Donald Trump’s recent u-turn – ordering the deployment of 4000 additional US troops and vowing to ‘win’ an open-ended war on terrorists – has closed the American door on nation-building in Afghanistan, however temporarily. Trump diplomacy seems more likely to alienate the Afghan nation rather than support its need to fight and reform on two fronts at the same time.
President Ashraf Ghani insists that the integrity of an Afghan-led consolidated process has to be respected. Now is the time to enlist UN help to make this happen, and to forge an international consensus among regional parties. A western offer of unconditional talks is already on the table. Meanwhile Trump is asking NATO allies to match American troop numbers… Should Britain refuse the request to send more troops to Afghanistan?
Everyone agrees that the security situation since the handover of power and withdrawal of Western troops in 2014 has deteriorated: government forces now control less than 60% of the country, with a resurgent Taliban and increased threat from Islamic State fighters.
The reduced Western presence has failed to enforce peace, yet seems unavoidable in strategic and humanitarian terms. Angela Merkel stresses that terrorism in one place targets us all. ‘We can’t afford to see Afghanistan lost’ is a mantra but also a conundrum.
The explosion that rocked Kabul on 1st June, inside the secure diplomatic area of the city, was the deadliest since the American-led invasion of 2001. Its purpose: to sow a sense of living on the brink of disaster. The Islamic State attack on a Shia mosque in Kabul in late August sent the same message.
Days afterwards, the streets and restaurants of Kabul are again full with families, demonstrating an Afghan resilience that we take for granted. But for how long?
Join our A-team on Afghanistan, on October 2nd, for individual presentations followed by a general discussion:
Hamid Karzai served as President of Afghanistan for almost ten years, from 2004 to 2014.
Zalmay Khalilzad is the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations.
Christina Lamb is Britain’s most distinguished foreign reporter, currently Foreign Affairs Correspondent for the Sunday Times.
Yalda Hakim, whose family fled Afghanistan when she was an infant, is an Australian broadcast journalist with BBC World News.