NATO heads of state and government should be aware of these challenges and a solution about Afghanistan. While the summit of these leaders will be held on Thursday 25 May 2017 in Brussels, Belgium, their mission in Afghanistan faces enormous challenges. The mainstream media either forgot about Afghanistan or talk mostly about losing the war. We have not lost the war. This war can be ended and here are the reasons.
Resolving decades of conflicts in Afghanistan, defeating Daesh (ISIL), Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and countering Russia, Pakistan, and Iran’s destabilizing activities, is not an easy job, but it's not impossible. Unified efforts of the NATO and the world community can guarantee an abrupt end of this war.
Of course, the threats by terrorists and insurgents to the NATO and Afghan forces are greater than ever. Other than Iran and Pakistan, Russia also deeply involves in support of the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Such support may undermine the fifteen years' efforts of the NATO allies and the Afghan government. However, in longer-term supporting rebel groups will feed instability in the region, which will eventually extend to Russia and around the world.
There is no doubt that the war in Afghanistan can't be solved only by military means. Ending this war require a peace deal. The Afghan government succeeded in a peace talk with one of the largest insurgent group, Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, but the peace talks with the Taliban insurgent is in a stalemate. Unilateral engagement of Russia with the Taliban has further damaged the Afghan-led peace process.
Terrorism and extremism can't be defeated only on the battlefield. Radical Islamic terrorism, extremism, and insurgency have ideological roots. Money, arms, and ideas are the triangle of resource for these groups. To disrupt and destroy such groups, their resources and the cause of this growing threat must be targeted.
The successful Arab-Islamic-American summit in Riyadh on Sunday 21st May 2017 was a fundamental step towards countering terrorism and extremism. Inauguration of The Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (GCCEI) and agreement to establish the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) are the key components of fighting the cause of terrorism. However, Iran a neighbor of Afghanistan, listed by the US government as the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism, was not invited to the meeting.
Recently Russia publicly supports the Taliban insurgents. While Russia only confirms political engagement with the Taliban, but the increased terrorist attacks, insecurity and strength of the Taliban, as well as many pieces of evidence, shows that the Taliban fully enjoy financial, political, intelligence and military support of the Kremlin.
Despite all the challenges, the Afghan National Unity Government could break a peace deal with the second largest insurgent groups, Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin. It is believed that harsh years are ahead of Afghanistan. However, the country is only one step from a complete victory, and that is a peace deal with the Taliban.
Unfortunately, the sphere of insurgents' influence has expanded in the last two years to nearly half of the country. Now, the Afghan government is not able to negotiate from a position of strength. The Taliban must be pressured to the table of negotiations first. Any Afghan Peace strategy must be a comprehensive, holistic, and a coordinated one. Peace can't be achieved without cutting the Taliban resources, pressuring them on the battlefield and negotiating through the right people and in the right place.
The Taliban has internal and external resources for the continuation of this war. The primary internal resources include drugs and illegal mining. The Afghan government lack resources, strategy and political will to fight corruption and drugs. The world community should support the Afghan institutions, to fighting narcotics and corruption. Besides eradication of poppy, there must be an alternative livelihood for the farmers.
Primarily the Gulf countries and Pakistan have been blamed for financing the Taliban. Nevertheless, recently the Taliban has received cash, arms and military support from Iran and Russia. To cut these supply chains, the world community must engage and pressure these countries to stop backing the Taliban. If required, sanctions and other tools of diplomacy should be used against any country backing the Taliban.
The insurgents should be driven out of cities and villages. The Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) alone can't do this job. They are in dire need of training, logistics and close air support. For the upcoming three years, at least a total of thirty thousand NATO troops with the mandate of training and advising the ANSDF, and authority to fight insurgents will boost the morale of the ANSDF and it will help to clear, build and hold Taliban-influenced areas.
The High Peace Council (HPC), which leads the peace process, lacks sufficient fund and some of the HPC staff has not been paid for the last several months. Since the sudden death HPC’s Chairman, Mr. Sayed Ahmad Gailani on January 2017, the council has been lacking leadership. A strong influential figure, who should have diplomatic skills as well as an outstanding background in conflict resolution must fill the gap and start direct negotiations at all levels and across Afghanistan.
The shortest and most practical way to win this war is to invest in ANSDF, target the resources of the insurgents and supporting a peace deal across Afghanistan. Any peace settlement will change the destiny of Afghanistan overnight, and it will end the war. It is not an Afghan war only, and the Afghan government can't fight this alone. Therefore, the NATO allies should further support the ANSDF and the peace process.