Foreign Investment impact on Afghanistan peace process

The Role of Foreign Investment in the Afghan Peace Process

Previous efforts to invest in Afghanistan’s economic future have had poor results. But, the role of foreign investment in the Afghan Peace Process has never been more important. Afghanistan has made little progress in terms of economic development, despite the United States having spent over $24 billion on economic development and another $30 billion on reconstruction programs. Approximately 90% of the Afghan economy takes place within informal sectors. They are primarily attached to the drug trade, and over half the population lives below the national poverty line. However, the signing of Afghanistan’s peace agreement, will make it is more important now than ever before to create a vibrant economy. Economic growth would reduce poverty, a huge factor in the growth of violence or the drug economy. If Afghanistan’s economy is to develop, responsible investment is the only path forward. 

Past Investment

Past attempts to invest in Afghanistan have been largely unsuccessful. The country’s systemic corruption, lack of infrastructure, ongoing insurgency make operating even the most simple businesses a challenge. The few American companies willing to work in Afghanistan were those that received lucrative contracts from the federal government. Often, these companies caused more problems than they solved. They would frequently hire cheap Afghan subcontractors instead of doing work themselves. They would make protection payments to the Taliban to gain access to roadways and ensure their safety from attacks. And they would often leave behind poor quality work that would crumble within the next few years. A few large symbolic projects have been completed – the luxurious Aino Mina neighbourhood in Kandahar and Afghanistan’s first Toyota dealership – these are token projects of Afghanistan’s elite, not the emergence of a real economy.

What Needs To Be Done?

While the end of the Taliban insurgency will provide a more stable environment in which economic development can take place, Afghanistan will retain many of its previous challenges. To avoid the waste and failures of the past, actors seeking to invest must be hyper-sensitive to the political and economic limitations that come with doing business in the country.

The most successful development projects will be those that can reduce their reliance on subcontractors and middlemen and must provide training and a living wage to Afghan workers. They will also need to foster a workplace environment that promotes a sense of community and civic responsibility. Projects will need to begin on a small scale and will need to engage with district and provincial governors. These is needed to provide an economically feasible alternative to insurgency and the drug trade.

While meeting all of these demands simultaneously will prove challenging, there is no alternative. The Afghan economy has incredible potential for growth. If all elements of society can share in that growth, then a long-lasting peace is within reach. Alternatively, if a peacetime economy fails to support Afghan families, another outbreak of violence will be inevitable. We must invest in Afghanistan’s future but invest responsibly. 



The Taliban in Afghanistan

The Taliban And Mujahideen: Comparisons And Lessons Learned

At the time of the Soviet invasion, those fleeing from Afghanistan to Pakistan were one of the largest refugee populations in the world. They flooded border towns like Peshawar and Quetta. These locations aided mujahideen leaders in recruitment efforts from growing refugee camps, for their militias. Hundreds of madrassas indoctrinated these refugees to justify their holy war against Soviet forces. Twenty years later, the Taliban utilised the same infrastructure to radicalise their followers against the Americans. 

Lessons To Learn

Parallels can be drawn between the anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s and the mujahideen and Taliban. The ideas that advanced American policies in Afghanistan during the 1980s can provide useful lessons concerning counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. Although the Taliban and mujahideen have different adversaries, their origins and ideology remain rooted in Islamic teachings.

The same actors of the 1980s are still actively influencing local politics today. For this analysis, mujahideen will refer to the Afghans who drove the Red Army out of Afghanistan in 1989. The refugee crisis served to fuel both groups’ objectives and many of the poor conditions from the 1980s remain today. Policy makers can learn valuable lessons from the Taliban and mujahideen’s resistance and address the conditions that lead to violent extremism.

The same names from the Soviet resistance appear frequently in current Afghan politics and in the Taliban’s leadership. Abdullah Abdullah, Abd Rasul Sayyaf, and Amrullah Saleh, were vital in military successes against Soviet forces. They also currently hold senior political or governmental positions. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was one of the most effective rebel commanders during the resistance, also leads the Jamaat-Islami party. Although much about senior Taliban leaders like Haibatullah Akhundzada and Abdul Ghani Baradar are unknown, their estimated birthdays put them in their teens or early twenties during the Soviet occupation. This would have made them impressionable to years of anti-Soviet, anti-occupation ideology.

Indoctrination in Pakistan

Afghan asylum seekers in Pakistan have bleak prospects because there is no path to Pakistani citizenship. Persistent, dismal conditions during the 1980s and 2000s were prime recruitment opportunities for armed groups, providing religious purpose and money. According to Ahmad Shah Mohibi, many young Taliban fighters are children of former mujahideen and refugees indoctrinated in Pakistan. Additionally, disenfranchised Islamist leaders in the current government could inspire their relatives to join the Taliban or other militant groups.

