Afghan Peace Talks: A Primer by James Shinn

By James Shinn

The goal of a negotiated peace in Afghanistan has been firmly embraced through many of the power events to a treaty. even though, arriving at an contract concerning the sequencing, timing, and prioritization of peace phrases might be tough, given the divergence within the events' pursuits and ambitions. The U.S. goal

in those negotiations might be a solid and peaceable Afghanistan that neither hosts nor collaborates with terrorists.

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From a practical standpoint, what incentives or threats could likely move them off these sticking points in the pursuit of a viable peace accord? The overarching consideration in this assessment of the parties to any Afghan peace process is coherence. It matters a great deal to a negotiating strategy how efficient, unitary, or fractured is the decisionmaking of the participants, and how broad and deep is the consensus within a given government on policy goals in Afghanistan. This is similar but not identical to the strong state/weak state distinction often made by political scientists.

Since the terms of any plausible peace accord would explicitly isolate both the TTP and Al Qaeda, a campaign of intimidation, kidnapping, and murder by these two groups targeting both the Kabul government and the Quetta Shura during the negotiation and implementation of a peace accord is virtually certain. This will raise the diplomatic and personal stakes for the negotiators in unpleasant ways. Public opinion among a mostly illiterate rural population living in areas under partial or full Taliban control is shaped in large measure The Actors 23 by the ulema-led madrassas and mosques and by residual tribal structures.

Finally, American and NATO military power in Afghanistan is now at its apogee and about to begin a slow decline. President Obama has begun a drawdown of American forces and promised to have withdrawn entirely from combat there by 2014. Most other coalition partners will probably be gone well before then. The hope is that the Afghan army and police can fill in behind departing Western forces, but military pressure on the insurgency seems as likely to recede as advance in the future. In terms of negotiating from strength, therefore, the current military balance is probably as good as it is going to get.

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