Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to End the Afghan War? - Century Foundation Task Force Report on Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Negotiating Peace
Settling the Afghan War
New York Times, March 22, 2011

DESPITE the American-led counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, the Taliban resistance endures. It is not realistic to think it can be eradicated. Efforts by the Afghan government, the United States and their allies to win over insurgents and co-opt Taliban leaders into joining the Kabul regime are unlikely to end the conflict.

The current strategy of “reintegration” may peel away some fighters and small units, but it does not provide the political resolution that peace will require.

Neither side of the conflict can hope to vanquish the other through force. Meanwhile, public support in Western countries for keeping troops in Afghanistan has fallen. The Afghan people are weary of a long and debilitating war.

For their part, the Taliban have encountered resistance from Afghans who are not part of their dedicated base when they have tried to impose their stern moral code. International aid has improved living standards among Afghans in areas not under Taliban control. That has placed new pressure on the Taliban, as has an increasing ambivalence toward the Taliban in Pakistan.

The stalemate can be resolved only with a negotiated political settlement involving President Hamid Karzai’s government and its allies, the Taliban and its supporters in Pakistan, and other regional and international parties. The United States has been holding back from direct negotiations, hoping the ground war will shift decisively in its favor. But we believe the best moment to start the process toward reconciliation is now, while force levels are near their peak.

For the insurgents, the prospects for negotiating a share of national power are not likely to improve by waiting until the United States withdraws most combat forces by the end of 2014; on the contrary, the possibility that Americans might find a way to maintain an enduring military presence past 2014 suggests that perhaps the only way they can truly get the Americans out is with a negotiated settlement.

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