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EU commitment to Afghanistan

The European Union And Their Long-Term Commitment To Afghanistan

Since 2001, the European Union (EU) has shown its interest in Afghanistan, resulting in 4 billion Euros provided in aid. This has made Afghanistan the largest beneficiary of its development assistance. The EU’s interest in Afghanistan has both a humanitarian element and the interest in reducing the root causes of its migration flows. These migration flows arise as a result of the security situation, the political instability and the economic crisis. 

EU Development Aid In Afghanistan

The EU’s recent strategic objectives for development aid within Afghanistan, were defined by the 2014-2020 Multiannual Indicative Programme. The programme focused on three main priority sectors: the creation of peace and stability, the fostering of economic growth and the provision of social services. 

The EU still shows a strong commitment to the establishment of peace in Afghanistan. The long-term intentions of these commitment was reaffirmed by the EU’s support in Afghanistan for peace and stability. In January 2021, Ms. Urpilainen, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, assured Mr. Atmar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, of the European Union’s firm support to the continuation and success of the Afghan peace process.  

The EU’s Role In Afghanistan’s Peace

According to the European Union, the signature, on 29th of February 2020, of the agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban and the parallel Declaration between the Government of Afghanistan and the U.S, already lay the foundations for the settlement of an Intra-Afghan Peace negotiations in order to find a just and durable solution to the conflict. 

The EU stresses the importance of reaffirming a strong support for an Afghan-owned and an Afghan-led peace process. It supports that the peace process should be owned by Afghans. Including that international partners should have to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and independence during peace negotiations. The EU highlights the crucial role of the Taliban and the Afghan government in the establishment of peace. It also creates a space where the mutual ceasefire between the actors. And acts as a highly relevant confidence-building measure between the two sides.

Challenges

The European Union stresses the importance of inclusivity within the peace process. This inclusivity includes all political factions, minorities, civil societies and women are meaningfully represented. The representation of all in Afghanistan would ease the peace process and would support grievances and promote reconciliation. For this, the EU calls on all stakeholders to put above all other considerations the interests of the nation.

The European Union stands ready to facilitate and promote the settlement of the peace process. But it also believes that the peace-making negotiations should be held not forgetting the achievements of the former years. These achievements are specifically important in the areas of social and economic development, human rights protection and freedom protections for all Afghans, with special consideration on women.

It is only in this way that the democratic foundation of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. The EU also places importance on the reintegration of former fighters, their families, and the victims of conflict in Afghanistan.

Recommendations

To achieve peace in Afghanistan, the European Union is working with all parties. The meeting on the 24th of March in Brussels between the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell Fontelles, and the US secretary, Antony Blinken, has showed a strong willingness of cooperation between the US and EU. In fact, Roland Kobia, the EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan, has twitted “EU and US intend to intensify cooperation on Afghanistan to advance the peace process & ensure its long-term stability/prosperity”. The cooperation of these two international actors is a positive sign for the creation of an enduring peace in Afghanistan. 

 

Gulf relationships and their importance to Afghanistan and its peace process

The Gulf States’ Relationship With Afghanistan And Peace

The Persian Gulf states have played an important role in Afghanistan’s conflict. Their prominence in the area will likely continue to do so after American troops withdraw. During the Soviet occupation, Saudi Arabia matched American funding to the mujahideen for weapons and humanitarian development. One of the financiers was Osama Bin Laden. Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi ideology and religious leaders also served to stir anti-Soviet sentiment and inspire Arabs to join the mujahideen.

Gulf Region Cooperation

In 1996, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the only Gulf states to recognise the Taliban government after its takeover of Kabul. After strained relations over the extradition of Bin Laden, they formally cut ties with its government after 9/11. Since the US invasion, Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have facilitated negotiations with various Afghan parties. This includes the most recent negotiations in Doha, and have given millions of dollars for reconstruction.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will have increased importance as the US prepares to leave the country, after two decades. Much of the investment and reconstruction efforts by the GCC are influenced by external actors like Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan is one of Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s closest partners, and they will pursue development projects that advance their objectives to strengthen their Sunni base in Afghanistan. Not only can Riyadh and Abu Dhabi advance their regional interests in the country, but they can also create goodwill with the United States by taking increased responsibility in counterterrorism and stability operations.

