18 February 2011
ESI at the US Institute of Peace: Making Peace in Afghanistan - The Missing Political Strategy
Minna Jarvenpaa
Minna Jarvenpaa. Photo: C-SPAN

ESI senior analyst Minna Jarvenpaa launched her recent paper at the US Institute of Peace on 18 February 2011. In it she argues that:

  • The proposition that a political settlement is needed to end the war in Afghanistan has gained increasing attention in recent months. Channels for preliminary talks with Taliban leaders have been sought and a High Peace Council created.
  • However, despite upbeat military assessments, the insurgency has expanded its reach across the country and continues to enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan. Afghans increasingly resent the presence of foreign troops, and the Taliban draw strength from grievances by ordinary Afghans against their government. External money to supply military bases and pay for development projects often ends up fueling conflict rather than creating stability.
  • For their part, President Karzai and many Afghan political elites lack genuine commitment to reform, calling into question the viability of a state-building international strategy and transition by 2014.
  • Missing is a political strategy to end the conflict that goes beyond dealing with the Taliban; it must define the kind of state that Afghans are willing to live in and that regional neighbors can endorse. Knowing that such a settlement could take years to conclude does not diminish the urgency of initiating the process.
  • Given doubts about Karzai's ability to manage the situation effectively, the international community needs to facilitate a peace process more pro-actively than it has. To be sustainable, the process will need to be inclusive; women's rights, human rights, and media freedoms cannot become casualties of negotiations.
  • Afghanistan's international partners should commit to a peace process and lay the groundwork to appoint a mediator. This includes gauging the interests of parties, identifying actual participants in talks, and structuring an agenda. In the meantime, international military efforts must be realigned to avoid action that contradicts the ultimate aim of a peace settlement.

Please find the full video of Minna's presentation at the C-SPAN website.