosted by Uzbekistan, stressed the importance of Afghanistan as a linking ring and bridge of regional trade. 

The Taliban definitely know that continued violence and instability in Afghanistan blurs the country's role in regional trade. Recently, Pakistan and Uzbekistan exchanged truck convoys through Afghanistan to test the degree of transportation security there. Uzbekistan prioritizes transit via Gwadar and Karachi ports of Pakistan and Chabahar of Iran, both of which relying on Afghanistan as a transit route. 

Earlier this year, India proposed that Chabahar port be part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), and invited Uzbekistan and Afghanistan to join the multi-party corridor project. The 7,200-kilometer multi-purpose project connects India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe. 

Advancing the railway project beside regional power grid projects, like the 1,000-megawatts Surkhan-Pul-e-Khumri power line, and 1300-megawatts CASA-1000 that links Pakistan power to Afghanistan, is among Afghanistan's future necessities. 

In addition, Pakistan and China are working to connect Afghanistan to the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). If the plan succeeds, Afghanistan will be involved in "Belt and Road" megaproject and the Taliban-led government will have the opportunity to address its future economic problems amid possible Western sanctions. The Taliban leaders' visit to China and the invitation to Beijing to invest in Afghanistan show that Taliban leadership has developed an understanding of this need. 

Russia, another interested actor, is aspiring for a grand Eurasian market through Eurasian Economic Union to remove the obstacles ahead of intra-Eurasian trade. Afghanistan can play a role. 

In anti-terror terms, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Russia, and China push against activities under Taliban command of such terrorist groups as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tahrik Taliban of Pakistan, and Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party of western China. 

Iran, another country of interest in Afghanistan and one of its main economic partners, in recent months sponsored intra-Afghan negotiations and is supporting an inclusive new government. New Iranian President Sayed Ibrahim Raisi in comments on Afghanistan developments said: "The US military defeat and withdrawal from Afghanistan should provide a new opportunity for new life and lasting security in this country….Iran works for stability of Afghanistan as an initial need, and as a brotherly and neighboring country asks all [Afghan] groups to reach a national consensus." 

As a conclusion, given the internal, regional, and international conditions and end of the 20-year US and allies' war with exit of their troops, the Central Asian nation can get back on stability track.

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Afghanistan Talaban Government Stability Foreign Help

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