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Secretary Panetta, Afghanistan needs a peace settlement, not more war

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The problem is that counterinsurgency policies have not been able to defeat the Taliban over the past decade, and it is doubtful that they will be more successful with fewer troops in the years ahead. Armed conflict is likely to continue with no end in sight, and could lead to renewed civil war. If this were to occur, civilian suffering would increase, and gains in social development and women’s rights would almost certainly be lost.

Most modern wars end through negotiated peace agreements not military victory. If a peace accord could be reached in Afghanistan this would bring security and stability to the country and reduce the appeal of armed militancy in the region. Research shows that peace processes are most successful when they are comprehensive and inclusive, with strong international backing. The chances of success also improve when agreements are monitored and policed by third party peacekeeping forces.

The Afghan government and NATO leaders have endorsed the goal of a negotiated peace with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, but attempts to begin the peace process have faced major obstacles and setbacks. Convincing the parties involved to reach a political settlement will require a major push and much greater focus from the United States and its international partners, including Pakistan.

Recent reports by the International Crisis Group and the RAND Corporation recommend the creation of a high-level UN-led mediation team to work with the Afghan parties and neighboring states to facilitate a comprehensive multifaceted peace process. The negotiations should seek an agreement between insurgents and the Afghan government and a diplomatic compact among neighboring states.

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