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Afghanistan in new political realities: analysis and assessment of the situation

Photo: REUTERS / Mohammad Ismail

The Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies presents an article by Sherali Rizoyon, a political scientist from Tajikistan, on the current situation and prospects for the situation in Afghanistan after the signing of an agreement between the country's political leaders in the ongoing process of withdrawing the US contingent from Afghanistan.

The presidential elections in Afghanistan took place in September 2019, their results were announced in December 2019. The main candidates were incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and the head of the Executive Government of National Unity, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. In March 2020, the two candidates were sworn in separately, declared themselves presidents and the country was gripped by a systemic crisis, which caused concern to external partners, especially the United States in the wake of peace talks with the Taliban. However, on May 17 this year, a political agreement was signed between A. Ghani and A. Abdullah, which marked the beginning of a new consensus between the main forces of the Afghan political field.

In general, Afghanistan has been in a protracted conflict for more than 40 years, where the civil war has not subsided. To analyze the situation in Afghanistan, it is important to understand the background of events, which is important for understanding and predicting the possible development of the situation. To understand the situation, it is also necessary to take into account the factors influencing domestic political transformation, the interests of Afghan elite groups, the approaches of global and regional powers, which have permanent interests in this country.

The purpose of this article is a brief analysis of possible developments against the background of the agreement between A. Ghani and A. Abdullah, potential problems and prospects for the situation.

Specifics of political groups and forces in Afghanistan

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has a specific and exceptional political, economic, social and cultural structure, without a clear understanding of which it is impossible to give a real assessment of political processes. The history of Afghanistan, especially over the last 40 years, shows that all the country's internal forces, both during the struggle with the Soviet Union and the central government of Afghanistan, and after the Bonn talks and the defeat of the Taliban, did not have a stable position. programs and actions taken. This factor proves that it is impossible to predict the actions and steps of influential political figures in the political process in Afghanistan.

The experience of political transformation in Afghanistan shows that influential politicians do not always adhere strictly to their party orientations in order to achieve their own goals, but change their political views and join opposition groups over the course of circumstances. An example is the 2019 presidential election, when a number of influential people from both teams changed their views and became political opponents of their former partners. In this context, there have been changes in the positions of influential generals in the northern regions, General Atomuhammad Nura and Amrulla Saleh of the Abdullah coalition, as well as Abdurashid Dostum, Khalili, and to some extent Atmar of the Ghani coalition.

These political figures played an important role in the 2014 presidential election, in the conduct and completion of the electoral process, and in the subsequent organization of the Government of National Unity, in proportion to the division of power between the parties in their coalitions. In the 2019 elections, taking into account their own political interests, they changed their positions. Based on this practice, it can be assumed that in the forthcoming transformations of this country, they may change their political preferences again. The same situation is very common among the armed opposition groups of the current government.

This political culture was formed on the basis of the historical path of Afghan society under the influence of ethnic and tribal factors, as well as other existing elements. The specificity of this political culture is that it has developed under the influence of internal factors and the external factor does not play a dominant role.

Therefore, it can be stated that until a rational and sustainable political culture is established within the established rules, political processes in Afghanistan will remain unpredictable. Regardless of the fact that in these processes, depending on the circumstances and time, political figures change, and some political actors were trained in Western countries, and are familiar with the political system of these developed countries, returning to Afghanistan and acting as political players, they are forced to take into account the rules of the established game, and even with a great desire can not develop and make changes. This specificity has two levels of specificity, on the one hand, acts as a factor in the predictability of political players based on their tribal, ethnic and religious origins, and on the other hand limits the influence of external actors, as there is no single center with which to agree. as a counterweight can act as a deterrent.

External actors and political processes in Afghanistan

Political history shows that external actors, both during the intervention of Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States with their allies, failed to fully achieve their interests and failed. These countries, with their enormous logistical resources, have failed to play a leading role in ensuring the stability and security of Afghanistan. The results of their actions in the creation of government structures can be assessed as follows: either they left a dependent and unstable government, or kept the situation in a semi-crisis situation. As an example, we can recall the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, after a short time the central government of Afghanistan was dismantled, and the Taliban came to power. In the current situation, given the huge multibillion-dollar costs, the United States and its allies have been unable or unwilling to completely eliminate the armed forces of the opposition groups in Afghanistan's central government.

Today, armed opposition movements, mainly the Taliban, have significant influence and control a large part of the country's regions. According to today's elite in Kabul and a number of independent experts, the growing influence of the Taliban and other armed groups on the general situation is due to the policies of Afghanistan's neighboring states, especially Pakistan. The United States, aware of this, was unwilling or inadequate to reduce Islamabad's influence. As noted above, the United States and its allies have failed to organize a stable internal economic, social, military, and political structure capable of ensuring stability and security after the withdrawal of foreign troops. To date, much of the security, military, and general budget expenditures in Afghanistan's general budget have been supported by the United States and other Western nations, as a clear indication of ineffective policy-making in that country.

Achieved political consensus: problems and prospects

The history of Afghanistan remembers many political agreements between ruling and competing power groups. The vast majority of these agreements were reached under pressure from outside actors, exemplified by the consensus between King Abdurahman and Kalakoni (Bachai Sako), Rabbani and Hikmatyor, and between Ghani and Abdullah. Each of the above agreements has its own specifics, as they were reached in special conditions, taking into account the time factor, and require a separate analysis.

As for the formation of the future government, based on the current political consensus between A. Ghani and A. Abdullah, it was expected that it would be implemented. Since most of the major players both in Kabul and abroad did not want to destroy the rather fragile structure of the current political system of Afghanistan, and therefore tried to maintain the status quo in these conditions.

