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Afghanistan: western powers must accept defeat and deal realistically with the Taliban

August 24, 2021
Afghanistan Photo: Unsplash / Andre Klimke

This article was first published by The Conversation

Sten Rynning, Professor of International Security and War Studies from the University of Southern Denmark, writes about the new role of western actors in Afghanistan after the Talibans took control over the nation on August 15. 

“Pakistan, which nourished the Taliban and played for time to maintain its sphere of influence, will thus durably “own” Afghanistan. It has the largest political and economic stakes in Afghanistan, it has more sway over the Taliban movement than any other outside player, and its longstanding ally, China, has already indicated its willingness to be of help.” 

“A forward-looking policy must begin with an overt recognition that the Taliban and Pakistan have been victorious. It should then spell out the terms of western engagement. Having lost the war, the west must offer the Taliban development potential: diplomatic recognition and, with it, opportunities for finance and trade. The west should also offer to channel humanitarian aid into Afghanistan on terms that suit both sides.”

“For its part, the west cannot accept international terrorism emanating from Afghanistan – and Europe, especially, cannot accept a continued flow of refugees for fear of further inflaming domestic politics. Western states would be right to signal that financial sanctions, covert military operations and other means of coercion could come into play if they are pushed.”

“Time is of the essence. Afghanistan could be on the precipice of civil war while bewildered western governments seem to be mostly concerned with their public image in the face of human suffering. One can all too easily imagine that nothing much will happen in terms of western response – and certainly not a coordinated one.”