Joint Statement on The Expansion of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan
Joint Statement on The Expansion of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan
The U.S. and the Taliban after the Killing of al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri
The U.S. and the Taliban after the Killing of al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri
Statement / Asia

Joint Statement on The Expansion of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan

Joint Statement by The International Crisis Group, Care International, and the International Rescue Committee on The Expansion of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Our organizations have just completed a round of consultations with NATO in Brussels and Washington on the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The following are the key points we conveyed to NATO:

  1. Our organizations welcome UN Security Council resolution 1510 authorizing ISAF expansion beyond Kabul, as well as recent NATO expressions of its willingness to take on this important additional responsibility. 
     
  2. We believe that an expansion of international peacekeeping beyond Kabul is an essential element of support by the international community to Afghan authorities over the next year in the run-up to the constitutional loya jirga and national elections. Improving security outside Kabul is also vital to reconstruction efforts, which have been hampered by an increase in attacks on aid agencies – from one per month to one every two days – over the past year.
     
  3. Now that NATO has agreed to lead ISAF expansion, we urge it to move quickly from planning to implementation. While careful planning is important, timely action is also essential to respond to the numerous threats – including extremist elements, powerful warlords and a resurgent drug trade – to continued progress in Afghanistan. It is also imperative that ISAF’s presence outside Kabul be meaningful in scale. The deployment of a handful of additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) would simply not be adequate to fulfill its mandate.
     
  4. While we welcome the willingness of the German government to send an ISAF team to Kunduz, we urge that NATO give priority in subsequent deployments to the most insecure locations in Afghanistan. We also call on all NATO member governments, and other governments interested in the future of Afghanistan, to commit the additional troops, equipment and funds required to support ISAF’s expanded mandate. Without significant additional resources, the recent UN and NATO decisions to expand ISAF will be little more than hollow gestures. 
     
  5. We also urge NATO to focus the activities of all ISAF forces in Afghanistan, including additional teams deployed outside Kabul, on security-related tasks, leaving reconstruction to the Afghan government and civilian aid agencies. In particular, we urge that ISAF focus on: training professional Afghan police and military forces; and assisting in the implementation of a comprehensive program of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration into civilian life of those militia forces that do not qualify for the new police and army. Given ISAF’s mandate as an “assistance” force, building the capacity of the Afghan government to provide for the security of its people should be the central focus of its activities.

In conclusion, our organizations welcome NATO’s decision to take on the challenge of ISAF expansion in Afghanistan. We now urge it to implement this decision quickly, and to do so in a manner that will improve the security of the Afghan people and aid agencies involved in reconstruction, while also creating conditions for the successful completion of the Bonn process. To do less would be to risk the collapse of international efforts to help the Afghan people create a more peaceful, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.

Brussels

Podcast / Asia

The U.S. and the Taliban after the Killing of al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri

This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood speaks with Crisis Group’s Asia Director Laurel Miller about U.S. policy in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s foreign relations and what the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in the Afghan capital Kabul says about the threat from transnational militants in Afghanistan a year into Taliban rule.

On 31 July, a U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in the Afghan capital Kabul. Zawahiri appears to have been living in a house maintained by the family of powerful Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani. His death came almost a year after U.S. troops pulled out of Afghanistan and the Taliban routed the former Afghan security forces and seized power. The Taliban’s uncompromising rule over the past year has seen girls denied their right to education, many other rights and freedoms curtailed and power tightly guarded within the Taliban movement. The Afghan economy has collapsed, owing in large part to the U.S. and other countries’ freezing Afghan Central Bank assets, keeping sanctions against the Taliban in place and denying the country non-humanitarian aid. Levels of violence across the country are mostly down, but Afghans’ plight is desperate, with a grave humanitarian crisis set to worsen over the winter. The Taliban’s apparent harbouring of Zawahiri seems unlikely to smooth relations between the new authorities in Kabul and the outside world. 

This week on Hold your Fire! Richard Atwood speaks with Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director Laurel Miller about U.S. policy in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s broader foreign relations after Zawahiri’s killing. They discuss what his presence and death in Kabul mean for U.S. policy and what they say about the threat posed by transnational militants sheltering in Afghanistan. They look into how countries in the region are seeking to protect their interests in Afghanistan, including by engaging with the de facto Taliban authorities, and how those countries – particularly Pakistan, which has faced an uptick of violence in the past year – view the danger from foreign militants in Afghanistan. They also look in depth at Washington’s goals in Afghanistan a year after the withdrawal and what balance it should strike between engaging the Taliban or seeking to isolate them. Just over a year after the U.S. withdrawal and Taliban takeover, they reflect back on Washington’s decision to pull out troops. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more on the situation in Afghanistan, check out Crisis Group’s recent report Afghanistan’s Security Challenges under the Taliban.

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