Far from ‘doom and gloom’: a new chapter in Afghanistan’s partnership with the world


Ottawa-MAY 24, 2021

By HASSAN SOROOSH, The Hill Times   

Looking to the future, Afghanistan and our international partners must work together to define and shape the new chapter of our partnership through a common narrative and integrated efforts.

The recent decision by the United States and other NATO allies to withdraw their remaining forces from Afghanistan has given rise to a “narrative of doom and gloom.” While there are risks and challenges associated with the pull-out decision, such a narrative is both overly pessimistic and simplistic, and fails to recognize a number of important facts and elements on the ground.

First, the actual security transition in Afghanistan took place in 2014 when international forces officially ended their combat mission in Afghanistan and out of over 130,000 forces at its peak in previous years, only around 130,00 forces remained in the country for a train, advise, and assist mission.

Since 2014, contrary to the negative predictions suggesting that the Afghan state would fail and collapse following the security transition, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) has emerged as a capable and vital national institution, leading efforts in providing security and fighting against common threats, including terrorism. Over the past two years alone, ANDSF has been able to conduct more than 90 per cent of military operations in Afghanistan independently and has effectively pushed back the recent attacks by the Taliban across the country.

Second, the government of Afghanistan respects the pull-out decision and views it as a new chapter in our long-term and multi-faceted partnership with the international community which goes beyond military presence and includes other important elements, such as development cooperation and security sector support.

Third, the Taliban’s narrative of victory is a false narrative resulting from being too much incentivised without reciprocation. The Taliban has failed to live up to its commitments, including cutting ties with terrorist groups; reducing violence; entering into meaningful peace negotiations and preventing the return of its released prisoners to battlefields.

And even though the decision to pull out international forces has put an end to the Taliban’s justification for Jihad, they abandoned the peace talks rather than abandoning violence. The violence has only intensified with a new wave of brutal attacks that continue to target innocent people, including school children.

Looking to the future, Afghanistan and our international partners must work together to define and shape the new chapter of our partnership through a common narrative and integrated efforts.

First, the past two decades in Afghanistan have been marked by a sustained partnership driven by our shared values that include democracy, the rule of law, human rights, women’s empowerment, as well as peace, friendship, and cooperation. Along with continued development and humanitarian assistance, many courageous men and women in uniform from Canada, U.S., and other international allies fought alongside ANDSF in defence of these shared values and thousands of them made the ultimate sacrifice for this noble cause for which we are enormously grateful.

From improved access to education and health services, to undeniable democratic gains, and a growing generation of empowered women holding leading positions in various areas in Afghanistan—there is so much progress to show for the collective efforts we have made together since we began our common journey in 2001. We must, therefore, work together to preserve and enhance these hard-won gains through an enduring partnership, honouring our collective efforts and sacrifices.

Second, we must counter the false narrative of victory being promoted by the Taliban. The Taliban needs to feel real pressure from the international community and understand that they can no longer use the peace process as a tool for legitimization and that they have to instead enter into meaningful negotiations, otherwise, concrete collective actions including more severe sanctions and isolation will await them.

The Taliban must understand that the only way forward is their integration into an inclusive and democratic society and that the only acceptable end state of the peace process for the people of Afghanistan to be supported by our international partners is “a sovereign, Islamic, democratic, united, neutral, and connected Afghanistan” which would serve as a hub for trade and transit and an important driver of economic growth, development and stability in the wider region and beyond. They must also understand that a comprehensive ceasefire is a serious and legitimate demand of the Afghan people and our international partners and remains a key element of the peace process.

Third, while the risk of terrorism has been diminished due to our collective efforts over the past two decades, it has not disappeared. There is a need, therefore, for maintaining our collective counter-terrorism capabilities including through continued support to ANDSF. In addition to this, the growing link between terrorism, narcotics and organized crime and the relevant support network outside Afghanistan must be addressed effectively.

Afghanistan and our international partners deserve a shared future free of fear, violence and uncertainty. While the people and government of Afghanistan continue to display courage and commitment in support of the peace process, a genuine regional engagement and consistent international support remain crucial in reaching lasting peace in Afghanistan.

In this context, Canada, as a global champion in promoting democracy, human rights, women’s empowerment, pluralism and multilateralism, and as one of the largest donors to Afghanistan, is well-positioned to continue playing a leading role, along with the United Nations, United States and key regional and international partners, in ensuring a coordinated and sustained international support to peace and development in Afghanistan.

Hassan Soroosh is the ambassador of Afghanistan to Canada.



Last modified on Wednesday, 26/05/2021

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