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Talks collapse – what comes next?

September 10, 2019

Summary: Although the manner of the collapse was a surprise, a failure of such a difficult series of talks was always a real possibility. What happens over the next 12 months or so?

There are multiple possibilities – a handful here…

  1. The US and the Taliban will intensify military efforts in the absence of any other ideas and to show they are unconcerned and capable.
  2. Fighting will resume at current levels (or, less likely, a pause) in the hope/expectation that talks will continue again soon (at some level) once everyone has calmed down.
  3. US and/or Afghan government reject or minimise the Taliban’s political status and legitimacy- return to categorising them purely as terrorists to be targeted. They are no longer recognised.
  4. US and/or Afghan government demand: no new talks until a ceasefire demonstrates the Taliban’s good faith.
  5. Similar to point 4 – The withdrawal of US forces timetable looks to have been broadly agreed – US commits to this timeframe but does not move at all until a ceasefire is in place.
  6. US inactivity – Trump loses interest (there is no Nobel prize in this for him, better to try with North Korea again.  US actions and policy drift. In essence, no productive move for the rest of this presidential term beyond fighting.
  7. Wild Card: Withdrawal begins – the US decide to shut out the Taliban and commence the agreed staged withdrawal as part of a new strategic agreement with the Afghan government. The Taliban are excluded. US commits to a new long-term financial, economic and political support package for the Afghan democratic process. Some US counter-terrorism capabilities remain but the US/international community’s efforts are a renewed and revitalised focus on assisting governance, democracy, rule of law, growth of a civil service and anti-corruption initiatives. The Taliban have one of their key wishes met – no US troops in Afghanistan. Thus the Taliban are undermined – they lose a key motivational/recruitment tool and are now only ever killing fellow Muslims.

I don’t think these scenarios are necessarily exclusive to each other. On reviewing them, I realise the “Wild card” suggestion is not so much a scenario but an idea I have had as a possible – but unconventional – solution.  I will try and develop that more in the future.

Welcome any comments, critique and filling in of the many gaps…

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