Abu Dhabi Strategic debate: There is hope for peace in Afghanistan, says ambassador

'Afghanistan has all the ingredients of an inclusive state including thousands of educated men and women'



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Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Tue 16 Nov 2021, 1:17 PM

The situation in Afghanistan is “dynamic and fluid” and the world should look back to assess the future, said Dr. Nasir Ahmad Andisha, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Geneva.

There is hope in many quarters for peace in the country even after the Taliban takeover, he said at a panel discussion on Afghanistan’s political and security landscape on the final day of the Abu Dhabi Strategic Dialogue.

“Afghanistan has all the ingredients of an inclusive state including thousands of educated men and women,” he said. However, what pushed things back was the cabinet, which was “100 percent Taliban and zero women.”

“The alignment was based on who fought and for how long and even those who toed the Taliban line weren’t included. Worst of all, blacklisted people were on the list,” he added.

Andisha said that Kabul looks like a city after a tsunami – ruined, soulless and terrified, where health and banking services are falling. He, however, said that the international community should hold the middle ground and keep supporting the civil society. “The unceremonious retreat of the US created a strategic vacuum in the region and it will take some time to fill this gap. The UN could be involved there and so could the regional countries,” he said, adding that a strong centralised state is an oxymoron in Afghanistan.

Participating in the same panel, Dr. Marvin G. Weinbaum, Director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, highlighted the crisis of administration in Afghanistan as the Taliban had never been administrators. “They were ruling in the 1990s, but they were not governing,” he said.

Weinbaum said it is important to observe what happens when the spotlight comes off the Taliban and whether they show a modicum of moderation. “There is a liquidity crisis in Afghanistan and the international community must respond to the country’s humanitarian needs,” he said, adding that the region the country belongs to is among the least economically-integrated in the world. “The Taliban want international recognition but they are not willing to give anything for it. As they want things on their own terms, we don’t know what kind of state they need,” he said.

Iran and US nuclear deal

Dr. Vali Nasr, Majid Khadduri Professor of the Middle East and International Affairs, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, said that both the US and Iran have an incentive to get a nuclear deal. However, US President Joe Biden cannot go back to the same deal with Iran that was signed the last time, he said during a panel discussion on ‘Iran – Power Reconfiguration and Regional Options.’

According to him, a comprehensive nuclear deal means Iran’s disarmament and the best-case scenario for the region is a gradual, step-by-step process. “Moreover, Iran is not willing to give in to the US only for another president to pull the plug again,” Nasr said. The Middle East is unique as it has no regional security framework. He pointed out that the US was not willing to give guarantees to Iran, which would not want America to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) without some guarantees.

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China, he said, may have a vested interest in Iran but it has largely benefited from the US presence in the Middle East. “Every Iranian manufacturer relies on Chinese goods and the country is very important to Iran, which also has ample room to increase its leverage and ability to do mischief in the region,” said Nasr.

Dr. Karim Sadjadpour, a policy analyst at the Carnegie Endowment, told the panel that Iran feels if it can continue to export oil to China, it can withstand pressure from the US. “If you go back to the framework of JCPOA, the six P5 countries had very divergent views of Iran,” he said. China is an indispensable partner to Iran but the latter is not necessarily indispensable to the former, he added.


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