As a result, the situation of five years ago was repeated - A. Ghani and A. Abdullah came to a consensus. If 5 years ago the Executive Government was formed under the leadership of A. Abdullah, today the Supreme Council of Peace has been created under his leadership, which will deal with issues of achieving peace in Afghanistan. It is noteworthy that A. Abdullah is a supporter of the national hero of Afghanistan and the leader of the Northern Alliance Ahmad Shah Masuud, who in the last years of his life fought against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

For your information: Ahmad Shah Masood (September 1, 1953 - September 10, 2001) - Afghan field commander, Minister of Defense of Afghanistan (1992-1996). He is also known as the Panjshir Lion, one of the leaders of the Afghan Armed Society of Afghanistan's armed opposition party, as well as the IOA's paramilitary wing, Shurroyi-e-Nezor. By order of President Hamid Karzai, Massoud was posthumously named a "National Hero." The date of Masood's death, September 9, is celebrated as a national holiday known as Masood's Day.

Ahmad Shah Masood

In general, a number of factors contributed to this development:

First, the US representatives, as their actions as the main mediator of the peace agreement between the legitimate government and the Taliban show, do not need a conflict within the elite. Consensus among the ruling political groups in Kabul is the key to the effectiveness of the US strategy to achieve peace with the Taliban, which "reimburses" the financial and institutional costs of new state-building in Afghanistan.

Second, the Given the position of neighboring and permanently interested states, in particular Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, and the Arab states, it can be stated that none of them was interested in escalating the conflict in Afghanistan in the short term. Although these countries share different interests, and each has its own vision of developments in Afghanistan, in the current perspective, a fragile world can give them time to develop and implement their own strategy for Afghanistan in the current context.

Third, conflict between political groups in Afghanistan's leadership reduces the reputation of major rivals for power among both voters and outside players. Afghanistan has developed a strong civil society over the past 20 years, including the media, which is an order of magnitude superior to the media in the post-Soviet space. The level of freedom of speech in the Afghan media is high, a clear example of which is the analytical programs on TV, which discuss the acute problems of Afghan society with the participation of supporters of all forces live. For the external consumer, the importance of the political consensus reached is that Afghanistan's elite has shown that it can negotiate and be able to pursue its own interests without compromising the expectations of key players.

As expected, the Afghan elite reached a consensus and the process of distributing ministerial portfolios began. The difficulty in perceiving this process is that, like previous political agreements on consensus within the Afghan leadership, the new agreement may repeat the fate of 5 years ago - outwardly it will seem that this process is quiet, but in fact we can expect: a) mutual mistrust parties; b) vigilance in the implementation of certain points of the agreement reached; c) conditions of unpredictability and influence of various factors.

The above factors can seriously affect the situation and create a number of new challenges and threats. The effectiveness of the agreement depends to a greater extent on the level of trust between the parties, and if the Taliban are included in this process, the situation will be poorly predictable. Because, according to many experts, the Taliban are currently a tool for implementing the policies of a number of external actors.

Based on the experience of the Government of National Unity formed after the 2014 elections, it can be stated that the political consensus reached on the proportional separation of powers will have a similar fate.

The situation in Afghanistan, given the fragility of national unity, the lack of ethnic and linguistic integrity, and cultural differences, has shaped a number of conflict-generating factors. Security and stability in Afghanistan, given the current conditions and political culture, are difficult to ensure, making it impossible in the short term to reach internal consensus and common views and positions among the political elite. In shaping the unity of opinion and position in building a viable and comprehensive and stable government in Afghanistan, the external factor, mainly the United States, will play a key role. And this process, in turn, is closely linked to the long-term interests of the United States in Afghanistan and in the region as a whole.

Prospects for political consensus and possible developments

The prospects for the development of the situation in Afghanistan will largely depend on the political elite of this country, and on the policies of external actors, especially the United States and its allies, and on the other hand from Russia and other regional players, including Pakistan's two main neighbors. Iran.

Analysis of the current situation leads to the conclusion that the political elite and opposing forces, from groups within the central government to the illegal armed forces represented by the Taliban and similar movements in the current environment under the influence of internal and external actors, cannot reach a comprehensive consensus to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan. None of the political groups will allow their political opponents to fully control the situation, as this factor is related to their physical security. Each of the political and armed groups in Afghanistan is formed on the basis of a tribal, ethnic and religious community, without which it is impossible to determine the prospects for political transformation in this country and to predict possible developments. In turn, each of these groups has external protection or supporters and this factor also significantly affects the political processes of this country.

The signed peace did not lead to the stabilization of the situation either agreement between the United States and the Taliban On February 29, 2020 in Qatar, on the contrary, the terrorist attacks of the Taliban and other armed groups did not decrease, but increased. This circumstance is a clear example of the fact that any peace agreement cannot be sustainable in the long run. In addition to the Taliban, there are dozens of radical groups in Afghanistan. Without taking into account the interests of these movements and their external patrons, the peace process in Afghanistan will be uncertain and it is likely that the country will remain in crisis.

The situation in Afghanistan is such that the military-political situation depends on the presence of foreign forces and their military-economic assistance. The rapid withdrawal of the US contingent could worsen the situation and dismantle the political system. Thus, it can be assumed that the influence and competition of global and regional powers in Afghanistan will increase, as the projection of certain measures by one group of countries may lead to an asymmetric reaction of other states.

Another scenario is an opportunity to consolidate peace and increase the authority of the central government before the eyes of citizens in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. In this way, the administration of A. Ghani can act as a transitional government, to create conditions and rules when all political forces can participate in elections and form a comprehensive government. The first steps of the Supreme Council of Peace, headed by A. Abdullah, and the support of his initiatives by President A. Ghani may show the direction in which the situation in Afghanistan will develop. However, this scenario is unlikely at this time.