Radical mujahideen-era commanders like Hekmatyar and Jalaladdin Haqqani did not achieve their political visions for Afghanistan and may retain motives to undermine the government. After the 1996 fall of Kabul, many in Hekmatyar’s circle joined the Taliban after he was exiled to Iran. After two decades of foreign occupation, why would Hekmatyar change his 1980s-era anti-American sentiment? Some in his party support the Taliban and call their victories against NATO forces, “the pride of Afghans.”

Pakistan was and remains the most important actor for the mujahideen and Taliban. During conflict, Islamabad covertly supplied both groups with weapons and money to increase costs for their respective adversaries. As conflict subsided, Pakistan manipulated aid to favour proxies and increase the prospects of a Pashtun government, friendly to Islamabad. It seeks the same goals with the Taliban. Its madrassas and training camps in the semi-autonomous regions prepare fighters spiritually and physically, using decades of experience fighting Soviet and American forces. Its territory also provides both movements sanctuary to recruit and direct combat operations without fear of assassination. To understand how issues from the Cold War impact the current peace process, leaders must familiarise themselves with Afghanistan’s past.

Comparisons And Future Recommendations

Policy makers must simultaneously address the plight of refugees and work to limit Pakistan’s influence. The conditions and corruption of today, that force refugees to join terror groups, were also present after the Soviet withdrawal. They actually facilitated early support for the Taliban, who provided long-absent social and civil services after the civil war. Leaders in the region must facilitate refugees’ return to Afghanistan because they will continue to deteriorate in Pakistan with poor education and job insecurity.

Violent spoilers will complicate their return but relying on kinetic strikes only treats the symptoms of poor living conditions. More funds must be utilised to solve issues for counterterrorism methods like reforming children’s education, de-radicalising and integrating former Taliban. Other methods include creating a more inclusive political systems, and providing stable employment. With improved standards of life, Afghans are less likely to be less radicalised or resort to the Taliban to make ends meet or fulfil “religious” duties.

Pakistan’s role in covertly assisting armed groups and indoctrinating fighters must be also curbed. Solving only one of these issues would allow people to continue crossing the Pakistani border to fight or continue suffering in conditions that motivate extremism. In Islamabad’s constant rivalry with Delhi and its closer relations to China, how U.S. leaders can achieve cooperation after years of attempts is unclear. Islamabad’s security apparatus must reform internally for optimal results but this is unlikely because it uses religion to justify violence in Kashmir. Critics would argue that these steps are unrealistic, however, in a conflict with diverse actors and regional rivalries like Afghanistan’s, there are no easy steps. In addressing the underlying factors contributing to the Taliban’s growth can the U.S. help the Afghan people achieve peace.

Ending American Involvement

The United States learned the consequences for disengaging with Afghanistan too quickly in 1992. The environment that they left caused a civil war and an emerging Islamist movement. These circumstances provided sanctuary to terror groups. American presence in Afghanistan is a complex topic but the costs of their disengagement are far greater. America should not  back out after more 2-decades of investing in partners, aid, and losing thousands of lives. Our leaders must know Afghanistan’s history and what conditions created and destroyed peace. Many are recurring themes throughout the world’s conflicts. It is the only way to invest resources effectively to stop terrorism.

Refugees on the Greek islands awaiting asylum

Political Crisis For Refugees Seeking Asylum In Greece

There are currently 119,700 refugees in Greece, while another 19,100 refugees remain on the Greek Islands, seeking asylum. Despite many of these refugees fleeing war torn countries including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – it has developed from a humanitarian crisis to a political one. Greece is going through some significant financial issues which makes the economic impact of Greece’s incoming refugees more complicated. This has led to many refugees living in inadequate conditions.

Refugees entering Greece have traveled from war-torn nations and often need counselling for psychological trauma and require medical aid. In February 2019, Dimitris Vitsas, a Syriza member of Hellenic Parliament stated that Greece can not process 20,000 asylum applications each year. Greece is also unable to integrate the twelve thousand refugees currently on the Greek mainland. The irregularity in immigration into Greece has been a significant burden for the nation. 

Refugee ‘Hotspots’

To identify, register, and fingerprint incoming migrants the Greek government created temporary refugee processing centres. These ‘hotspots’ would allow immigrants to then travel to the Greek mainland. These locations include Lesvos refugee camp which was opened in October 2015 with a capacity of 3,100 people, but is now called ‘home’ by more than 20,000 refugees. The same issue was found in other Greek refugee hotspots like Chios and Samos. Both opened in March 2016 and had a limited capacity. However, investigations into the refugee hotspot at Samos, with an official capacity of 650, reported a population of over 3,000.