Relationships Within The Gulf

Unlike some Gulf states who relied on the US as their conduit into Afghanistan, Iran independently forged partnerships. It’s partnerships with various groups and leaders have strengthened its position in the country. With American troops leaving, Saudi and Emirati could find their relationship in increasingly precarious positions. Iran has interests protecting the Hazara Shia community, which comprises 15-20% of the Afghan population from persecution and Taliban violence. Many Hazara are recruited to the defend Bashar Al-Assad through the Fatemiyoun Brigade, an Afghan detachment founded by Qassim Soleimani to participate in Iran’s regional agenda. Iran’s economic foothold in Afghanistan as its largest trading partner as of 2018 will also create concerns with Saudi and Pakistani officials who will try to subvert its influence. US engagement with Iran on other issues like the nuclear issue may increase the urgency of Iran’s rivals to curb its influence in Afghanistan.

Summary & Recommendations

The Persian Gulf states invested millions of dollars in Afghanistan after 9/11. Their involvement in the country will likely increase to fill the void once held by US troops. They may support armed groups if civil war ensues or support their respective religious and political allies to retain influence during peace. The mediation and stability brought by the Gulf states in Afghanistan will continue. The result of its loss would be a breakout of conflict, which would destabilise the region. This result is not in any of the countries’ interests. These investments are a broader competition between regional rivals, who want to advance their religious, security and political goals.

 

Reintegration of ex-combatants in Colombia discussed at UN meeting

Lessons To Be Learnt From Colombia’s Economic Reintegration Programs

A successful peace agreement does not guarantee lasting peace. The successful reintegration of ex-combatants back into society, while it does not guarantee lasting peace, is essential if peace is to stay. Afghanistan is at a crucial moment in its history. If a peace agreement is negotiated, ex-Taliban fighters must be reintegrated back into Afghan society. This will be achieved by implementing a sound reintegration project. Afghanistan might find success by looking at what other countries have done in the past. In particular, Columbia and its economic reintegration programs that have been implemented in recent years. 

Economic Reintegration In Colombia

Decades of war has led to several cease-fire agreements between the Colombian government and its guerrillas and paramilitaries. As a result, there have been demobilisation efforts which have resulted in the need for reintegration programs. During President Alvaro Uribe’s presidency, the economic programs that were created were centred around the integrity of the free market. Thus, the government had a program whereby ex-combatants would receive a 1.5 million Colombian Pesos (COP) grant to start their own businesses or to invest in housing or education. However, the program was not as successful as the government hoped. The grant allowed the ex-combatants to start their own businesses, but it did not prevent them from experiencing severe income insecurity. Moreover, the Colombian government, in the early stages of reintegration, seemed to put more stock into entrepreneurial programs.

Entrepreneurship In Colombia

Alongside the grant program, the government implemented an entrepreneurial program that gave ex-combatants a one-time 8 million pesos (COP) seed capital. The idea was for the recipients of this capital to invest and create their businesses. This program was a success for some but not all. The main problem stemmed from the fact that the ex-combatants simply did not have the entrepreneurial skills necessary to run a business. The government then shifted its focus away from entrepreneurial programs to employability programs.

The 2010 Law of Formalization and Job Creation (Ley 1429) marks this shift. Ley 1429 gave businesses incentives to hire ex-combatants partaking in reintegration programs by granting them a tax exemption. Despite the government’s attempts to increase employability through vocational training and Ley 1429, there has not been an increase in employment opportunities. Even those that are employed earn less than minimum wage. With some ex-combatants earning less than COP 200,000 per month. Moreover, there is wide stigma that prevents ex-combatants from finding and keeping jobs. Although these programs have not had wide-reaching success, there are a fair number of individuals that have benefitted and succeeded through these programs.  

