Afghanistan will remain dependent on foreign donors and international help even after a peace deal with the Taliban is reached, a watchdog in the United States has said, warning that the prospect of a potential end to fighting raises its own risks to rebuilding efforts.
The comments on Thursday by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars in US aid to the country, came in a new report identifying main high-risk areas for Afghanistan.
“A peace agreement would be welcomed by the long-suffering Afghan people,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, said in Washington, DC.
“But it could bring its own challenges to sustaining what the United States, coalition partners and the Afghan government have achieved.”
Reintegration of Taliban
Washington’s nearly two-decade involvement in Afghanistan is the longest war in US history, with tens of thousands of civilians killed since 2001.
In recent months, US and Taliban officials have held several rounds of peace talks, raising hopes for an end to the long-running war.
The latest ended earlier this month in Qatar’s capital, Doha, with both sides citing progress.
If a peace deal is struck, SIGAR said a concern would be the reintegration of as many as 60,000 heavily armed Taliban fighters and their families back into Afghan society.
The report said other points of concern include widespread insecurity, underdeveloped civil policing capability, endemic corruption, sluggish economy, a burgeoning illicit opium trade and threats to women’s rights.
More of the US reconstruction effort has gone into the Afghan National Army than to its national police, and a strategy for a “competent” police force, sustained by foreign assistance, would also be required, SIGAR wrote. Corruption has hampered reconstruction and remains the “top strategic threat” to the government’s legitimacy, it said.
Intizar Khadim, a political analyst and lecturer at Moraa University, said Afghans, especially the youth, hope peace talks will lead to economic development.
“If the Afghan government and the international community, including the Taliban, will take the responsibility to institutionalise the economic development of the country, I think that is possible,” he told Al Jazeera from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.
“But at least for five years after the peace deal with the Taliban, we all – that means the international community, the US and the Afghan government – should be ensuring that at least for the next five years there should be international donations.”
US-led forces deposed the Taliban in 2001 after the September 11, 2011, attacks in the US but the fighters regrouped and have steadily extended their influence.
A study last year by the Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs said some 38,480 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan due to the US’s so-called “war on terror“.
Donor countries are expected to finance approximately 51 percent of Afghanistan’s 2019 government spending of five billion dollars. Yet the Afghan government’s capabilities are generally weak and it often lacks the capacity to manage and account for donor funds, the report said.
The US has spent $132bn since 2002 on training Afghan forces, strengthening institutions and other initiatives.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced his eagerness to end his country’s involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 US troops are still deployed.
Afghanistan has been enmeshed in nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban 1996-2001 rule and the US invasion in late 2001.
Al Jazeera and news agencies