Refugee Camp Overcrowding

The overcrowding of these refugee camps has been blamed on the deal agreed between the European Union and Turkey in March 2016. The deal asserts Turkey as a safe zone for refugees escaping violence from neighbouring countries like Syria. Before entering the European mainland refugees must apply and receive a decision on their asylum case.

The overcrowding is also a result of Greece’s geographical location. As the closest entrance into Europe from the Middle East, Greece has seen an overwhelming influx of refugees. Of the 65 million people officially classified as displaced persons globally, an increasing number of refugees have been travelling through Greece. Furthermore, in 2016 Greece saw an unprecedented number of refugees travelling to its shores. It has been reported that more than 4 million Syrians have been driven from their country, and in 2016 alone 26,000 of them applied for asylum in Greece. This is up from 3,000 in 2015.

This overcrowding in the refugee camps can lead to poor living conditions and often impacts the processing of refugees’ cases. More refugees than ever are displaced from their home country and Greece is unable to manage. With their own economic crisis and rising unemployment, many of the Greek refugee processing centres and camps are run by volunteers and charities like Lighthouse Relief. With millions of refugees already displaced and hundreds more arriving into Europe each day, it is important for the European Union and surrounding nations to implement a road-map to better manage. 

Ongoing Recommendations

The migration issues faced by Greece are important but the driver of this mass migration is ongoing conflict. The focus for many reports is how to better manage, we must highlight the impact on refugees’ home nations. With millions displaced, implementing peace and rebuilding a country is much more difficult. Especially as many skilled workers and young people important to a nation’s rebuilding will begin to integrate into new countries.

Current Afghan peace talks taking place in Moscow, Russia.

What To Expect From The Moscow Peace Conference On Afghanistan

The Moscow conference peace talks are being attended by the Troika group, which includes; Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia, and the United States. And it may provide a preview for what could take place in Istanbul. The current Moscow summit and the upcoming conference in Turkey are the result of the ongoing stalemate in the Doha peace talks that began last September. 

The upcoming Turkey peace conference has the potential to determine the future of the Afghanistan peace process. The conference signifies a collective and international interest in creating a peaceful Afghan nation. The head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah seems to regard the Moscow conference in this way. Abdulla’s office has gone on to state that “We strongly believe that the Moscow conference will boost the Doha peace talks, and the upcoming Turkey conference on Afghanistan”. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the aim of the Moscow conference is to help move forward the peace talks in Doha. 

The Bonn Agreement

In order to understand the potential future Afghanistan peace agreement, we can look to previous agreements like the Bonn Agreement. The proposals established by the Bonn Agreement can give us a clue as to what we can expect from current discussions. It resulted in the creation of an interim government which was the foundation for a new constitution and political system. Otherwise known as the Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-establishment of Permanent Government Institutions (S/2001/1154), the Bonn Agreement sought to build lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

What is important to note is that the creation of the interim government was left to the decision of the Afghan people, through the creation of an emergency Loya Jirga, and not by international actors.  The expectation of an interim government was for a new constitutional government to emerge and for key institutions to reemerge. The Agreement also proposed the creation of a Human Rights Commission as well as equal representation of women, ethnic, and religious groups.

International Influence During Peace Talks

For example, Russia supports the creation of an interim government and the inclusion of the Taliban. According to the statement given by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova “the formation of an interim inclusive administration would need a logical solution to the problem of integrating the Taliban into the peaceful political life in Afghanistan”.

On the other hand, the current Afghan government is not in agreement with the dissolution of the current administration. Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s President, has gone on to say that: “if the Taliban are ready for elections tomorrow, we are also ready to participate in the elections, but I am not ready to transfer the power to my successor without elections”. 

Ghani has stated that he does not want a future peace settlement to be made outside of Afghanistan. Secretary of Defence Antony Blinken’s recent letter outlines the Biden administration’s expectations for the Afghan peace process. Even though the main political actors involved in the Afghan peace process may have differing views on certain issues, they all have one thing in common: they want to create a peaceful Afghan nation. The question is how that peace will look like and how it will manifest. After all, the Bonn agreement did not turn out like the participants expected. 

What Does This Mean For The Future Agreement?

Two important elements to consider are first, what a future peace agreement may mean for Afghanistan’s administration? And second, what role the players involved in the peace process will place in the event of a peace agreement? Furthermore, will peace talks result in an interim government? And will the current Afghan administration be willing to give up their power? The Taliban’s involvement in Afghanistan’s future peace agreement is critical to both its inception and its success. The impact of these separate groups will also affect the peace agreement’s nature. It will affect whether the new administration will follow a secular route or become an Islamic Republic.

Inclusion will also be paramount to the success of the Afghan peace agreement. The equal participation of women, ethnic, and religious groups is as important as the creation of a new political system. This is also true for the reintegration of the Taliban into Afghan society and its potential future political system. It is crucial that peace talks continue to finally end the violence being perpetuated by the Taliban. These conferences and peace talks may allow the international community to come to an inclusive and successful peace agreement. The most important thing is to continue to build on the momentum that is currently taking place. 

