BRUSSELS, Belgium — The current effort to negotiate with the insurgency in Afghanistan is not working. Nor is it ever likely to work as long as Washington continues to dominate the process while President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban are dragged along without enthusiasm.
The signs are about as grim as they can be. The Taliban suspended talks in March with US officials in Qatar. There is ever more speculation about an accelerated drawdown of US and NATO forces. The differing parties — from the Afghan government to the Taliban leadership, to key regional and wider international actors — are looking ahead to the intense political competition sure to follow in the wake of NATO’s withdrawal.
In short, Afghanistan is on course for another civil war unless we see a major shift in policy. The only solution, itself a long-shot, is for the UN Security Council to mandate UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a dedicated team of negotiators to help lead the way toward a political settlement.
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No matter how much the US and its NATO allies want to leave Afghanistan, and to leave it relatively secure, it is unlikely that a Washington-brokered power-sharing agreement will hold long enough to ensure that the achievements of the last decade are not reversed. As the recent chilling killings in Kandahar illustrate, US and NATO forces have been transformed in the eyes of many from liberators to occupiers. The vast majority of Afghans view the US in particular as a full party to the country’s decades-long war.