Quest for Peace

While the Afghan war has proven to be an expensive affair for the US tax payers, it is apparent that not much progress has been made.

By Raja Rafi Ullah | June 2020

As the entire world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, many other issues seem to have been put on the back-burner, such as those of international conflict and diplomacy. The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by America and its allies has continued for far too long. The war started in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks it still continues, in one form or the other, 19 years later. According to figures released by the Watson Center at Brown University, direct U.S. spending on military operations in Afghanistan stood at $975 billion in 2019 with aggregate spending, if one includes funding through departments other than the Department of Defence, being much higher.

The massive human, economic and societal cost to Afghanistan may be put aside for once. Even from an ethically removed strategic point of view, the Afghan war has proven to be an expensive affair for the US tax-payers. Yet it is apparent that despite the billions spent, not much progress has been made in Afghanistan in the past decade. The Taliban have never been fully pushed into the periphery and the Afghan government faces issues with its legitimacy and capacity to exercise effective state-control. Hence, it was only apt that with the election of a new Trump-led Republican government, efforts were ramped up to finally end US-led intervention in Afghanistan. The crux of the withdrawal strategy was to bring relevant stakeholders from the Taliban leadership and Afghan government together under US supervision so that a power-sharing ‘deal’ could be reached between the Taliban and the Afghan government which would in turn facilitate US forces’ withdrawal.
The tangible result that has come out of this is the US signing a “Peace Deal” with the Taliban on February 29, 2020 in Doha in the presence of Taliban Political Chief Mullah Abdul Ghani and US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo being a witness to the deal. The February 29 Afghan peace agreement is unique in the sense that the United States has negotiated and signed an agreement with the Taliban, an entity “which is not recognized by the US”. Today the American position is more tenuous due to the ravages of the coronavirus domestically and its undetermined economic mayhem worldwide. But before identifying other causes to the supposed failure of the peace deal, it seems instructive to examine the deal itself, as most analysts seem to be oblivious to the commitments made by either side.

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The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). He can be reached at

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One thought on “Quest for Peace

  • June 6, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Quest for peace. Good article.
    Pakistan is missing from article.
    Good and comprehensive.