Entrepreneurial programs should only be implemented for those that possess the sufficient entrepreneurial skills necessary to run a business. The Afghan government, if it intends to implement these types of programs, should provide individuals with entrepreneurial training. It should also implement a loan-based program that should run parallel to any grants that they might provide. If Afghanistan is to implement a loan program, it must supply the individuals with loan management training. Businesses that are created must also fill a need in the community.   

How Can Afghanistan Learn From Colombia?

The Colombian government failed, in the early days of the reintegration process, to prevent the stigma of ex-combatants by the Colombian society. This complicated the reintegration process and made economic reintegration programs less effective. Businesses did not want to hire ex-combatants for fear of being publicly judged. Thus, there was a lack of employment opportunities and the vocational training they received did not increase their employability. The stigma that ex-combatants faced in Colombia will likely be faced by ex-Taliban members and this must be taken into account before implementing an economic reintegration plan. By building trust between ex-Taliban members and the wider Afghan community through community-based programs. 

The Afghan government should also make sure that it provides ex-combatants with adequate vocational training. Which covers a wide variety of skills and professions. However, the training should reflect the community’s needs in order to prevent a lack of employment opportunities. It would be pointless to provide ex-combatants with training for professions that are not in high demand.   

Moreover, Afghanistan should create programs that provide reintegration assistance to ex-Taliban members with disabilities. If not, these individuals run the risk of being excluded and they will be less likely to reap the benefits that untailored reintegration programs will provide. 

Success will depend on the ability of the State to promote a more community-focused reintegration that focuses on both the social and economic aspects of reintegration.  

Rahmatullah Nabil discusses Istanbul conference and Afghan Peace Process

Rahmatullah Nabil Discusses Afghanistan’s Peace Process

An Impossible Task?

Rahmatullah Nabil, Former Director of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Afghanistan discussed what lies ahead for Afghanistan’s Peace Process while referencing the Istanbul conference on his Twitter account.
The Istanbul conference was originally scheduled for April 5th but is likely to be delayed due to ongoing arrangements. Given the date of May 1st for US troop withdrawal, the 11,000 troops that remain in Afghanistan, and the many other moving parts concerning the process – it is almost impossible for the deadline to be met. Ahmad Shah Mohibi, founder of Rise to Peace, reiterated the impossible task of a quick troop withdrawal and also mentioned the possible need for another conference in the style of the Bonn Conference in 2001.

Troop Withdrawal Extension

What is expected to happen? The United States (US) will ask Pakistan and the Taliban to agree to a 6-month delay in the withdrawal of American troops. The extension would be for the implementation of decisions to be made at the Istanbul conference – not for the sake of delay on the part of the US.
U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the State Department appear to be satisfied by the break of the Taliban. However, Al-Qaeda, the US Congress, the intelligence community, and the UN sanctions committee still have doubts about the break.
The 90 day period of violence reduction talks are ongoing and appear to be successful. The Taliban is expected to request the release of all remaining prisoners and the removal of the Taliban from UN and other sanctions/blacklists. Ghani’s removal no longer key. To Taliban, as other stakeholders have already agreed to his stepping down.

New Istanbul Conference?

If all continues smoothly behind the scenes, a new date for the Istanbul conference will be selected. And a power-sharing transitional government will be discussed – likely to be agreed to with minor modifications. The current Resolute Support mission may be changed to UN peace-keeping forces – perhaps with some Muslim country forces as additions.
The Afghan Special Forces and the Taliban’s Special Force Unit will possibly be set up under the UN peace-keeping umbrella also. An Islamic country, perhaps Turkey will monitor the political arrangements of the conference. If none of the above transpire – Afghanistan will likely be dragged deeper into crises and conflict with spillover effects to the region and the rest of the world. This would also likely impact the flow of refugees currently spilling over into Europe.
Rahmatullah Nabil’s discussion is available in full on his official Twitter account here.
Mourners leave flowers at the site of domestic terrorism attack at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.

