directs and teaches a programme on Human Security as part of the Master’s in Public Affairs at Sciences Po (l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques) in Paris and a research associate with the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). She is the editor of Rethinking the Liberal Peac...
Post-war on terror? Implications from a regional perspective
Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, 3 August 2011
This paper examines three possible impacts of the death of Osama bin Laden on the war on terror from the perspective of countries surrounding Afghanistan. A first scenario sees America abandoning the global war on terror (GWoT) on the territory of Afghanistan and moving its attention to new fronts, such as containing the uprisings in the Middle East or countering the economic rise of China, which will not suit the countries surrounding Afghanistan where terrorism remains a problem. These countries seek recognition for their own struggles against terrorism, more international cooperation and no double standards, and reject the distinction between a global war with al-Qaeda, in which America has an interest, and localised insurgencies.
The second trajectory may see a deeper entrenchment of the American presence in the region through the enactment of a strategic agreement between America and Afghanistan. The raid on the Abbottabad compound may have actually strengthened the argument for America sustaining a large footprint to include bases for human and technical intelligence beyond the planned withdrawal by 2014. Once again, this will not suit the other countries in the region, which associate the continued presence of NATO and American troops with increased insecurity. While some Afghan public opinion and politicians may wish to continue to benefit from the troop presence that brings both security guarantees against Afghanistan’s neighbours and aid, the country’s neighbours worry about permanent American bases in the region as a violation of the principle of neutrality for Afghanistan and the sanctity of territorial sovereignty in the wider region.
The third possible implication of the Bin Laden killing is the possibility of a political settlement through reconciliation with the Taliban and their integration into the Afghan political process. So far, the engagement of regional countries in the negotiations has mostly been associated with spoiler behaviour, although there are ample opportunities for their involvement as facilitators for a genuine regional and national reconciliation, especially as the return of the Taliban in some form seems to be a fait accompli
The paper suggests that any alternative to regional diplomacy for regional reconciliation would be the fragmentation and partition of Afghanistan along ethnic fault lines, which is undesirable for the region and for Afghanistan itself. Security guarantees need to come from within the region through a resumption of political dialogue and the intensification of economic relations among the region’s countries, a process that can be facilitated by regional and international organisations.