President Trump’s policy of negotiation with the Taliban earned him praise from the Afghan parliamentary delegation attending the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in London this past week. Afghanistan and its concerns featured heavily at the event. The assembly ended its proceedings by passing a resolution on Afghanistan which offered support for further negotiations.
“We are encouraged about the ongoing negotiations to the end the conflict,” said Kamal Safi, a senior member of the Afghan National Assembly’s delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Safi offered praise for the Trump Administration’s failed policy to bring a negotiated end to that conflict. Last month it emerged that President Trump had sought to bring Taliban leaders to Camp David for further negotiations. However, continued Taliban attacks on Afghan civilians forced President Trump to cancel the proposed secret peace talks.
“The increase in the number of battles in recent months with the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan has resulted in numerous civilian casualties. Increased attacks on civilians may have changed the mind of the Trump administration. However, I still would like to say war is not the answer,” said Safi as several of his parliamentary colleagues nodded in agreement.
The United States war in Afghanistan has the dubious distinction of surpassing the Philippine-American war as the longest foreign war in U.S. military history. Yet, it is also the most protracted conflict for many of the other NATO countries involved. The war has continued to drag on and cost the lives of 3,000 non-Afghani soldiers form NATO and its partner countries. Although tens of billions of dollars have been spent on Afghan stability, some debate the importance of the effort.
“Afghanistan was a safe-haven for global terrorism under the Taliban; that is why NATO intervened and is there today. We hope we can continue to work together with NATO to eliminate global terrorism within the region and the cause of extremism. When it comes to eliminating terrorism, we are on the same boat,” Safi said.
Safi also stressed that Afghanistan, while not able to take care of its internal security at present, has made vital gains. A resolution passed at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in London noted the improvements that Afghanistan has seen since 2001: “improved access to running water, electricity, and medicine, increasing overall health indices; a stronger and more inclusive educational system; the incorporation of women into all sectors of society, particularly law enforcement and peace-building efforts; and a more diverse and growing economy,”.
The Resolute Support Mission began in 2014 and operates in Afghanistan with both a United Nations and NATO mandate.
Though the United States went there to fight Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, it is Da’esh that is emerging as the primary security concern. Many terrorists have abandoned the Taliban for Da’esh, whose statue in Afghanistan continues to grow. This summer as heavy combat flared between Da’esh and Afghanistan, the Intra-Afghan Conference for Peace began to find a way out of the conflict. It was on those talks the Trump administration hoped to build on at Camp David.
The upcoming NATO Summit in London will allow the Trump administration the opportunity to re-calibrate its approach to Afghanistan.
The current Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to Afghanistan includes over 17,000 soldiers from a variety of NATO member states as well as Sweden, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Mongolia, Australia, and Georgia. The United States is the largest contributor of soldiers to the force.
“The NATO operation, both in the time if the UN-mandated ISAF and today’s RSM remains the short term focus of NATO lawmakers. We have been in Afghanistan for 18 years, but rather than having a long term plan for enhanced, long term presence, Afghanistan has seen NATO allies come and go,” said John G.L.J Jacobs the director of the Atlantic Forum.
At the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels NATO decided to maintain its commitment to Operation Resolute Support and has also committed to funding Afghan Security forces through at least 2024. However, the 9/11 terrorist attacks are fading, and some worry that NATO is not doing enough to ensure the reason for the mission to Afghanistan is being remembered.
“Just as Generation Z only vaguely remembers the events on 11 September, it will be equally difficult to explain to the next generation what NATO did and does in Afghanistan, with 9/11 and the NATO-led ISAF disappearing in the collective memory as time passes,” Jacobs said.