The American war in Afghanistan has entered its final chapter. President Biden’s announcement that the last U.S. combat forces would leave Afghanistan by the 11th of September is an acknowledgement of defeat.
For Afghans, however, the war continues.
The focus of the international community must shift from war to peace. Continuing to fight the war with drones, cruise missiles and aircraft will not change the outcome; it will only lead to more unnecessary deaths and further destruction.
President Ashraf Ghani’s government should abandon its insistence that the political order established at the Bonn meeting in December 2001 be maintained. The government must be prepared to step down so that new constitution can be written to reflect the new political order.
Peace agreements, if they are to last, reflect the balance of power on the battlefield, and it is clear that the Taliban are the dominant military force, even when tens-of-thousands of international forces were aiding the Afghan government. The departure of international forces can only strengthen the Taliban’s military advantage.
The Taliban have no interest in joining a coalition with what they consider an illegitimate government put in power by foreign forces. A ceasefire would freeze the status quo in place and remove any pressure on the Afghan government to step down, which is why the Taliban will not agree to a ceasefire until a new government is formed, which the Taliban will likely dominate.
The Biden administration must step back and allow the United Nations to take the lead in winding down the war. The UN secretary general has appointed Jean Arnault, the UN’s most experienced peacemaker, as his special representative to Afghanistan. Arnault’s mandate is to reach out to Afghanistan’s neighbors and regional powers whose security would be threatened by a violent civil war in Afghanistan or a Taliban takeover. The UN should organize a conference to convince regional powers to respect the neutrality of Afghanistan, a tall order but necessary if peace is ever to return to Afghanistan after 40 years of near-constant warfare.