During the twelfth session of the Track II dialogue series organised by the Heart of Asia Society, Center for Conflict and Hummanitarian Studies and Center for International Cooperation at NYU, former diplomats, former government & United Nations officials and Afghanistan experts from Qatar, Central Asia, Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia, the European Union, Japan, India and the United States discussed the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan and stressed that steps must be taken now before it's too late.
Participants, stunned by the collapse, said that it happened at a critical time, in which drought has contributed to a 40% reduction in crops production, unemployment as the international community departs increases, banking & liquidity crisis intensifies, and famine and COVID19 further compounds these issues. Realizing that the Taliban has little experience running a complex government and the society which Afghanistan has developed into, the group needs the expertise and technical assistance that is largely available among educated and experienced Afghans.
Taliban commitment not to seek revenge and its commitment to amnesty for those who have been part of the conflict is a positive sign. In this regard, actions must match rhetoric, especially as there is a huge trust deficit in the Taliban. Fear about personal safety and a lack of faith in a better future are driving Afghans to flee. In addition to facing a trust deficit with the Afghan people, the Taliban are facing this with the international community.
An understanding by the international community is that support and assistance to Afghanistan and to this soon to be declared government does not and should not equate to a recognition, if this said government is not inclusive and does not live up to conditions. Failure of the Taliban's efforts to create an inclusive government should not be thwarted by international support for opponents to these efforts. A coordination by the international community is essential if it is to be influential and if it is to prevent a total and long-term collapse of Afghanistan.
Finally, Afghanistan desperately needs leadership by Afghans and not just the Taliban. Other political, civil society, private actors, the huge youth population especially the young men and women who've taken advantage of educational opportunities over the past 20 years, have a great role to play in supporting Afghanistan and preventing a crisis.