Trade Wars

United Nations peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan could help avert civil war

The Charter of the United Nations is committed to “saving future generations from the scourge of war”. Afghans have been at war for several generations, and it is likely that the next generation will not see peace unless UN member states unite to prevent an intra-Afghan war. War prevention and peace, however, have not been high on the central agenda of the United Nations in Afghanistan.

Instead, the United Nations system has focused on emergency humanitarian assistance and, to some extent, on counterterrorism. Outside the United Nations, pressure is mounting to arm the opposition to the Taliban.

But there is a third way, between short-term humanitarian aid and fueling a civil war: the deployment of a UN or UN-backed peacekeeping mission. There is a fragile peace to be maintained in Afghanistan, and it is the duty of the United Nations to help maintain it.

The Charter of the United Nations is committed to “saving future generations from the scourge of war”. Afghans have been at war for several generations, and it is likely that the next generation will not see peace unless UN member states unite to prevent an intra-Afghan war. War prevention and peace, however, have not been high on the central agenda of the United Nations in Afghanistan.

Instead, the United Nations system has focused on emergency humanitarian assistance and, to some extent, on counterterrorism. Outside the United Nations, pressure is mounting to arm the opposition to the Taliban.

But there is a third way, between short-term humanitarian aid and fueling a civil war: the deployment of a UN or UN-backed peacekeeping mission. There is a fragile peace to be maintained in Afghanistan, and it is the duty of the United Nations to help maintain it.

The Taliban are in the driver’s seat for the time being, and the fact that they stabilized Afghan society for a moment may be their greatest achievement, as it was in part the war-weariness of rural communities that enabled their rapid rise in the country. to be able to.

But can they stay in control? According to expert Fawaz A. Gerges and many others, the Taliban have only a tenuous grip on the country, do not represent a majority of Afghans and struggle to govern. The Taliban face challenges both within their ranks and other armed groups.

This problem is not surprising: according to research by Philip A. Martin of George Mason University, more than half of rebel victories in the world end in government collapse, infighting, and coups. State or defections. Afghans recently took to the streets to protest the Taliban’s violent rout against the Panjshir Valley National Resistance Front, as well as the Taliban’s treatment of women.

Ali Maisam Nazary, head of foreign relations for the National Resistance Front, recently appeared in Washington to insist that the resistance will continue and ask the United States for military support, which the group is also seeking from other international actors. .

Scholarly research on civil wars and Afghanistan points to an impending multidimensional conflict which, if left unchecked, could metastasize and spread across borders, like the conflicts in Iraq, into Syria and Libya.

Despite what appears to be a total victory for the Taliban, as a new report from Human Security Lab argues, the structural conditions for the civil war in Afghanistan remain: large population with 64% under 25, poor development economic, terrain, climatic pressures, territorialized ethnic fragmentation and recent civil war.

Afghanistan’s economy is also on the brink of collapse – another predictor of civil war. And rebel groups actively seek military support from third parties, which research shows exacerbates the outbreak and duration of the civil war.

The consequences of such a war would be harmful for human and regional security. Civilians suffer from armed conflict, and IDP camps are fertile ground for the recruitment of extremists and child soldiers. Refugee flows threaten to destabilize neighbors, including European countries.

Rather than taking sides and fomenting continued war, the international community should support a lasting peace in Afghanistan through a peace accord and an international preventive peacekeeping mission. The Taliban could begin to gain the respect and recognition of the international community by asking for such assistance, and they could perhaps even gain full international recognition as part of a peace deal.

Research clearly shows that the promise of impartial peacekeepers helps convince parties to conflict to sign peace agreements and, once deployed, can prevent a resumption of war.

Even taking into account the risks and drawbacks of such missions often reported in the media – loss of troops, abuse of civilians, or the potential to enable and legitimize an authoritarian government – the preponderance of rigorous quantitative research shows that peacekeeping save more civilian lives. and contributes more to lasting peace than any other political tool.

In fact, where the international community has not supported such a mission, such as in Syria and Libya, catastrophic civil wars have ensued. In contrast, a preventive UN deployment in what was then called Macedonia effectively prevented war.

A peace mission doesn’t have to be big: according to the Human Security Lab report, even a mission of 5,000 soldiers could help. Major Ryan van Wie, an international relations instructor at the United States Military Academy, wrote in War on the rocks this week that a slightly larger investment of 10,000 to 12,000 peacekeepers could provide even better geographic coverage in Afghanistan.

These peacekeepers don’t have to be Westerners: Many non-Western non-Western countries, including Indonesia, Nepal, and Morocco, have experienced peacekeeping contingents that could be called in if a plan were to be in place.

And it doesn’t have to be a Chapter VII enforcement mission, unless the parties want it to. As one of us has already argued, even an observer mission can create a fulcrum from which a country in peril can move from endless conflict to a first fragile and then lasting peace. .

Skeptics of a peacekeeping mission often say that the Taliban would never ask for help or, if they did, they would not cooperate with a peacekeeping mission once deployed. But this view underestimates the Taliban’s historic will to innovate and explore multilateral solutions.

In 2001, it was the Taliban that proposed peace talks and the United States that rejected them. In 2009, the Taliban themselves indicated that they could accept a peacekeeping mission if it came from predominantly Muslim countries and not from the West.

With the Taliban as the de facto government, such a mission would still help them achieve their own goals, such as making credible commitments to Afghan minority populations and creating lasting peace with adversaries like the National Resistance Front, which has shown the desire. of a settlement, but also a desire to continue fighting.

Some might say that the Taliban have already won the peace by force. But military solutions are fleeting and unpopular: Afghans have flocked in protest after the Taliban’s military incursion into Panjshir. In contrast, peacekeepers build confidence in a negotiated settlement acceptable to all parties to the conflict. Although the Taliban are less inclined to seek help from others now that they are in power, Desha Girod of Georgetown University says the international community has significant power over the Taliban, which is conducive to the establishment and maintenance of agreements leading to lasting peace.

The view that the Taliban might consent to and see benefits in such a mission is also supported by quantitative work on the effectiveness of peacekeeping.

Although Afghanistan is seen by some experts as a difficult case for consent, a working paper by Timothy Passmore, Jaroslav Tir and Johannes Karreth shows that these are in fact countries like Afghanistan with a high degree of interdependence. international economic organizations that are most likely to both consent to and cooperate with peacekeeping missions. Indeed, for these countries, there are “tangible incentives to allow both [peacekeeping operations] and help fulfill the peacemaking mission.

Afghanistan is a member of the World Trade Organization, highly dependent on aid and deeply linked to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It is also the only Central Asian country to be a member of the following three regional economic groups: the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program. the Asian Development Bank.

Perhaps more importantly, the international community has what the Taliban want: recognition as a legitimate government and the financial means with which to rule. The international community should offer this recognition if the Taliban seek a multilateral mission to support an intra-Afghan peace agreement.

This mission could also provide confidence-building measures to the international community that the Taliban truly wants to join the community of civilized nations, rule wisely, share power, and cooperate to prevent transnational jihadist terrorism. Such a mission, perhaps structured in terms suggested by the Taliban themselves, could support a peace process that could avert civil war.

Taliban leaders have indicated a desire for assistance and openness to international guidance. The UN relief chief, Martin Griffiths, recently told the BBC that the Taliban leaders he spoke to told him about human rights issues: “Please help us solve these problems together. We need patience. We have to learn how to do it. This guidance should include assistance in conflict resolution and prevention.

Lasting peace is the precondition for addressing issues such as human rights and economic development. UN member states should offer to do all they can to help the parties to the Afghan conflict to negotiate, secure and maintain intra-Afghan peace.