Tuesday, June 13, 2017

An Afghan Settlement Will Require America to Work with Russia, Iran and Pakistan

The National Interest

The recent spate of horrific bombings in Kabul has once again highlighted the urgent need for a coherent U.S. strategy to reverse the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. President Trump’s aides have reportedly asked him to consider additional troops and expanded authorities for the U.S. military to address the problem. His approval will send an important signal of U.S. recommitment to Afghanistan. But this move, even if only aimed at strengthening the United States’ hand in an eventual negotiation with the Taliban, may also lead Afghanistan’s neighbors opposed to long-term U.S. military presence to double down on resisting the United States. Pakistan’s negative role—and increasingly the roles of Russia and Iran—is already helping to sustain the Taliban. Their further support to the insurgency could tip the balance decisively in the Taliban’s favor.

To succeed in Afghanistan, the United States needs to get these regional spoilers to instead back the United States’ desired end state of a Taliban sworn to peace and willing to operate within the Afghan constitutional framework.

This requires the United States to create the right incentives for these countries to support American interests in Afghanistan. To do so, U.S. policymakers should work with the Afghan government to prioritize a peace process with the Taliban that accommodates the concerns of these states. This approach seeks to change the regional calculus in the United States’ favor by putting Washington in a position to leverage the collective weight of the region to push the Taliban to agree to an early end to the war. It would save the U.S. taxpayers billions of additional dollars that a protracted war would expend, and would allow the U.S. military to reorient its focus to eliminating ISIS from Afghanistan.

This strategy can work because none of the regional spoilers want a Taliban victory, a prolonged war, or an entrenched ISIS presence in Afghanistan. Pakistani leaders recognize that the spillover of a Taliban victory in Afghanistan would provide a boost to their ideological brethren fighting the Pakistan state. While Pakistan uses the Taliban to keep a check on its archrival India’s activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s preference is for a settlement in Afghanistan that allows the Taliban back into the political fold, but not in control of the country again.

Russia and Iran are both ideologically opposed to the Taliban. But they are supporting them more actively than ever, because of their skepticism about the efficacy of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and the consequent need to develop good relations with an ascendant insurgency. They (and China) are also opposed to long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, and any end state that provides for permanent U.S. military bases in the country is unlikely to attract their support. - More

An Afghan Settlement Will Require America to Work with Russia, Iran ...


Post a Comment

<< Home