POLICY ALTERNATIVE SERIES: Regional Dimensions of the Afghan Peace
The war in Afghanistan has complex regional and international dimensions. In the last four decades, the country has suffered external interferences and proxy wars that have led to perpetual instability and undermined efforts to build a lasting peace and consolidate state authority. This Policy Alternative assesses the regional dynamics, views, and interests with respect to the Afghan peace process. Specifically, it discusses the state of regional consensus on a possible end state to the peace process both in terms of the form and content of a future government and its foreign relations in the currently unfolding post-US withdrawal scenario. Though much of the discussion on the end state has been left to the intra-Afghan negotiations, choices on future trajectories are likely to have implications for countries with direct material and normative interests in Afghanistan.
Given the existing rivalries, divergent views, and clashing interests among countries in the region, peace-building in Afghanistan has become a matter of geopolitical balancing. Who gains what from the Afghan peace settlement, and how, constitute the main issues in the international politics of negotiating peace in Afghanistan. Amid intensified national, regional, and international efforts to put an end to the current conflict, the prospect for peace in Afghanistan depends on regional consensus to support the peace process as much as it depends on actual progress in the intra-Afghan talks. As Afghans begin to negotiate a peace deal, regional agreement on the modality, quality, and international relations of the future government of Afghanistan is an essential component of the peace settlement in Afghanistan. Such an agreement should first and foremost recognize a legitimate role for a democratic and sovereign Afghanistan in the regional and international system, and help it stay free from geopolitical competitions to enable its potential for regional stability and economic connectivity.
Building on extensive expert discussions held between May and August 2020 by Heart of Asia Society (HAS) among a core group of scholars and former diplomats from the region,1 this Policy Alternative unpacks critical issues concerning regional dynamics of the peace process in Afghanistan. Analysis of regional trends and developments as well as the views expressed at discussions held by HAS indicate that while all countries in the region express an eagerness to see a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, a regional consensus on more substantive issues concerning the future form of the Afghan government and its international relations is far from resolved. This Policy Alternative maps the regional dynamics concerning the Afghan peace process and provides a set of recommendations on how to strengthen the ongoing efforts toward building a strong regional consensus, and consequently a regional agreement to ensure sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
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