Photo used with permission, iStock.
Transatlantic Charter for Peace and Security in Afghanistan
By Shaharzad Akbar, Madeleine Albright, and Federica Mogherini, co-chairs of the Atlantic Council / Rockefeller Brothers Fund Strategic Dialogues on Afghanistan
After nearly twenty years of historic partnership between the United States, Europe, and the Afghan people, Afghanistan has reached a watershed moment. The United States and its NATO allies have announced the withdrawal of troops while pledging continued support for the Afghan government and its security forces.This decision fundamentally changes the dynamics of the search for a lasting peace in Afghanistan. Millions of Afghans fear what the days ahead could bring.
Following decades of violent conflict, intra-Afghan negotiations are underway, but the path forward is uncertain. Much is at stake:
- the hard-won progress in building a democratic, constitutional order;
- the rights of women to work, study, and participate in public life;
- the future of Afghanistan’s youth, who are working to rebuild a devastated country against extraordinary odds;
- security in Afghanistan, the region, and beyond, which is threatened by the potential rise of new terrorist networks.
At this critical juncture, we believe that now is the time to express long-term solidarity and commitment to the people of Afghanistan. Otherwise, there is considerable risk of a return to civil war, which would destroy the hard-won achievements that have been made, open the field for terrorist groups, and trigger a large-scale humanitarian and refugee crisis.
The participants of the Atlantic Council / Rockefeller Brothers Fund Strategic Dialogues have been working for the past eight months to develop a long-term strategic outlook to promote stability in Afghanistan consistent with Afghan, U.S., and European interests and values. This group of distinguished European, American, and Afghan diplomats, military officers, scholars, and analysts brought to our deliberations a deep understanding of the context both on the ground and among the allies. We explored a diplomatic-security framework based on the minimal conditions and variables necessary to realize a long-term vision of a sovereign, unified, democratic, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan and generated recommendations to support this vision.
While the participants in the Strategic Dialogues have differing views on the wisdom of the decisions made by the United States and NATO, they are in full agreement that the withdrawal of troops will not end the “forever war” for Afghans or the region. We therefore remain committed to putting forward a long-term vision for partnership between Afghanistan, the United States, and Europe. The United States and its European allies still have a range of levers—diplomatic, financial, political, and economic—at their disposal. What is urgently needed is a coordinated set of actions to mitigate the likely security and political consequences of the military withdrawal as part of a plan to advance stability and peace in Afghanistan.
What has too often been missing from policy discussions on Afghanistan is a clearly stated and shared aspirational vision for its future. To capture the core recommendations of the Strategic Dialogues, we have summarized them in a Transatlantic Charter on Afghan Sovereignty, Security, and Development. The Charter is not intended to be a roadmap, but rather captures the spirit with which this group was brought together and the future vision we still hope will be achieved in Afghanistan.
We present this document with humility as we recognize that there are difficult choices ahead. An end to hardship and violence is not in sight. At the same time, we believe that state collapse and the loss of hard-won progress in so many areas of Afghan life are not inevitable. What happens in Afghanistan will have an impact on all of us. Our security and shared Afghan, U.S., and European interests and values are at stake. Now, more than ever, we must work together with all Afghans to avoid the worst and accomplish the best for Afghanistan—and for the world—and to honor the sacrifices so many have made.