194 S. Barakat and S. A. Zyck
embrace the Afghan constitution,” a sentiment echoed in the Obama administration’s re-centlyreleasedwhitepaperonAfghanistanandPakistan.
Yet,thereremainslittleconsensusupon why a political solution, reconciliation, and negotiations are now seemingly so plau-sible or how these diplomatic concepts may be affected by an anticipated escalation in U.S.military engagement. This article attempts to tackle those very questions by examining thecomposition and motivation of the Taliban-led insurgency and by offering a correspondingseries of recommendations aimed at fostering conditions in which a negotiated settlementis most likely to emerge and to succeed in bringing stability.Theauthorsarguethatdespitethedeteriorationofsecurity,thepossibilityforapoliticalresolution appears increasingly likely due to the decreased cohesion among the Taliban-ledinsurgency. Despite its projected strength, the insurgency has grown in size and impactprimarily through the amalgamation of several independent opposition groups and the re-cruitmentofindividualsseeking,mostnotably,pride,income,retributionforciviliandeaths,and a sense of purpose. As such, its support is broadening but remains shallow, and im-proved international and Afghan government interventions could lead to conditions that are“ripe” for a negotiated political settlement. Such interventions may involve a combinationof expanded but targeted military activity, increased economic development assistance,strengthened anti-corruption measures, and community self-defense programs. Such anapproach would have the effect of fostering a “mutually hurting stalemate” by reducinginsurgent recruitment while, at the same time, international military and reconstructionactivities reach contextually appropriate levels.
The need for and route to a political set-tlement became apparent as the authors contributed to a study of Afghanistan on behalf of the British government throughout 2008. This study,
Understanding Afghanistan: A Strate-gic Conﬂict Assessment
, included interviews with Afghan security services, former Talibanmembers,highrankingAfghanofﬁcials,diplomats,NATOmilitarycommanders,andmanyothers and was conducted by an international team of leading Afghanistan experts.
The Contemporary Context
At ﬁrst glance, it would not necessarily appear that insurgents have cause to consideranything other than full control of Afghanistan. The Afghan state controls, according tobestestimates,athirdofthecountry.
Anevengreaterproportion,40percent,oftheAfghanNational Army (ANA) is absent without leave (AWOL) at any given point in time, and thenational police force is seen, in the words of am American military commander, “to exploitandextort”ratherthan“toserveandtoprotect.”
Thecourts,accordingtotheUnitedNations(UN), control roughly 20 percent of all judicial functions and are discredited by rampantcorruption.
Bribe seeking and the imposition of excessive formal and “informal” taxes,compounded by insecurity, resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the number of internationalbusinessesregisteredinAfghanistanwithin2007aloneaccordingtotheAfghanInvestmentSupport Agency (AISA).
The population, increasingly disenchanted with the government, has fallen back onbasepatternsofself-protection,andcommunitiesrallyaroundlocalstrongmenin“friendly”areas and insurgents elsewhere after having widely concluded the state’s collapse is morea question of “when” than “if.” Militias supposedly disarmed and demobilized by the UNcontinue to function and re-arm in the North, although many were absorbed wholesale intothe security services or transformed into ubiquitous private security companies under theirformer warlord bosses.Poppy cultivation, rising until this last year, has ﬁnally begun to recede as the value of wheat surpasses that of opium, although not before a half-decade of misguided eradication
D o w nl o ad ed B y : [ U ni v e r si t y of Y o rk] A t : 19 :11 5 F eb r u a r y 2010