Towards A Stable Afghanistan: The Way Forward

(A report of Joint Working Group of Vivekananda International Foundation and RUSI, the UK)

The experts from the two think tanks met in New Delhi and London during October and November 2011 to deliberate on peace and stability in Afghanistan. Both the countries have stakes in the emerging situation in Afghanistan and have contributed to peace and stability in Afghanistan in many ways. The report also took into account the opinions of a wide array of strategic analysts, many government officials, and academics.

Full Report in pdf format is available here

A summary of recommendations of the report is given below.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. An independent, democratic, pluralistic and viable Afghanistan, that does not provide shelter to any terrorist group remains the key objective shared by India and the UK.
  2. The prospects for reconciliation with the Taliban leadership do not look good, particularly as a result of the assassination of former President Rabbani. The space for a negotiated settlement has narrowed. A dominant role for the Taliban in any future dispensation in Kabul is clearly not acceptable to the majority of Afghans or the international community. Reconciliation must lead, at a minimum, to the following three outcomes: the disarmament of all terrorist groups; breaking off of all links with other terrorist groups and their sponsors; acceptance of the Constitution of Afghanistan.
  3. Any arrangement that results from the process of reconciliation must be respected not only by the Afghan parties, but also by Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours – in particular Pakistan. The international community must ask Pakistan to become part of the solution to the Afghan problem.
  4. We recommend the establishment of an international mechanism to monitor external interference or sponsorship of terrorism by any country, which will have the power to sanction violations of this commitment.
  5. India and the UK share the objective of supporting the Afghan state, both militarily and economically, well beyond the 2014 deadline. We urge both governments to devote significant resources towards this end. With this in mind, India and the UK should urge the US and Afghanistan to conclude as speedily as possible a Status of Forces Maintenance Agreement for the period after 2014. We recognise that our two countries also have responsibility to support the efforts towards post-2014 stabilisation.
  6. We welcome India’s Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan, which envisages, among other things, ‘training, equipping, and capacity building programmes for the Afghan National Security Forces’. We believe that this agreement fits well with overall policy of the international coalition in Afghanistan and should be implemented in close co-ordination with other bilateral and multilateral assistance programmes, which, in turn, should be implemented in co-ordination and consultation with India. We urge the Indian Government to at least maintain the current levels of annual development assistance to Afghanistan. We also welcome India’s commitment to increase the scale of its assistance in providing training and mentoring to the ANA, ANP and other security forces. We recommend that India should also be willing to deploy training personnel within Afghanistan, in addition to providing these facilities in India itself.
  7. We welcome the UK’s stated willingness to continue its substantial contribution to the security and development of Afghanistan after it withdraws its remaining combat forces in 2014. We recommend that the UK should make a long-term commitment of development funds to Afghanistan, with a particular focus on ensuring that the Government of Afghanistan is able to fund core administrative and development activities. We strongly support the UK’s commitment to build and support a new officer training academy for Afghanistan. We believe the Indian Army could make a valuable contribution to this effort and recommend that our two countries explore this option further.
  8. The UK and India should take a proactive role in the international effort for a more coherent aid-sharing arrangement among national donors. It is important that countries pledging financial assistance to Afghanistan undertake tasks that contribute to a coherent effort and honour their commitments. A well-defined international structure for oversight and co-ordination of aid efforts, in consultation with the Afghan Government, is a high priority in this area; we therefore believe that both India and the UK should support the efforts of the UN and its agencies to strengthen their roles in this regard. The aid absorption capacities of the Afghan Government will need to be enhanced as part of this effort.
  9. The ultimate shape and composition of the ANA will require careful consideration. While there is already some recognition of the need for a greater balance between light infantry and other combat arms (mechanised, artillery and engineers) further action to address this issue will be needed, always bearing in mind the need for any force structure to be affordable.
  10. Developing a more effective police and justice sector – including courts, prosecutors and detention facilities – will be a key priority for Afghanistan, and the UK and India should consider whether they can collaborate more closely in providing assistance in this area.
  11. Both India and the UK should work together in order to assist the Afghan legislature and executive to continue the process of security sector reform, helping to ensure that the security sector is both effective and accountable to democratic authorities.
  12. It is imperative that the international community agree to a ten-year plan for funding the ANA in order to ensure predictability of financing and the achievement of the right priorities. We urge India to consider making a long-term financial commitment for the development of the post-2014 ANSF. The UK should also make a substantial and predictable contribution to the post-2014 ANSF costs. Such commitments would be particularly valuable if India and the UK were to take a joint initiative in this regard.
  13. There is a requirement to further develop NATO’s Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A) and the Combined Security Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A), led by NATO and the US respectively. While retaining their character and roles, the US and NATO members should consider whether the character of these bodies should be further developed in order to incorporate training contributions from non-NATO states such as India. Such a new body might take the form of an International Military/Security Assistance Commission for Afghanistan.
  14. There is a growing and urgent requirement for the international community to develop alternative supply and logisitics routes for ISAF. The Northern Distribution Network, which now accounts for some 40 per cent of the supplies, should be further developed and utilised. The Indian members of the working group felt that those ISAF member-states that are able to do so should also explore the possible use of Iranian territory for this purpose, as it provides a good alternative. However, the members of the British working group were doubtful that Iran’s co-operation was either feasible or desirable at this stage, given the current state of relations between Tehran and key members of the international community
Contact Us