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Monday, May 17, 2021
Saber Azam is a former United Nations official who served with UNHCR and DPKO in key positions in Europe, Africa, and Asia. He is also the author of SORAYA: The Other Princess, a historical fiction that overflies the latest seven decades of Afghan history, and Hell’s Mouth, also a historical fiction that recounts the excellent work of humanitarian and human rights actors in Côte d’Ivoire during the First Liberian Civil War.
GENEVA, Feb 3 2021 (IPS) - President Biden and his administration confront a very challenging situation within the United States and abroad. His predecessor, Mr. Trump, refused to accept the defeat or extend any cooperation to the incoming team.
Simultaneously, the threat of internal terrorism, fomented by the former president’s rhetoric, is real. National security apparatuses are on maximum alert. Furthermore, Republican leaders have not yet decided to realign their party on values defended by Abraham Lincoln.
The health crisis is unprecedented. So far, over 450’0000 Americans have lost their lives in less than a year because of the coronavirus ravages alone. The economy is frail and unemployment soaring. President Biden and Vice-President Harris inherit a deeply divided country. Such a state of affairs is distinctive and has never occurred in the United States of America’s recently remembered history.
Abroad, the United States suffered an enormous setback during the last four years. Mr. Trump snubbed every friend, ally, and liable institution, antagonizing practically the whole world against his policies.
Among other significant lapses, his discord with Europeans and NATO, unilateral retraction from the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate agreement, unhindered support to the Saudi-led Yemen tragedy, and troops withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan have been flagrant deviations from the standard and sound approaches undertaken by any government, Democrat or Republican.
On Afghanistan, more specifically, the United States and its allies spent trillions of dollars since 2001 on the bilateral and multilateral military, humanitarian, and development aid schemes. Thousands of their soldiers either lost their lives or sustained severe injuries.
However, due to evident inefficiency, systematic corruption, rampant nepotism, intentioned tribalism, and the traditional carelessness of Kabul leaders, little changed in ordinary people’s lives. Alarming insecurity all over the country, a quasi-inexistent economy, the inapplicable rule of law, raging violations of human rights, rising bigotry, and lack of vision for the future portray the current situation.
The Trump-Taliban agreement is perceived as a nail that aimed at durably coffining the hope for democracy, prosperity, and a peaceful future. There is a growing feeling within and outside Afghanistan that the United States did not achieve tangible results from their longest and costly war since Vietnam.
The Biden/Harris administration could transform the United States’ looming letdown into a success story of their foreign policy. Boldness and slightly more patience are essential to such an achievement.
Practically all post-Taliban chieftains in Afghanistan proved inept and part of the problem. The hope for a solution and taking Afghanistan out of the abyss rely on a young and incorruptible generation. Some students and scholars voiced their views by addressing President Biden and Vice-President Harris in a letter on 26 January 2021, transmitted to the White House two days later.
They valiantly highlight some inconsistency between policy and practice and the continued unfortunate support provided to inefficient and corrupt individuals by the international community. They further underscore their growing fear that Afghanistan has become the battleground for a new “great game” among superpowers that would last for decades.
They deem it necessary to learn from mistakes committed by the international community and Afghan leadership. In their view, the new administration in the United States needs to opt for an innovative approach that would finally bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and allow an honorable withdrawal of foreign troops from this country. In particular, they insist on the following:
The letter’s signatories justifiably call on President Biden and Vice-President Harris to promote and support a young and incorruptible generation of Afghan leaders to endeavor and surmount the impediments mentioned above.
With all sincerity and humility, the new administration in Washington must embrace this new approach and abandon the policy of building on what did not function. It is also the right moment to put intense pressure on Pakistan to stop its unhindered and destructive support to the Taliban.
Finally, the international community and the United States, in particular, need to define their position concerning the Taliban and those who harbor, arm, train, and finance them, bearing in mind that their success to share or grab power would be perceived the success of other terrorist organizations too over the forces of democracy and the rule of law.
Afghans have suffered for over forty years from wars, destruction, killing of innocents – mainly women and children, extremism, terrorism, bigotry, and the ineptness of their leaders. It is high time to end their suffering with a refreshing policy and a new generation of leaders!
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