International Herald Tribune: The Afghanistan Endgame
May 18, 2011
After almost 10 bloody years, it is the beginning of the endgame in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden drew America into Afghanistan; his death will be seen by many as the strategic rationale to depart. Even before this game changer occurred, the talk in Washington and other capitals was focusing on troop withdrawals, political settlements and negotiations with the Taliban.
For many in the region, however, Bin Laden’s demise is seen as a harbinger of more ominous developments to come: a vacuum created by the pullout of Western forces, the intensification of long-established regional rivalries, and a subsequent rise in instability inside Afghanistan itself. It is this “back-to-the-future” scenario for Afghanistan that they most fear.
To date, efforts to achieve a political settlement have been devoted mainly to building support for the so-called reconciliation process: reaching out to Taliban and other disaffected Afghans to come to some political accommodation with the current government. Whether Bin Laden’s elimination will increase the prospects for such a reconciliation remains to be seen. Some top insurgent leaders may be more willing to make a deal, with an eye toward self-preservation; others may conclude that with Bin Laden gone, the U.S. and NATO won’t be far behind.
But even if successful, a new internal political settlement will not be sufficient to assure Afghanistan’s long-term stability. What is required is a new external political settlement, one that brings the country’s neighbors and near neighbors into the process.
Historically, Afghanistan’s troubles have been, for the most part, caused by external interference and intervention, as well as by Afghan parties inviting foreign elements to take part in their internecine conflicts.
The importance of minimizing, if not totally eliminating, interference from outside parties was recognized by Afghan and other international participants at the Bonn Conference in December 2001, soon after the Taliban were ousted. The declaration adopted by the conference included a request that “the United Nations and the international community take the necessary measures to guarantee the national sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Afghanistan as well as the noninterference by foreign countries in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.”
Over the past decade, there have been numerous calls for “regional cooperation” at international gatherings – including at the Istanbul “Heart of Asia” summit and the London and Kabul conferences in 2010 – but there has been little action, making these calls more aspirational than concrete.
Read the full op-ed originally published in International Herald Tribune on May 13.
Asia Foundation trustee Karl Inderfurth is the former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Chinmaya R. Gharekhan served as India’s special envoy for the Middle East and is a former U.N. under secretary general.
About our blog, In AsiaIn Asia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia's development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, In Asia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.
In Asia is posted and distributed every Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].
ContactFor questions about In Asia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to [email protected].
The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223
THE LATEST ACROSS ASIA
The Philippines, China, the U.S., and ASEAN in 2017
October 19, 2016
Asia Foundation Development Fellows 2016 U.S. Component
October 13, 2016
Habitat III: Charting a New Urban Agenda
October 12, 2016
Mongolia’s Small-Scale Miners Play Critical Role in Safeguarding Natural Resources
October 12, 2016
Asia Foundation to Release Foreign Policy Recommendations for Next U.S. President
October 6, 2016
Asia Foundation Appoints Jane Sloane to Head Programs to Empower Women and Promote Gender Equality
October 6, 2016