Afghan Peace Talks: A Primer

By James Shinn; James Dobbins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Conclusions and Recommendations

Of all the major participants in any Afghan peace process, the United States will likely feel the greatest sense of urgency. This is because domestic support for the war is waning and because the Obama administration has publicly committed to a timetable for military drawdown. All of the non-Western parties find the current situation—with the United States tied down and neither side able to prevail—tolerable. Indeed, for Iran, the current situation is probably optimal.

Even if Washington feels the greatest sense of urgency, it would be wise not to show as much. Hurried American efforts to jumpstart a negotiation are more likely to dissuade than convince the other parties that the time is ripe to initiate such a process. In any case, the United States, as one of the main protagonists in the struggle, is not in a position to launch and then orchestrate the kind of multitiered process that will be needed to reach a durable Afghan settlement. We therefore recommend that Washington work quietly to secure the nomination, probably by the UN Secretary General, of a figure of international repute with the requisite impartiality, knowledge, contacts, and diplomatic skills to take on the tasks.

We believe that negotiations have a fair chance of succeeding, but we cannot be certain. Thus, American policymakers must also prepare an acceptable, although less attractive, alternative. Ideally, this alternative will be unacceptable, or at least considerably less attractive than a negotiated settlement, to the other parties. Creating such an alternative allows the United States to hedge against failure while simultaneously motivating the other parties to work for success.

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Afghan Peace Talks: A Primer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Summary ix
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • Abbreviations xxi
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - Ambivalence, Convergence, and Negotiation 3
  • Chapter Three - The Actors 17
  • Chapter Four - From Discussion to Negotiation to Implementation 71
  • Chapter Five - The Terms of a Peace Accord 81
  • Chapter Six - Conclusions and Recommendations 99
  • References 103
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