Before we discuss the Challenges To Afghanistan after the US-Taliban Peace deal we will discuss that America has never fought a war that it is being currently fighting in Afghanistan. After spending 2 trillion dollars and significant human loss, this battle still has no predictable end. This has drained American resources for which governments have to face opposition from the masses and opposition parties. Obama administration tried the carrot and stick policy with the Taliban but it failed to achieve the desired outcomes.
Democrat’s failure in the war paved the way for conservative republican Donald Trump, who has promised to withdraw America from all the foreign wars. As soon as he came to power, just after a few months, he formulated a commission under the leadership of Zalmay Khalilzad to caste a peace deal with the Taliban.
In January 2020 peace talks started in Doha, Qatar but just after 4 days, it ended without reaching an outcome as the Taliban attacked a military base in Afghanistan. If the US would have continued the talks, it would have brought a bad name for Americans, so it withdrew from the talks. Due to the dire need for the peace deal, it again resumes the talks with the Taliban and this succeeded in making a successful peace deal with the Taliban. This deal has been considered as the first major ray of hope for Afghan peace. But the question arises what are the challenges after the US-Taliban deal that can hinder peace in Afghanistan.
To understand what the challenges to afghan peace are, it is better divide these challenges into external challenges and internal challenges. External challenges include foreign intervention and large influx of foreign terrorists. Internal factors include sectarian conflicts, ethnic issues, divided government, tribalism and weak economy.
These factors will be individually described below so understand their impact on Afghanistan’s peace and then solutions could be proposed oh those assessments:
External Challenges To Afghanistan
Afghanistan has always been the field of wars between great powers for which it has seen a very less peaceful time. Present near two regional powers it would have been better strategic positions for America from where it could make a check on its emerging adversaries. But after the US withdrawal, the interests of regional powers and some neighboring countries that have a strong influence in the country are now different.
China shares a very small border with Afghanistan but it was sincere to the current peace process in the country as it has economic interests in the country that can only be achieved in well secured and peaceful Afghanistan, it can be significant for China’s massive project Belt and Road Initiative due to its infrastructure deficiency.
China has become the largest investor in the country bypassing America and India by investing 3.5 billion dollars in just the mining industry. In the future Chinese have shown interest in adding Afghanistan into CPEC which can reduce the cost of infrastructure development.
With economic interests, it has some strategic interests too as recently terrorists are on the rise in China who are currently operating their missions from Afghanistan so peaceful Afghanistan will help securitize China from terrorism. With the American withdrawal, China fears that instability in the country can overflow into China for which they have established a military base in Afghanistan and also started a quadrilateral coordination group with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.
Russian being another major player has a strategic interest in the country being the sole guarantor of security of the region i.e. Central Asia, it now faces grave concerns from terrorism. Russia has not only supported the peace process but tried to make a consensus between the Taliban and the Afghan government by convening a summit in Moscow.
Both China and Russia have best understood the situation in Afghanistan as evident from their policy of maintaining neutrality between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Pakistan have some territorial disputes with Afghanistan and threat of proxies from the neighbor have resulted in very high stakes in the domestic politics of Afghanistan, Taliban is one of the major actors in the country have good relations with Pakistan so it would be good for the security of Pakistan in future.
The second challenge that poses threat to Pakistan security is India’s frosting influence in Afghanistan which it doesn’t want too. India has successfully increased its influence on both people and the government. If Indian influenced government succeeded, Pakistan due to its long adversary with India will likely oppose that cooperation, and as physical penetration has been difficult for states in this modernized world so it will be likely to support proxies that can have grave consequences for Afghanistan security.
India being the adversary to Pakistan and China has worked very hard to increase its influence in Afghanistan as India feels the threat of terrorism if the Taliban succeeded in getting the government but an indo-afghan alliance based on strategic interests will threaten Pakistan and China due to serious security concerns.
Another external challenge is from long instability in the country that has attracted many foreign terrorist groups which includes Al-Qaeda and IS as major terrorist groups in the country. These terrorist groups use Afghanistan as their bases, training centers, and also use its organization and inclusion of their fighters.
According to the Afghan government, there are almost 20 regional and international terrorist groups who are fighting Afghan forces. These terrorist groups could be a grave challenge to Afghanistan security due to its terrain which gives safe cover to terrorists. Due to porous borders from all side masses, the foreign terrorist influx has been seen in Afghanistan from the Middle East and Central Asia that have joined already existing terrorist groups.
Internal Challenges To Afghanistan
Internal challenges majorly include ethnic and sectarian conflicts as Afghanistan has 14 ethnolinguistic groups that are mentioned in the Afghan constitution. Some of these groups are Pashtun, Hazara, Tajik, and Aymaq, etc. All the ethnicities are almost the same in size that creates competition among these ethnicities to get a larger chunk of the pie in the government.
