The Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East & Africa (CAMEA) at the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI) had a Panel Discussion titled The Next Chapter for Afghanistan today. The distinguished panel of experts included: Mr. Mirwais Yasini, Former Deputy Speaker of the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament ; Dr. Jonathan Schroden, Director of Countering Threats and Challenges Program (CTCP) at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA); Ms. Suzanne Schroeder, Independent analyst on Afghanistan and Ambassador Riaz M. Khan, Former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan. Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Director General ISSI and Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BOG ISSI joined in the interactive discussion which followed.
During her introductory remarks Ms. Amina Khan, Director CAMEA, said that while President Biden has stated his withdrawal plan, the onus has been shifted on the Afghans. The four-month period is meant to provide the Taliban and the Afghan government room to demonstrate their willingness to compromise and ultimately achieve a negotiated settlement. However, there are serious concerns as to whether both sides will be able to accommodate each other and agree on a workable compromise as well as fears of the possibility of a rejuvenated civil war after US troops leave. She stated that a reduction in violence, concrete intra-Afghan dialogue, success of the Doha talks, as a mutually accepted constitutional framework as well as a future political structure that is acceptable to all are crucial facets of the Afghan conflict that need immediate focus without which, chances of peace and stability in Afghanistan remain elusive to say the least. While there is much talk of an interim and inclusive set up, little focus has been on its actual structure, composition and implementation. This now needs to be prioritized more than ever. It is important to remember that mistakes of the past should not be repeated – therefore hasty and haphazard policies must be avoided and focus should be on a responsible and measured withdrawal, without showing undue haste. This is a historic opportunity for the Afghans to rewrite history but for that both principal stakeholders, the Afghan government and Taliban will have to move beyond the rhetoric, find the middle ground and be willing to compromise.