Afghanistan is on the verge of a new chapter with the unconditional withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
The new chapter of Afghanistan could, in the most optimistic case possible, be a chapter of peace through the continuation of negotiations between Afghans in Istanbul and Doha, which could result in lasting peace and an end to the 40-year war. Evidence, however, shows that the people of Afghanistan must be prepared for difficult situations.
As Zalmai Khalilzad once said in one of his conversations, the Americans came without consulting, they will start their withdrawal plan without consulting Afghanistan from May first.
However, the Americans could have announced their withdrawal plan after the Istanbul Conference. Announcing the withdrawal of US troops after the Istanbul summit and making the peace process a precondition, as stipulated in the Doha agreement, could guarantee the relative success of the Istanbul summit, but the Doha agreement is now applied in reverse.
The Doha Agreement, signed in February 2020 between the Americans and the Taliban, sets out a withdrawal plan conditional on the success of the peace process. The failure of the intra-Afghan talks in Doha meant that the process did not go according to plan and the Americans decided to leave at a time when none of the preconditions for the agreement had been met by the Taliban. Even during the Doha talks, despite the Taliban claiming to have reduced the fighting and with the release of 5,000 prisoners by the government, efforts to overthrow Helmand and several other provinces showed that they had not complied with the Doha Agreement.
The announcement of the untimely withdrawal of the Americans has cast a heavy shadow over the Istanbul Conference. It seems that the Istanbul Conference, which was supposed to be similar to the Bonn Conference, has now been reduced to a formal meeting with no practical guarantees for the public and on the sides.
NATO and the Europeans, who spoke of a responsible withdrawal against President Trump’s administration, also forgot their promise of a responsible departure and announced their readiness to leave just as the Biden administration announced their departure. Germany, which declared a two-year extension a month ago, also announced recently that it would begin withdrawing troops on May 1. Australia has also announced that it is withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan.
The announcement of the hasty withdrawal has caused concern among Afghans because before, all countries, including the countries of the region, emphasized leaving responsibly. Even Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson recently stressed the responsible withdrawal of the United States and NATO.
The Afghan government says the Afghan security forces are capable of self-defense, and the president has recently said that the narrative of a collapse is incorrect. He stated that the government’s narrative after this is of responsibility, sacrifice, partnership, nationalization, peacebuilding, market creation, regional connection, and security.
Despite the withdrawal of foreign troops, the global and regional consensus to maintain order in Afghanistan is something to be hopeful about. Afghanistan is not collapsing because security forces have both war experience and the most advanced combat training.
Under a security pact signed between Washington and Kabul in 2014, the Americans were required to support security forces until 2024, but what is worrying is that the untimely and unconditional withdrawal has undermined the success of the peace process.
As can be seen, both the Taliban and the Afghan government are preparing for war. A war that has no consequences other than casualties, a massive wave of internally displaced persons, and collective despair.
If the Americans and NATO had announced their departure plan after the Istanbul Conference, this decision could have strengthened the peace process. Now that the withdrawal plan is in place, the Afghan government must work on an internal consensus on possible scenarios while emphasizing the peace process.
In the new chapter of war and peace, without trying to unite the people, victory seems difficult. On the one hand, the Afghan government must emphasize peace as our urgent national need and not abandon the narrative of peace, and on the other hand, given the bad scenarios, it must spare no effort to strengthen the political consensus to preserve the achievements of the last two decades.