Boko Haram in Nigeria

Are Nigeria’s Counterterrorism Operations Boko Haram’s Biggest Ally?

For the last decade, Nigeria’s deadliest threat has undoubtedly and consistently been Islamic group Boko Haram. The terror group would see the Nigerian government overthrown to allow Islamic law to replace it. Although established in Northeast Nigeria, Boko Haram’s operations have spread beyond Nigeria’s borders. Its occupancy has overflowed into neighbouring countries like Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Despite countless counterterrorism initiatives and overwhelming expenditure, the Nigerian government has been largely unsuccessful in its attempts to control Boko Haram’s spread and malicious actions. As Boko Haram continues to threaten national security, it is important to evaluate the efforts of the Nigerian government’s counterterrorism measures in their attempt to counteract the group.

Boko Haram’s Violent Actions

Since the beginning of their insurgency in 2009, the group has killed more than 30,000 people and 2 million others have been displaced from their homes across Nigeria. However, Boko Haram is not the only terrorist group operating in Nigeria, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) is the regional affiliate of the Islamic State. ISWAP have claimed credit for the killing of 30 soldiers in northeast Nigeria this week.

Boko Haram’s name, translated from Hausa, means ‘Western education is forbidden’. And this message has been no more true than in April 2015 when members of the terrorist group executed one of their most shocking attacks. Despite authorities being alerted to the possibility of the threat, Boko Haram were able to abduct 276 young girls from a secondary school in Chibok in the State of Borno. Ill-equipped to manage and respond to threats of this nature, Nigeria’s military were acting on the back foot. The kidnapping caught global attention and sparked outrage not only in Nigeria but worldwide, with the campaign #BringBackOurGirls trending. Since then, Boko Haram have executed a number of kidnappings, bombings and massacres, resulting in Nigeria being ranked third for the impact of terrorism. 

Nigeria’s State Of Emergency

Since Boko Haram’s inception, the Nigerian government has used a range of techniques in an attempt to combat the terrorist group. During Boko Haram’s most lethal period, the Nigerian government attempted to implement a range of operations focusing on Boko Haram bases. However, this only led to the group retaliating by launching attacks on vulnerable communities across the country. In January 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency against Islamic insurgency. He made the decision to temporarily close borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger, all areas of Boko Haram operations. This temporary measure was put in place to address the security challenges that Nigeria was facing, which consequently led to the establishment of a special counter terrorism force.

By 2013, Jonathan made the decision to clamp down on military excesses and launched an offensive on Boko Haram’s insurgency. The result was Boko Haram’s loss of control in Maiduguri. However, soon after this operation Boko Haram stormed military barracks and government buildings killing 55 people and freeing 105 prisoners. The failure of these operations was clear in Boko Haram’s continued spread to the south of the country, creating a feeling of anxiety and panic throughout Nigeria.

In 2014 the Nigerian government shifted their tactics to a soft approach through their National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST). It was established to counter the Boko Haram’s operations and target the roots of terrorism. In this regard, elements such as radicalisation prevention, stronger community integration and economic development were imperative. The initiatives were somewhat effective but their success did not survive long term. To this day, Boko Haram continues to enact terror, causing a divide between civilians and the government.

Nigeria’s Counter-Terrorism Failings

A consistent theme of Nigeria’s failing efforts against Boko Haram has been a lack of communication. On various occasions poor inter-border communication has led to many challenges. These include: the loss of resources, uncertainty across troops and ineffective and untimely information sharing. This has resulted in generally a poor response to Boko Haram’s operations. The lack of effective communication has inevitably inflated regional tensions across Nigeria’s borders where military bases meet.

Research into the counterterrorism institutions in Nigeria has uncovered that they are generally counter-productive in their work. This due to poor funding, staffing and poor managerial methods. Despite these challenges, the Nigerian military has been successful in some of its operations. For instance, the rescue of 26 humanitarian aid workers, who had been abducted by Boko Haram in recent weeks. The government has also worked to return and reintegrate 5,000 civilians that had fled the country due to ongoing violence. With Nigeria and Cameroon working together to ensure safety in some parts of the State of Borno. This has enabled some communities to return.

Future Recommendations

Moving forward, it is crucial for the Nigerian government, and their counterterrorism team to understand the importance of effective communication. This communication must take place between the government, the military, national institutions and counterterrorist organisations. It is also important that communication is consistent on both a national level and on a regional level. The Nigerian government is strict in enforcing the law and punishments for any form of terrorist behaviour. The integration of these laws and investigations must also remain consistent. The brutal attacks from Boko Haram will not end if nothing changes.

Rise to Peace