Sustained US focus on Afghanistan stressed
WASHINGTON (PAN): A sustained focus on Afghanistan at all levels of the US government is needed for the United States to make the most of its limited influence on the complex Afghan peace process, a prominent American think tank said Tuesday.
“The main goal from the United States’ perspective is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for, and an ally to, transnational terrorists,” said James Dobbins, co-author of the study and a senior fellow at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
"Afghanistan has been fought over for hundreds of years because it is of strategic interest to many nations, and hammering out a peace agreement with so many varying interests and objectives is likely to prove difficult,” he continued.
Both the Afghanistan and US governments are in favor of a negotiated peace that would give the Taliban some role in a future government. Such an approach also has been endorsed by NATO and most of Afghanistan’s neighbors, the report said.
“We believe there is enough of a confluence of interest on the part of the major parties to the war in Afghanistan to make a negotiated settlement feasible and worth pursuing,” said James Shinn, a co-author of the study and a lecturer at Princeton University.
“There are many obstacles, and the process will probably require years of talking during which fighting will continue and even intensify,” he said. “Negotiation does not represent an easy or early way out of Afghanistan for the United States and its NATO allies, but it is the only way in which this war is likely to end.”
Dobbins served as the lead negotiator for the United States at the Bonn Accords that established Afghanistan’s current government in 2001. Shinn is a former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and was one of the authors of the Bush administration's Afghan Strategy Review.
In the report, Shinn and Dobbins discuss what the terms of a peace accord likely would include, from security, governance and trade agreements to positions on terrorism and narcotics trafficking. The United States should not be drawn into a discussion of Afghanistan’s social or constitutional issues, unless those issues would affect the primary goal, it said.
The RAND report said while a peace accord is possible and worth pursuing, it is by no means certain. It suggests that the United States should prepare for two futures -- one negotiated and the other not – and stay focused on the goal of keeping Afghanistan from falling to an al Qaeda-linked regime.
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