(MENAFN- Asia Times) For two decades, the conflict in Afghanistan occupied international attention and US resources . But ever since American troops withdrew in 2021, the conflict has seemingly been viewed in Washington more as a concern localized to the region of Central and South Asia .
This is due in large part to Washington's shifting global priorities . The invasion in Ukraine and Chinese ambitions in the Pacific have meant that Afghanistan is no longer a top priority for the US administration.
Naturally, the US exit from Afghanistan has left the Biden administration with weaker leverage in the country. Indeed, some observers are now calling for the US to diplomatically recognize the Taliban government – something the Biden administration has stated it has yet to make a decision on .
As a specialist in international relations and Afghanistan , I would argue that recognizing the Taliban without pushing for a political road map and guarantees from them would be a mistake. As a partner in the Doha agreement – the peace deal signed by the US and the Taliban in 2020 leading to American troop withdrawal – Washington has an obligation to hold the Taliban to account over its side of the bargain:
preventing terrorists from operating in Afghanistan, and engaging in intra-Afghan talks to end decades of conflict.
Yet over the past two years, the US policy of“pragmatic engagement” in Afghanistan – which amounts to working with the Taliban on limited security concerns while urging a course correction on human rights – has done little to discourage Taliban policies that have degraded the rights of Afghan citizens . Nor has it pushed the Taliban to long-promised talks with other factions and parties in Afghanistan aimed at ending decades of turmoil.
Evolving US interests
America was drawn into Afghanistan after the 9/11 attack on the US mainland. The goal was to dismantle and destroy al-Qaida and its affiliate groups. But at the same time, it was considered to be in the American interest to also assist Afghans in creating a more equal and just political system after decades of civil war and instability. The vision was for a government that respected human rights, guaranteed access to education for all and promoted democracy.
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