Start of a New Round in Afghanistan?.
Featured Image: Afghan pro-government forces (including militia and army troops) assemble in Jowzjan Province during 2021 Taliban offensive. By File:Afghan government forces in Jowzjan Province during 2021 Taliban offensive.png: Abdulbasir Ilgor (VOA)derivative work: Berrely, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
There are real dangers of increasing armed conflict and regression of civil society in Afghanistan as the Taliban advance and opposing forces organize. On 5 August 2021, the United Nations Security Council met under the presidency of the Ambassador of India, T.S. Tirumrti. The Council heard a report from the the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan who said that the country was at a dangerous turning point.
Regional States – Pakistan, Iran, China, India and the Central Asian republics – are all involved in different ways. The withdrawal of the U.S.A. and NATO forces is not complete, and private contractors will stay on. There is a flow of refugees. Persons who had worked for the U.S. or NATO troops are being given refuge abroad. Many other persons are also looking at the possibility of leaving, and few are considering returning from abroad.
Since its overthrow in 2001, the Taliban has regrouped, launched an insurgency and has assumed control of a significant portion of the country. In addition to the Taliban, there are an estimated 10,000 foreign fighters in some 20 Islamist groups who are also anti-governmental. Among these are fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) who had been active in Iraq and Syria. Many of these foreign fighters operate independently from the Taliban.
There have been different efforts to facilitate meaningful negotiations among government representatives, the Taliban, representatives of civil society and other groups from within Afghanistan. These negotiations seem to be at a standstill and have produced no clear guidelines for a lasting settlement. It is impossible to know what discussions among more limited groups may be going on. There may be discussions with a low profile or under the cover of religious authorities. There may be locl initiatives for a local ceasefire. However, the results of earlier talks does not make one optimistic on an overall agreement.
Since the start of the Soviet intervention in January 1980, Afghanistan has become increasingly divided, and the population war weary. After 2001, a good number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) became active, often in cooperation with foreign NGOs. Education and health services were developed. At this stage, it is difficult to know what lasting impact these NGO efforts will have. To some extent foreign NGO workers depended on U.S. and NATO troops for protection. It is likely that the protection of foreign NGOs will not be a high priority for governmental troops and may be prime targets of the Taliban.
The current complexity of international relations, with only weak efforts of cooperation for peace processes with the United Nations system and shrinking space for civil society efforts are the dark background of the current Afghan situation. The growing dangers of violence and repression may creat a new energy for peacemaking or on the opposite, discouragement and fear. The situation merits close analysis to see if there are any opportunities for positive action.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.