Multi ethnicities are very difficult to bring under the single page because tribalism has strong dominancy in the country than territorial nationalism or religion that can be binding forces between these ethnicities. It also has different sectarian groups that are fighting for their dominance in the country, they are posing serious challenges to the security of Afghanistan.
Recent reports from the US state department show that there are almost sixty thousand soldiers who are fighting in Afghanistan. These people don’t know anything except fighting for which if they are not catered properly can end up in drug trafficking, extortions, or can join with other terrorist organizations for money as evident in the Latin America to handle the most effective policy will be adding them with the Afghan national army and police which will help the government to handle future terrorist activities as they know both geography and tactics that guerillas use in the war.
Recently political instability has been seen in Afghanistan between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah that can hinder the peace process as a weak government will create a vacuum for the fringe elements to strengthen their positions. War-torn Afghanistan needs a stable political government that can work for its development and peace.
Internal segregation can weaken the government and will affect not only the internal peace process but also creates social disorder as being seen in many Middle Eastern countries. With social disorder, no country can prosper in spite of having much larger resources.
Due to continued wars, the economy of Afghanistan has been devastated into a mere heap. Two decades of war have broken the required infrastructure for trade and commerce in the country. Earlier it was dependent upon its opium trade that comprises a large chunk of its need.
Security always needs money and one can never assure its survival without a strong economy. So after this peace deal, the Afghan government will have to play a major role in developing its economy and attract foreign direct investments so to strengthen the economy on its feet. Developing countries always are in dire need of foreign investments for the development of the country. But with a tense security situation, there will be very low chances that countries come up for investments as it is like gambling your money without any surety.
Another major challenge will be the internal peace process that has to be started soon after the US-Taliban deal but was failed to initiate the peace plan which shows the severity of differences between both parties. Taliban are keen to create Islamic Emirate with strict Sharia Laws whereas the current Afghan government is almost on the opposite pole as they want to develop Afghanistan as a secular state.
The Afghan government has masses on their side but the Taliban being strong power in the country will be tough on the negotiation table. Convergence between both the parties seems difficult as almost both are on opposite poles. Recently, Taliban has announced to not talk with the current Afghan regime which they consider as foreign puppets which signifies the above-mentioned argument.
Another reason which will make the afghan internal peace process tough to negotiate is the presence of many stakeholders, which will be part of these talks, which can make matters difficult as consensus among these parties will be another major task for the current government.
Afghanistan has pretty serious issues but it could be solved through realism that is considered as the dominant theory in times of conflict. Realist points out that whenever a peer competitor succeeded in forming influence in a foreign territory, it will deter its adversary and can lead to a security competition.
The same is the case with growing Indian influence in the region; it will deter Pakistan for which it will give its level best to end growing Indian influence. Pakistan can involve in proxies due to its large influence among some of the Afghanistan areas.
If Afghanistan remained on the side of India and succeeded in breaking Pakistan through Pashtun and Baloch separatist movement than it will create a great mess in the region for both India and Afghanistan. So to ensure peace it will be favorable be for Afghanistan to not formulate strategic ties with India.
For domestic stability, hegemonic stability theory could be applied in Afghanistan which proposes that in presence of strong hegemon, peace will be ensured. Instable government and influence over other terrorist parties give Taliban an upper hand in the negotiation for which Taliban could be better choice for Afghanistan.
However, the Taliban will also need to get masses on their side for which they have to promote their rhetoric by doing well for the masses. Taliban should relax their rules of governance so to get masses on their side; this can be the best policy for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan,
Economy another major challenge to Afghanistan could be developed with foreign funding. Afghanistan after the peace deal must formulate good economic ties with Russia and China as the stability of Afghanistan will be beneficial for both these countries.
Afghanistan must ensure that it will help China and Russia against terrorism by taking strict measures against the safe haven for terrorists in Afghanistan. Due to its strategic location, Afghanistan will be significantly important for the Chinese belt and road initiative.
Russia too has strategic interest due to large natural resources present in central Asia. Terrorism a major threat to world powers now converge them to eradicate this menace. The regional anti-terrorist structure has been formulated under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which shows how much countries are sincere in the eradication of terrorism from the region.
War-torn Afghanistan was in dire need of ending the conflict for which they saw a ray of hope in us Taliban peace deal. But they face grave challenges both from inside and outside for which a strong cohesive government can ensure peace and prosperity of the region.
Concerning Afghanistan neutrality would be the best option for them as India adopted son after the independence.it will help them halt foreign intervention and on the contrary help them to attract foreign investment and aid from all sides for continued peace in the region. Democracy with a strong internal force can help Afghanistan end all its miseries. United Afghanistan is the only way to ensure peace and prosperity in the country.
Written by: Junaid Ahmed ( The writer is an independent researcher for Global politics and International Relations.)