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History unlikely to repeat itself, says leading political scientist  

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(Last Updated On: October 27, 2020)

Despite repeated calls from Afghans and their international partners for a reduction in violence, the Taliban has failed to listen and has steadfastly stated violence will end once an Islamic system has been established. 

In an op-ed in Foreign Policy on Tuesday, Barnett Richard Rubin, an American political scientist and a leading expert on Afghanistan said that even then the group has not defined “Islamic system”. 

Instead, the Taliban has stalled the talks by refusing to budge on procedural matters, including that relating to jurisprudence to be referred to in the event of disputes. 

Rubin says that to get the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire, “they will most certainly have to be given something substantial in return.

“They will want further guarantees from the United States that it will complete its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and lift sanctions imposed on the Taliban,” he said. 

With regards to the Afghan side, Ruben said they may want to install an interim government that includes representatives from both sides. 

Should this happen, an interim government would preside over a political process to determine what the Doha agreement calls a “roadmap” for Afghanistan’s political future. As he pointed out, the idea of an interim government has been discussed in Kabul but has sparked controversy. 

“There is precedent for interim governments in the practice of peace processes in general and in Afghanistan, but the history of Afghanistan also shows the risks inherent in such measures,” said Rubin. 

Looking back at Afghanistan’s history of interim governments – after the Bonn Agreement in 2001, and another from 1991 to 1992 – Rubin said the end result had marked a new stage of war rather than a transition to peace. 

The 2001 move was implemented after the ousting of the Taliban while the 1991 interim government came after the Soviet withdrawal and the then-president Mohammed Najibullah’s resignation which ultimately led to civil war. 

As Rubin said, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has cited these events as a warning. 

Addressing an event hosted by the US Institute of Peace and the Atlantic Council in June, Ghani said: “Dr Najibullah made the mistake of his life by announcing that he was going to resign.” 

“Please don’t ask us to replay a film that we know well,” said Ghani. 

In Rubin’s opinion, Ghani’s take on the issue is warranted. 

Rubin wrote: “The Geneva Accords of April 1988 provided for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan by February 15, 1989. As a first step toward stabilization, they also required the end of US aid to the mujahideen by May 1988, but the United States refused to implement that provision without a commitment by the Soviet Union to stop military aid to the Afghan government. 

“The Geneva Accords made no provision for a political transition, but in 1989, after the Soviet Union withdrew, Moscow began a dialogue with the United States about a UN-sponsored political settlement and conditions under which both sides would end military assistance. Najibullah and his Soviet backers argued that the process should start under the incumbent (him), who may leave at the end. 

“The United States, mujahideen, and Pakistan insisted that Najibullah resign at the start and be replaced by a UN-mediated interim government. The Soviet Union agreed after the failed coup by hard-liners in Moscow in August 1991 that triggered the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December. Just before the state’s demise, in September 1991, both sides had agreed to end military aid to their proxies by January 1992, with an interim government to take over from Najibullah on April 15 that year. 

“Mujahideen leaders in Pakistan rejected that agreement, though, and mutinous militias blocked Najibullah from flying to India under UN escort. The security forces fractured, and war started inside Kabul. Out of the resulting chaos came the Taliban,” Rubin stated.

 But he said that today, there are some elements in place that would prevent a 1992-style collapse in the event of an interim government coming into power. 

 Rubin said that first, aid would continue to be provided, second, the negotiation process has been more transparent and third, the armed opposition is united and engaged in negotiations. 

“In the 1990s, the mujahideen—also at war internally—refused to meet with representatives of the Kabul regime, making the creation of a power-sharing interim government impossible. 

“This time, the Taliban also refused to meet the Afghan government before its February agreement with the United States on troop withdrawal, but they are now engaged in direct negotiations with representatives of the government.”

Rubin also stated that this time around, the parties to a potential interim government are meeting directly in Doha, and the Taliban have developed a unified command structure opposed to the factionalized group that undermined the mujahideen. 

Another issue that differs now, against 1992, is that Afghanistan now has a constitution and three functioning branches of government – even if “rule of law remains weak”. 

Rubin also pointed out that Afghanistan is a member of the United Nations and a party to many international agreements. “Any transition should seek to assure the continuity of the legal identity of the state and its institutions, especially the security forces,” he wrote. 

“In other words, the prospects for an interim government are better this time than in 1992. What is left is for the parties to, first, make clear the means by which each of the parties will commit to an agreement internally. 

“Any agreement to modify Afghanistan’s current political arrangements should take existing institutions as a point of departure. For instance, the constitution provides for an interim government in Article 67, which outlines procedures in the case of the death, resignation, illness, or impeachment of the president. To depart from these constitutional lines of succession, the formation of a new interim government could be approved by an emergency loya jirga, a customary institution codified in the Bonn Agreement. The Taliban would likewise use their own institutions to ratify it. The agreement would also have to include, as did the Bonn Agreement, the structure and personnel of the interim government, provisions for all armed forces to come under the authority of the interim government, and the legal framework under which the interim authority would operate,” Rubin wrote. 

He stated that for a transition to take place, under current circumstances, it would make sense to specify the legal framework as the current constitution with appropriate modifications to accommodate the agreement on the interim government. 

But he warned the Taliban may reject such a proposal since it implies the acceptance of the existing constitution.

However, Rubin noted that one former Taliban official suggested that the group might accept a modified version of the constitution of 1964, on which the current constitution is based. 

He also stated that any interim government agreement should also note, as did the Bonn Agreement, that “the Interim Authority shall be the repository of Afghan sovereignty, with immediate effect.” 

He said counterterrorism obligations of the Taliban, laid out in the Doha agreement as well as those of the current government, could become obligations of the interim government. 

“The United States would also have to agree with the interim government that all bilateral agreements remain in effect, subject to updates reflecting changed conditions in the country,” he said. 

