It is possible for foreign troops to remain in a peacekeeping role
There is another option between withdrawing foreign troops in May or retaining the troops with their current mission after this month. Under this option, foreign forces could shift from their current role of training and advising Afghan forces and participating in the fight against insurgency to a peacekeeping role in Afghanistan. In this role, foreign forces will prevent both the collapse of the current government until a peace agreement is reached, and the increase in violence by the Taliban under the pretext of “occupation”. This option is the middle ground between the other two options and is in line with the current situation and the shortest path to peace in Afghanistan.
US and NATO officials have been monitoring the situation in Afghanistan for weeks in light of their plans to leave the country in the month of May. The turbulent situation in Afghanistan and the stalemate in peace talks in the country have made it difficult to make a decision. Therefore, it is still not clear when their final decision on this program will be made and announced.
US and NATO officials say their decision on an exit plan will be tailored to the situation in Afghanistan. They are also not in favor of Afghanistan returning to the past, and they see the solution to ending the war in this country only through dialogue. These officials, however, have not yet been able to draw up a roadmap for achieving these goals after the deadlock in the Doha talks.
Both the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and the extension of their current mission are equally bad choices. With the full withdrawal of these forces in May, Afghanistan will probably enter a new phase of the war, with the possibility of the government’s collapse, human casualties and more material damage. Obviously, this collapse and the start of a new phase of the war is not and should not be the goal of either the United States or NATO. Therefore, a full withdrawal in May will not bring the Afghan governments, the United States and NATO closer to their goals of ending the violence through dialogue, and the establishment of political peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The second option, which is to extend the current mission of foreign forces after May, will also not be beneficial to the Afghan peace process. The Taliban will resume attacks on foreign forces after May, as they have warned. In the Taliban’s view, extending the mission of these forces means a continued “occupation” of Afghanistan, thus giving the group the right to attack them. It is clear that this will lead to the Taliban withdrawing from the talks and starting a new chapter in the violence in Afghanistan.
Afghan, US and NATO officials, as well as Taliban leaders, have repeatedly stated that war is not the answer to Afghanistan. This acknowledgment is a sign that all sides are tired of war and desire a political solution to the Afghan war. With this desire, new doors of opportunity in the negotiations can be unlocked and used to continue the negotiations.
The Doha Agreement and the start of intra-Afghan talks are two major achievements in trying to end the war in Afghanistan. However, we know that the intra-Afghan talks have not progressed significantly so far, and the Doha Agreement is hanging defeat and victory. However, these two events are very important in the efforts to end the war in Afghanistan through dialogue. To maintain these gains, all parties need to make responsible decisions and not allow dialogue to be replaced with fighting.
In line with efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, the most appropriate option is to redefine the mission of foreign forces. This war will not end with the continuation of their current mission, nor with their complete withdrawal in May. It is best to shift the mission of foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan from training, advisory and support roles to peacekeeping operations. By retaining these forces as part of a peacekeeping mission, the term “occupation” will no longer be used by the Taliban as a pretext to continue the war. On the other hand, by keeping these forces within the framework of a peacekeeping mission, the risk of the government falling and Afghanistan sinking into the mire of a new catastrophe will be eliminated.
Peacekeeping is a common mission in conflict-afflicted countries. Peacekeeping forces are deployed in war-torn countries with the consent of the Parties to the conflict and with the permission of the United Nations Security Council. Their role is to prevent a new war, to facilitate peace, and to monitor the commitment of the warring parties to ending the conflict. Obviously, an agreement on this role for foreign forces requires intensive negotiations that must be pursued at various levels. Among other things, this issue should be discussed with the Government of Afghanistan, the Taliban and the UN Security Council, and the necessary efforts should be made to persuade them and obtain their consent. It seems that the Afghan government and the Taliban will have no problem in accepting a peacekeeping role for these forces.