RAND offers three options for US policy on Afghanistan



US-based research organization, RAND Corporation, has offered three options for Washington’s policy on Afghanistan, suggesting the United States should either come up with engagement, isolation, or opposition.

Explaining its suggested options, RAND says in a 28-page research paper that a “policy of engagement with the Taliban regime offers the prospect of advancing US interests to the degree that the Taliban show some willingness to engage constructively in return.”

It suggests that cutting ties with the al-Qaeda network, and observing human rights, particularly girls’ access to education, are the main conditions that need to be considered by Kabul.

About its second option, isolation, it says that such a policy “would seek to punish and weaken the Taliban regime and change its behavior while signaling the US and broader international disapproval of that regime.”

As a third option, the research organization suggests a policy of opposition to remove the Islamic Emirate from power, but it adds that “there are two fundamental problems with a regime change strategy: First, it is not feasible under current conditions… and second, even if it were feasible and would succeed, the US would find itself once again supporting a dependent government in Kabul against local resistance with no better prospects of ultimate success than its last such effort.”

However, the research organization says that although engagement offers the only possibility of actually advancing American interests in Afghanistan even marginally, isolation remains the default choice.

“It is the proverbial alternative B nestled between alternative A, surrender, and alternative C, nuclear war, in the classic caricature of a Washington options memo,” the research organization concludes.

This comes as concerns are growing by the international community about the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan along with other matters, including the future of girls’ education and women’s role in society.

An Islamic Emirate spokesman, Inamullah Samangani, said that relations between Afghanistan and the US “will benefit other countries too.”

“There is no other option but engagement for any side and there should be an official engagement between the Islamic Emirate and the international community,” he added.

Following the announcement of a temporarily ceasefire by Afghan government with the Taliban, the United States on Thursday said it is ready to participate in talks with the Taliban.

Deputy Assistant to US President Donald Trump and Senior Director for Central Asia at the National Security Council, Lisa Curtis, said US cannot act on behalf of Afghan officials in the peace talks with the Taliban, but they want to participate in the talks.

“The United States is ready to participate in the discussion, but we cannot serve as a substitute for the Afghan government and the Afghan people. A political settlement must be negotiated through a process that is Afghan-lead and Afghan-owned,” said Curtis.

She said paying attention to Pakistan’s worries in the Afghan peace process is crucial.

“The fact is that the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqnai network, has enjoyed sanctuary in Pakistan throughout the past 16 years of conflict. We have asked for Pakistan’s assistance and facilitating a peace process and we have sought understand Pakistan’s own core security concerns and ensure that its interests are taken into account in any peace process,” Curtis added.

Steve Brooking, Director of Peace and Reconciliation at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the Afghan war does not have a military solution and that it should be resolved through politics.

“Even the Taliban political commission say that there could be no military solution, there has to be a political solution. Unfortunately, there are many people who still don’t fully subscribe,” he added.

Barnett Rubin, an American analyst, however said Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran are not letting peace and stability to come to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Russian special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, in an interview with ET said that respecting human rights, women’s access to work and girls’ access to education are the main preconditions for recognition of the Islamic Emirate.

“While Russia has allowed a Taliban representative at the Afghan diplomatic mission in Moscow, we have not officially recognized the Taliban government. The Taliban flag is not flying atop the Afghan Embassy in Moscow. The ball is in the Taliban’s court. They have to create a politically inclusive government in Kabul. Russia is also not happy in the way the Taliban is treating the women and girls,” Kabulov said in the ET interview.

Afghan analysts suggest that commitments made by the Islamic Emirate in Doha during their talks with the United States need to be fulfilled.

“They (Islamic Emirate) should fulfill the decision and pledges they made in Doha. This can be the only option to prevent the US from criticism; otherwise, there will be no engagement” said Sayed Ishaq Gailani, head of the National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan.—Agencies