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MEMO in conversation with: Abdul Waris Khan

ATO's 20-year military mission in Afghanistan is coming to an end but what does the country’s future look like now? Senior Expert on Afghan Peace Proceess based in Doha, Abdul Waris Khan talks to MEMO

July 14, 2021 at 2:30 pm

As foreign troops begin pulling out of war-torn Afghanistan, the Taliban has been making a comeback, regaining major territory including border areas. The US has said its military will have left the country by September 11, in time to mark the 2001 attack.

The military success of the Taliban will not last long, Abdul Waris Khan says, and the Afghan government will recapture the areas it has lost so far. This, however, will not stabalise the country, with its future dependent on cooperation between the international community and the support they provide for the Afghan Government and Afghan National Security Forces, he adds.

Many will remember the Taliban’s domination of the country prior to the US invasion of in 2001 when rules in place banned women from going out alone, girls from attending schools, forced unmarried women to marry fighters. The groups seems unstoppable now, and the dark days are reemerging.

Afghanistan is located in a very strategic location, along the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI) which will allow gas to be transported to India. Now, Khan explains, investers have to wait to understand the new dynamics of Afghanistan, which saw the start of construction in the project launch in 2018.

“In light of these developments in Afghanistan’s politics, it would be interesting to see what position regional countries adopt vis-à-vis TAPI gas pipeline for example whether New Delhi would be ready to continue its participation in the project,” he adds.

READ: If the US withdraws from Afghanistan, who will fill the security vacuum?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has offered to secure Afghanistan’s vital airport in Kabul, but the Taliban warned Turkey against extending its troops’ presence, saying such a move was “reprehensible“. The group warned of “consequences” if Turkish officials fail to “reconsider their decision and continue the occupation of our country”.

According to Khan, this proposal is a challenge as the US still imposes sanctions on Turkey as a result of its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system.

“The proposal triggered weeks of high-level discussions and came as Erdogan attempts to repair US-Turkey relations under the Biden administration. Turkey is still reeling under the impact of US sanctions slapped [on it] last year for its purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles. Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian defence system has also incensed NATO, with some members questioning Turkey’s membership in the military alliance,” he explains.

“For the Taliban, this means it’s an extension of the international military operation that started in late 2001.”

Neighbouring Pakistan, which has long been said to be a supporter of the Taliban, is not in a position to support the new Afghan government against the group, Khan continues.

In June, security officials under NATO command approached Qatar to secure a base that can be used to train Afghan Special Forces as part of a strategic commitment after foreign forces withdraw. Qatar is only a facilitator not a mediator, Khan explains.

“Qatar can not enter the dialogue between Taliban and Afghan Government. He can only financially support with its investment in the region. And, Qatar can only host peace meetings in Doha. Unless the Afghan Government and Taliban agree on a political system, no country can help Afghanistan. Therefore, the sooner the sides can agree to a negotiated settlement, the sooner Afghanistan and the region can reap the benefits of peace, including expanded regional connectivity, trade, and development.”