In conclusion, Rubin stated that both sides have so far rejected any mediator or international facilitation, “but they will find it difficult if not impossible to negotiate and implement such a complex agreement without it.”

He warned however that if there is no progress in the talks, “the United States could simply disengage.”

“The United States is unlikely to break up like the Soviet Union, but it is certain to be distracted by the [COVID-19] pandemic and numerous domestic crises. The process might be different than in 1992, but the result could be similar if not worse. It is urgent to get these negotiations moving,” he said. 

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Donor countries pledge $1 billion to support emergency aid for Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 13, 2021)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced that donors have pledged over $1 billion towards aid for Afghanistan – exceeding the hoped for amount of $606 million. 

Guterres’ announcement comes after Monday’s High-Level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan. 

“This conference has fully met my expectations in relation to the solidarity with the people in Afghanistan,” Guterres said late Monday. 

Afghanistan stands on the brink of a growing humanitarian and economic crisis.

Earlier Monday Guterres, who hosted the meeting, said “the people of Afghanistan need a lifeline” during “their most perilous hour.”

Guterres also maintained that the country’s new rulers had pledged their cooperation “to ensure assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan.”

One in two Afghans do not know where their next meal is coming from, the UN chief explained, adding that “many people could run out of food by the end of the month, just as winter approaches”.

Guterres did not specify how much of the $1 billion in pledged funding would be distributed towards the UN emergency budget for the coming months, or what would be potentially provided later. 

However, a survey by the World Food Programme (WFP) found 93% of Afghans surveyed lacked sufficient food, many because they could not get access to cash to pay for items.

Even before the takeover by the Islamic Emirate, food circumstances in Afghanistan were dire. 

Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the WFP Country Director for Afghanistan said: “It’s critical for the humanitarian effort that in the greatest time of need, that the international community stands alongside the women and children and men of Afghanistan, whose lives have been upended through no fault of their own,” she said.

 

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US pledges additional $64 million in aid for Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 13, 2021)

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said on Monday night the United States has committed a further $64 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

In a tweet late Monday, Khalilzad said: “The United States remains firmly committed to continue our robust humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan.

“We are proud to announce an additional $64 million in humanitarian assistance,” he said.

According to a statement issued by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the funding is from both USAID and the U.S. State Department and the money will flow through independent organizations, such as UN agencies and NGOs.

This money will “provide life-saving support directly to Afghans facing the compounding effects of insecurity, conflict, recurring natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic,” read the statement.

The organization said the additional funding will provide vulnerable Afghans with critically needed food, health care, nutrition, medical supplies, protection, hygiene supplies, and other urgently needed relief.

In addition, USAID stated it has activated a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) – based outside of Afghanistan – to lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response.

“This team, which is based outside of Afghanistan, is working with partners to provide aid and adapt programs in response to the new environment,” the statement read.

The United States is the single largest humanitarian donor in Afghanistan, providing nearly $330 million this year alone.

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UN chief calls for urgent emergency aid for Afghanistan 

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(Last Updated On: September 13, 2021)

The international community should urgently offer a “lifeline” to millions of vulnerable Afghans “who face perhaps their most perilous hour”, the UN Secretary-General said on Monday at a special meeting in Geneva on the need for emergency aid for Afghanistan.

Leading the appeal in Geneva for $606 million to support emergency aid for 11 million people across the country, António Guterres said that even before the fall of the previous government, people were in the grip of one of the worst crises in the world.

“The people of Afghanistan need a lifeline,” he said. “After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour. Now is the time for the international community to stand with them.”

Highlighting concerns over humanitarian access as needs rise dramatically, Guterres maintained that the country’s new rulers had pledged their cooperation “to ensure assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan. Our staff and all aid workers must be allowed to do their vital work in safety — without harassment, intimidation or fear.”

One in two Afghans do not know where their next meal is coming from, the UN chief explained, adding that “many people could run out of food by the end of the month, just as winter approaches”.

Speaking at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stressed the extent of the humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan.

At Monday’s meeting, the UN Secretary-General highlighted the need for food, life-saving interventions and essential health care for the people of Afghanistan.

And he insisted that “robust mechanisms” had been established to coordinate humanitarian efforts that were anchored in human rights.

UN emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths noted that he had received written assurances from leaders of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to allow relief efforts to continue.

These guarantees followed his meeting with the Afghan government’s interim leaders in Kabul last week, where he urged the country’s new rulers to respect human rights and facilitate aid access.

Speaking from Kabul, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, underscored the high level of needs among Afghanistan’s 3.5 million displaced people, and the potential for even greater suffering.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has underlined the urgent need to safeguard rural livelihoods and avoid massive displacement.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu called for funding to save Afghanistan’s next wheat harvest, keep farm animals alive, and avoid a deterioration of the country’s already severe humanitarian crises.

His agency is seeking $36 million to speed up support to farmers and ensure they will not miss the upcoming winter wheat planting season.   

FAO will also assist around 3.5 million Afghans, who depend on agriculture for their incomes, until the end of the year.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister calls for sustained engagement

 Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi also addressed the ministerial meeting, via a video link, and called on the international community for sustained engagement with Afghanistan.

 According to a statement issued by Qureshi’s office, the Foreign Minister gave a report on the humanitarian support provided by Pakistan in recent days, including the facilitation of evacuations for foreigners, the establishment of a humanitarian corridor for the delivery of relief goods, among others. 

“He committed to continue Pakistan’s humanitarian assistance comprising food and medicines to Afghanistan as well as hosting more than three million Afghan refugees. 

“He called for international solidarity with the Afghan people, both in terms of financial and political support. He emphasized the need to renew developmental partnerships, support nation-building, and meet the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people,” the statement read. 

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