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Afghanistan's uncertain future

One year after the election in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani is looking for possible alliance partners and talks with the Taliban on a peace deal.


On Friday, March 20, an unusual chronicle was printed in the Washington Post. The senders were Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and leading politician Abdullah Abdullah. In the post, titled "The Importance of a US-Afghanistan Alliance," the two politicians ask that the US continue its cooperation with Afghanistan: "With proper backing, Afghanistan is in a unique position to block the spread of extremism," writes those two. Two days later, the Afghan president landed in Washington. This is the first official visit to the United States since Ashraf Ghani came to power. The Afghan president has expressed a desire to create a better relationship with the United States than his predecessor Hamid Karzai had. However, Barack Obama has promised to end one of America's longest wars of all time. This scares the Afghan president, who is appealing to the US for continued US presence, as well as civilian assistance. At most, 100 American soldiers were posted to Afghanistan, but now only 000 are left. And these disappear after 9800, Obama has promised. David Barno, who led the US forces from 2015 to 2003, fears a disaster if troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2005: "Money will go the same way 2016 minutes later," he told The New York Times. Last year, Afghanistan generated only 20 percent of its own state budget. The rest came from donor land. The gap between revenues and operating costs is expected to remain at around NOK 30 billion by 50, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"Afghanistan will be the graveyard of al-Qaeda and other terrorists." Ashraf Ghani

Plays on terror fear. During his visit to Washington, Ghani used the time to warn that the United States and Afghanistan were threatened by one common enemy. The president believes that terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda increasingly pose a threat to Afghanistan. During the first months of 2015, several reports emerged that IS was trying to gain a foothold in Afghanistan. There are rumors that IS flags have been observed in several places in the country. According to the Afghan news agency Pajhwok, a Taliban commander was killed by IS soldiers in Logar province in February, and a few weeks later, 30 Hazaras were kidnapped by IS sympathizers in Ghazni province in the east of the country. A former member of the Taliban will now fight and recruit for IS. To the US Congress, Ghani said he hoped the United States and Afghanistan together could complete the work that began after September 11, 2001: "Afghanistan will be the graveyard of al-Qaeda and other terrorists," he said, promising that Afghanistan would never again host terrorists. Arne Strand, assistant director at Chr. Michelsen's institute (CMI), believes Ghani is deliberately playing on the Americans' fear of terror and the spread of IS in the region. But Strand recalls that the Taliban and IS are ideological enemies: "It is not very likely that IS will gain a foothold in Afghanistan," Strand said. Peace negotiations. Strand does not believe that Ghani can promise that Afghanistan will not house terrorists in the future. On the contrary, Ghani is now trying to reach a peace agreement with the Taliban. Internally in Afghanistan, there are already major disagreements over the peace agreement, even though only the humble beginnings of negotiations have been seen. Experts reckon that it will take a long time to reach an agreement, if at all possible. Strand is unsure of what a peace agreement will mean: "On the one hand, it could mean a step backwards for women's rights. The Taliban may demand to have their conservative religious leaders in government or parliament. At the same time, a peace agreement can create peace and stability in a country that is in dire need, "he says. Helge Lurås at the Center for International and Strategic Analysis describes Ghani as a modern president, who frees American hearts with his rhetoric about Afghanistan and the United States as united in the fight against terrorism: he first said. "Then it is not IS or al-Qaeda that is the problem in Afghanistan, but the Taliban," he told Ny Tid. Lurås believes peace talks with the Taliban will be difficult: "Ghani will try to pressure the Taliban to agree to its demands, but it will probably not be easy," he said. Lurås believes Ghani sees Pakistan as a supporter in the negotiations. The president has already forged close ties with politicians, intelligence agents and officers in Pakistan. In February, Afghan Tolo News revealed that Ghani has canceled a arms deal with Pakistan's arch-enemy India. "By distancing himself from India, he may be able to bring Pakistan into the negotiations with the Taliban," Lurås said. The neighbor to the east is in a stronger position both politically and militarily, and can put pressure on the terrorist organization. "A lot depends on the West continuing to fund the security forces going forward." Afghanistan expert Helge Lurås The heart of Asia. If Ghani is to succeed in his project for Afghanistan, there are many pieces that must fall into place. But if they do, the president's vision of Afghanistan as a "heart of Asia" could become a reality. He envisions Afghanistan as a regional hub, where good trade relations with Pakistan and Iran can strengthen economic development. But to achieve this, Ghani must first create peace. During a breakfast seminar organized by the Afghanistan Committee, the Peace Research Institute (PRIO) and CMI during Afghanistan Week, the future prospects in the country were predicted. PRIO director Kristian Berg Harpviken explained that Afghanistan could potentially link several regions together.

"Afghanistan is in many ways the country in between." Kristian Berg Harpviken

As part of both Central Asia and South Asia, with a border with Iran and with orientering against other countries in the Persian Gulf, the situation in Afghanistan is affected by tensions in the neighboring regions, said Berg Harpviken, who will soon publish a book on the subject together with PRIO researcher Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh. "Afghanistan is in many ways the country in between," Harpviken said. The "country in between" is affected by the new level of conflict between Russia and the West, as well as the rivalry between the superpowers Saudi Arabia and Iran in the west, and Pakistan and India in the east. These tensions are reflected in the countries' engagement in Afghanistan. Balance Art. Ståle Ulriksen, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Foreign Policy (NUPI), believes that the smartest thing Afghanistan can do is try to balance neighboring countries. He points out that while Ghani is addressing Pakistan politically and militarily, India and China have major economic challenges in Afghanistan: "Of all the contracts in Afghanistan, we can see that they have largely been divided between the Chinese and the Indians," says Ulriksen . Neither Ulriksen, Lurås nor Strand dare to predict Afghanistan's future, but they doubt that 2015 will be a less bloody year than the previous ones. 2014 was the bloodiest year in the country in several years. Afghanistan came in third on the list of countries with the deadliest conflicts in the world, with 14 dead, according to a report by the think tank Project for the Study of the 638st Century (PS21). 21 could be another turbulent year for Afghanistan. Despite peace talks, the Taliban are on the offensive. The Afghan security force, for its part, is weak. It consists of 2015 soldiers and police officers. "A lot depends on the West continuing to finance the security forces in the future. If not, Afghanistan can collapse, "Lurås believes.

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