Speaking to IQNA, Professor Marvin G Weinbaum added that if intra-Afghan talks aimed at ending violence in the country get started, they are likely to drag on for a long time.
Marvin G. Weinbaum is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and served as analyst for Pakistan and Afghanistan in the US Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 1999 to 2003. He is currently director for Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies at The Middle East Institute.
Q: Nearly two decades after the Taliban's fall in Afghanistan, the country still faces many problems in areas such as security. What do you think are the root causes of these problems?
A: Afghanistan has been unable to resolve whether it is to be a modern, constitutional political order or an Islamic state as defined by the Taliban and previous Islamic insurgencies against the state for the last more than40 years. As a poor country with weak political institutions that has been a pawn in regional and global politics it was bound to be fought over. But the existential differences over the character of the state make it particularly vulnerable to both internal and external forces.
Q: US President Donald Trump has based its policy in the Middle East on the reduction of US troops in the region. Do you think this policy will work in Afghanistan?
A: It will work for the Trump administration politically in advance of the 2020 elections. A total withdrawal will weaken the confidence and security of the state and make less probable a successful intra-Afghan dialogue.
Q: Some believe it is wrong to negotiate with the Taliban because of the group’s continued violence. What is your opinion?
A: One should always be ready to explore openings for peace through negotiations. But without a sustained ceasefire the Taiban will be increasing bargaining from strength, the government from growing weakness.
Q: How do you see the future of Afghanistan in light of the current peace negotiations?
A: The peace negotiations between the US and Taliban will probably conclude with a withdrawal agreement in which the Taliban will make few concessions while the US makes some hard, non-revocable choices.
Only if the Taliban allows in an agreement for there to remain a residual force dedicated to counterterrorism will it have demonstrated any willingness to compromise.
Intra-Afghan talks aimed at ending violence in the country, if they ever get started, are likely to drag on for months, even years. The two sides are too far apart in the vision of an Afghan state to ever strike a grand bargain. The war will be decided militarily and, at least initially, not lead to a Taliban takeover of power nationally but to a protracted, chaotic civil war.
Interview by Mohammad Hassan Goodarzi