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Thu. December 08, 2022
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International Affairs Forum

Around the World, Across the Political Spectrum

Roundtable Forum - AFGHANISTAN

IA Forum asks a group of experts: Given the many issues the US faces in stabilizing Afghanistan, a key issue is what to do with the warlords. In the winter edition of Foreign Affairs, Professor George Gavrilis presented a plan for dealing with the Afghan warlords based on a model used in Tajikistan. This would incorporate them into the Afghan government with autonomy within their own areas. He states, "the international community should give warlords much freer rein so long as they do not take up arms against the government or international forces. However repugnant the warlords may be, the central government simply does not have the ability to displace them, and trying to do so can lead to unpleasant consequences." Do you believe this is a viable solution? If not, what is the best way to deal with the warlords?

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Mehlaqa Samdani, Adjunct Fellow, CSIS

Response: What to do with the warlords?

They are known to be unsavory characters accused of perpetrating unconscionable human rights violations. They flout the rule of law and challenge the unitary nature of the Afghan state as enshrined in the constitution. And yet in the short to medium term, the warlords in Afghanistan present the only viable option to the Afghan population with respect to service-p... more

Michael Kugelman, Woodrow Wilson International Ctr

Response: In the policy world, the least bad option often carries the day. Washington should take this truism to heart as it considers how to deal with the warlords of Afghanistan.

These strongmen exhibit violent and corrupt tendencies. Such behavior raises red flags for Washington, which seeks to bring stability and better governance to Afghanistan. Warlords, with their well-trained and disciplined mil... more

Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings Institution


Response: Relying on warlords even more than is already the case spells the doom of the current strategy in Afghanistan - to build a national government minimally strong and legitimate to prevent the Taliban or other salafists from controlling territory, deny safehavens to terrorists, and to be stable. Kabul has been a problematic partner - unreliable, weak, corrupt, and often resented by the population eve... more

James Dobbins, RAND

Response: The question is a good one, but the pro-offered strategy too simplistic. First of all, what is a warlord? Is it someone with an organized army, possessing armored vehicles, artillery and crew served weapons, capable of challenging the national army? If so, and this was what the term meant during the post-Soviet civil war, there are none. Regional commanders who possessed such assets have all been... more

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