Recent Domestic Terrorism Attacks In The United States

Nearly a week after tragedy struck in Atlanta, flags in the United States were briefly raised. Less than two days later they returned to half-staff following yet another mass shootings. The US has seen at least 34 mass shootings over the last five years, with 365 people killed and many more injured. The nation saw a brief reprieve from mass shootings as states went into 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns. However, these attacks remind Americans that this type of violence is disturbingly common. With domestic terrorism on the rise in the United States, it is important that legislation targets the perpetrators of these attacks.

These crimes represent a unique phenomenon that stymies policymakers who try to legislate and prepare for these unpredictable events. Ideologically driven crimes which endanger human life in the United States are defined as domestic terrorism. Despite the United States’ history of domestic terrorism attacks, there are no specific federal statutes in place to prosecute it.

Recent Impact

Mass shootings are becoming more frequent and more deadly. 20% of mass killings that have occurred in the last 50 years, have taken place in the last 5 years. 2017 and 2018 were the deadliest years on record for the US. Following a single mass shooting, there is a 15% increase in the number of gun control bills introduced into legislation. However, gun control bills lack bipartisan support to actually enact change.

Racial motivations behind the recent killings in Atlanta are under review. On March 16th Robert Long, a 21-year-old white man, bought a handgun hours before his attack on three different Asian-owned spas in Atlanta, Georgia. The deadly rampage took eight victims, six of whom were of Asian descent. The attack has not yet been classified as a hate crime by the officials investigating. However, attacks on Asian-Americans are on the rise, particularly since the beginning of 2020 and the rise of Covid-19.

On March 22nd 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa opened fire on unsuspecting grocery shoppers at King Sooper’s supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. 10 victims lost their lives during the violent assault. Alissa bought the assault-style weapon on March 16th. Alissa’s motive for the attack has not yet been identified.

United States’ Extremism

Research has identified hundreds of extremist groups categorised as white nationalists, within the United States. In 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported an increase in white nationalist groups for the second year in a row, with a 55% increase since 2017. With domestic terrorism on the rise, there are many examples of these deadly attacks. In 2015, Dylann Roof murdered 9 Black parishioners inside an African Episcopal church in South Carolina. Patrick Wood Crusius killed 23 people in a deadly anti-Latino hate crime in 2019. Violent extremism is a significant threat in 2021, and the pandemic has only stressed an increasing number of anti-government attitudes. Growing racial tensions and political demonstrations have only increased the United States’ susceptibility to radicalisation.

Domestic Terrorism Laws

Following the insurrection at the Capitol, it has come to light that there are no federal domestic terrorism laws in the United States. The lack of consensus on the topic and the unwilling to regulate weapons in the United States impacts new legislation. Those identified as terrorists are another point of contention preventing bipartisan support. Numerous countries have taken the step to write clear statutes that allow prosecutors to charge perpetrators with domestic terrorism. For instance, in Canada Statute 83.18(1) identifies anyone who is participating in the activity of a terrorist group. To better target and prosecute individuals and groups with these murderous intentions, the US needs to come to a consensus on what is and isn’t terrorism within its borders.

Recommendations

Domestic terrorism, mass killings, and ideological extremism have proliferated the landscape of the U.S. Commenting on the killings in Boulder, a Chicago-area teen told CNN, “I’m horrified to tell you I feel nothing, […] This kind of trauma feels so normal.” Unlike the United States, countries around the world have implemented aggressive gun control legislation following similar attacks. In 2019, two attacks took place in New Zealand both were mass shootings at mosques. Prime Minister Ardern announced a ban on assault style weapons 5 days after the terrorist attack.

In order to address extremism, swift action must be taken by legislators. Gun control measures implemented around the world have shown a decrease in domestic violence. Legislative impasse is not a foregone conclusion. Common-sense solutions exist and have support from the American electorate. Policymakers need to measure their tolerance for normalized violence, listen to American voters, and begin the process of codifying solutions to prevent the next mass shooting or act of domestic terror. 

Rise to Peace