For nearly a decade the international community has supported Afghanistan's political, social, and economic reconstruction -and opposed the return to power of the Taliban. While Afghans have seen many improvements over that decade, there has been a Taliban resurgence across much of the country. Despite the recent increase in fighting, neither side has been able to vanquish the other militarily. Moreover, a majority of Afghans seem anxious for the contending factions to achieve a negotiated end to the war. Can this growing sense of a military stalemate help usher in a political phase to conclude this conflict? This report, the product of an international task force led by ambassadors Lakhdar Brahimi and Thomas R. Pickering, recommends a political path toward ending the war. Peace is possible in Afghanistan, the task force members assert, if Afghans and the various international stakeholders can overcome their deep divisions and commence the serious negotiations that will be required to achieve it. The report outlines the issues that would need to be addressed in any peace settlement: the division of power, the political order, the role of Islam, human rights, economic development, suppression of terrorist networks and narcotics, the role of foreign forces, and so on. It also presents concrete steps for moving into a political process that could achieve a negotiated settlement to the war. The task force argues that, to end this war with a durable compromise settlement, a complex and multitiered negotiating framework will be essential, and the time to start that political process is now.
Lakhdar Brahimi was special representative of the UN secretary general and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (2001-04), where he led the implementation of the Peace Agreement reached at the Bonn conference, which he had chaired. He also served as the secretary-general's special envoy for Afghanistan from July 1997 until October 1999. Thomas R. Pickering, vice chairman of the international consulting firm Hills and Company, has had a career spanning five decades as a U.S.diplomat, serving as under secretary of state for political affairs and ambassador to the United Nations, Russia, and India, as well as to Israel, Nigeria, Jordan, and El Salvador.