Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah arrives for an intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Qatar

The Biden Administration And Afghan Peace Negotiations In Doha

As the peace process in Doha continues to unfold, the Biden Administration will face several difficult decisions regarding the future of Afghanistan. The war’s effects have been felt at every level. With trust at an all time low, Americans have demanded solutions to the never-ending wars which plague U.S. Foreign Policy and fail to address the plight of average Afghans. However, a full-scale withdraw from the crucial peace talks would prove imprudent and disastrous for all parties. Additionally, renewing Operation Enduring Freedom is no longer a viable option. Thus, a comprehensive grand strategy that accounts for current realities on the ground and capitalises on upcoming negotiations prior to the May 1st deadline is necessary.


Operation Enduring Freedom

Withdrawing from Afghanistan neglects the reality on the ground. Namely that even a limited U.S. presence in the region prevents the Taliban from establishing an emirate with its capital in Kabul in a matter of months. It would also entail consequences such as the outbreak of a civil war, fortifying Al-Qaeda’s safe havens, and the emergence of a refugee crisis. The Afghan military is not equipped to handle another Taliban insurgency. The Taliban’s forces have grown precipitously as of late, ascending to around fifty-thousand fighters.

Additionally, they continue to generate hundreds of millions of dollars from the opium trade and enjoy support from select, rural portions of the country. Reviving Operation Enduring Freedom is also not a viable option, having claimed thousands of lives and burned through billions of taxpayer dollars. America will not send its men and women overseas to “get the job done,” when the proverbial goal-post keeps moving farther and farther away. For nearly a decade, the United States has clung to the narrative of training and equipping Afghan forces. This sentiment will not be dislodged, and nor should it be.


Engaging with the Peace Process

Although the Taliban entered negotiations to settle for peace, they failed to uphold their commitments. Furthermore, previous talks have often collapsed due to subsidiary issues such as, prisoner exchanges. For example, the original deal included the severing of ties between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, yet the relationship remains intact. The mention of peace has led to the narrative that the Taliban had defeated the world’s great superpower. Their refusal to concede even on subsidiary points reflects their vision of victory. With this in mind, the U.S. must gently pressure the Taliban to accept mutually-agreed upon terms, without risking further conflict.

Knowing which areas to pressure will require in-depth knowledge of the ever-changing local circumstances. It will also require a willingness to negotiate with an emboldened enemy. If the U.S. does not commit to the likely prolonged peace process, it runs the risk of damaging its credibility in the long-run. Despite debates regarding ISIS’s presence in Iraq prior to 2014, the premature withdrawal and unwillingness to monitor and support the transition of power directly contributed to ISIS’s success, especially in terms of vital materials such as weapons caches and vehicles. The Biden Administration must take heed of this vital lesson.


Afghanistan’s Lasting Peace

A viable option, which achieves the goals of diminishing foreign military presence and addressing the terrorist concerns, would be to bolster U.S. intelligence operations. Afghan security forces also need strengthening to uproot the safe-havens guaranteed by Taliban officials in quasi-independent regions of the country. This would also remove the leverage held by Taliban forces who frequently bait U.S. diplomatic efforts. Taliban promises of abandoning their affiliation with terrorist groups will need to be achieved.

Additionally, the Taliban successfully managed to avoid their promises, while placing a clock on the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces. They understood that the United States, like many other great nations before it, would grow weary of fighting recurring insurgencies. If the U.S. leaves without creating conditions for lasting peace, it fails to uphold its promises to the Afghan people. And may damage its reputation within Afghanistan in the process.


The Role of the United States

In the meantime, a core group of U.S. troops must remain in the country to support a lasting peace. Particularly as diplomacy alone will not solve the endemic problems facing Afghanistan and its people. A further demonstration that the U.S. will maintain its resolve in the support of Afghan government forces, would send the message that negotiations are the only path forward. Currently, the United States has not proven that it can dismantle Taliban forces or build a sustainable government.

Thus, the negotiations are stuck in limbo. The Taliban also understand that they can outlast the U.S. military. If the United States does not intend to strengthen the government’s capabilities, then negotiations represent a means to manipulate the country’s future. And all without sacrificing valuable assets. A true strategic vision for Afghanistan is not Taliban-centric, either. It incorporates Pakistan, China, and others who have stakes in a stable and secure Afghanistan. Pakistan has long refused to provide assistance to U.S. forces in the fight against terrorist entities such as Al-Qaeda, and they are seeking to alter this perception by facilitating discussions and refusing to throw support to either side, which could improve relations with the international community at large.



In short, the problems facing Afghanistan are an American problem, and given the current deadline of May 1st, the United States possesses little time to find a solution that is beneficial for all parties. The United States, despite its unparalleled ability to project power, is not negotiating from a position of strength. Some could argue that an extension of the current deadline would solve the problem. However, extensions often lead to a lack of urgency. The Taliban need only wait until a new administration arrives or the deal collapses on its own. Finally, a soon-to-be-announced conference may address the possibility for an extension directly.

Human Rights Abuses by China

Human Rights Abuses By The People’s Republic of China


Out of the eleven million Uyghurs living in Xinjiang in China, between 800,000 and one million people have been detained in Chinese internment camps indefinitely.1 Despite the initial denial by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), leaked documents and first hand accounts detail the repressive policies targeting the Uyghurs. Reportedly, these internment camps permit torture, food deprivation, forced labor, and sterilisation. The PRC now defends these abuses in the name of national security. While evidence has shown that Uyghurs have been increasingly targeted for their cultural and religious practices. 

The world is not new to these atrocities. The Holocaust, in addition to the Rwandan, Cambodian, and Rohingya genocide, have stained the past century. However, while other governments commit such atrocities, the PRC plays a unique role. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, they are able to weaken human rights worldwide. They are able to do this while not facing penalties for their violations.

One of the biggest security challenges within the international system is the rise of the PRC on a global scale. Fearing the loss of their own power, the PRC uses its economic prowess to silence its opposition within and beyond their borders. This has led to their policies and actions often undermining the very international system upholding human rights standards. 

The Role of the United States

President Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which imposes sanctions on foreign individuals and entities responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. While it is a step in the right direction, and more than the U.S. did at the beginning of Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia, it may not be enough.

As the PRC poses a significant threat to U.S. hegemony, the U.S. should be inclined to act. One possible approach could be to implement a multilateral and multidimensional approach that deters these atrocities. 

The U.S. is uniquely capable of campaigning for multilateral partnerships across the world to increase international pressure on Beijing. However, economic sanctions solely distributed by the U.S., would hurt the Western nation more than the PRC. They would also be relatively ineffective considering the PRC is a top exporting country.

However, the Chinese government cannot maintain its economic dominance if ties across portions of the world are severed. Ideally, the U.S. could partner with Japan, South Korea, or Australia to implement economic penalties or forge military partnerships. This unprecedented global pressure could expedite economic hardship and successfully disrupt PRC supply chains.


In normal circumstances, the UN could be a potential mitigator. However, the PRC vetos all matters detrimental to them, including what constitutes a genocide. The PRC previously used its veto power in regards to human rights violations in Syria and Myanmar. This has showcased their efforts to neglect human rights standards.

Therefore, it is imperative to look at other organisations such as The Uyghur Human Rights Project or World Uyghur Congress to seek institutional change. The gradual progression of international awareness can be accelerated by advocacy from these organisations and other grassroots movements that will force governments worldwide to unite and take action. 


Internationally, communities could use the 2022 Olympics as a platform to urge the Olympic Committee to reconsider holding the Olympics in Beijing. Widespread and severe actions must be taken in order to stop genocides. Too often we see the world idly watch and fail. Despite the challenge, world powers should come together and take a stance against nations who do not follow global standards in regards to human rights.

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.


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.


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.


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. 

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.

Rise to Peace