• Afghan American Foundation

Afghan-American Foundation Responds to Secretary Blinken's Letter to Afghanistan's Leaders

Updated: Mar 18

March 10, 2021

The Honorable Antony Blinken, Secretary

U.S. Department of State

2201 C St. NW

Washington D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Blinken:

The Afghan-American Foundation (AAF) welcomes your direct engagement in the Afghan Peace process and your recognition that discussions on the way ahead in Afghanistan must be based on the shared interests of the United States and Afghanistan. While your letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reinforces the importance of the two governments’ partnership, it appears to overlook some realities on the ground that cannot be ignored if an eventual settlement is to be permanent and comprehensive.

One of the main reasons for optimism for this new American administration is President Biden’s recognition that ongoing U.S. leadership in central and south Asia is critical to U.S. national security and his commitment to multilateralism in seeking to bring an end to the decades of conflict in Afghanistan -- both key to regaining moral and strategic ground that was ceded by the previous administration. We agree that unity on the Afghan side is essential for the work ahead. In that regard, successive Afghan governments, including the current administration, have thus far fallen short. Unity of effort and purpose will be critical, but it cannot be achieved through a dilution of the democratic values and the hope the Afghan people hold for a safe and secure homeland.

Preservation of the gains made in the rights of women and minorities, protection of nascent democratic institutions and a burgeoning free press, and fostering a climate in which Afghanistan’s young population can continue to innovate and drive toward self-sufficiency all require the type of engagement that the U.S. is uniquely positioned to offer.

The Taliban ascended to power in Afghanistan through violence and terrorism. Those tactics endure today even as the international community strives to facilitate a lasting peace in Afghanistan. We have yet to even see any substantial steps in furtherance of the Taliban’s promises outlined in the Doha agreement. It is unclear how any process can move forward without tangible course corrections by the Taliban.

It is also unclear how Afghanistan’s constitutional system, including its independent judiciary, would not be subverted by the establishment of a high council that includes significant representation from the Taliban with authority to render guidance on interpretations of Islamic Law. Afghanistan has its own rich history of diverse and largely moderate Islamic thinking and jurisprudence. To confer legitimacy to the invasive and corrosive extremist ideology of the Taliban would not only be an affront to the Afghan people and their institutions, it would also run the risk of fomenting extremism in the region and allowing groups like Al-Qaida and Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK) to regain a foothold.

Finally, the multilateral approach to ending the conflict in Afghanistan should continue to include our partners in Europe who have worked alongside the U.S. and Afghan governments for many years on issues of security and development and have shared in the sacrifices that partnership has entailed.

This approach, as you proposed, should also include Afghanistan’s neighbors even if their values do not always necessarily align with those of the U.S. or of a unified, democratic, and inclusive Afghanistan. Their involvement, however, must be conditioned on two premises: 1) they acknowledge the role that several of them, Pakistan in particular, have played in shaping the current security situation in Afghanistan and undercutting the U.S.-backed Afghan government; and 2) they commit to not supporting any armed groups within the country going forward. The peace process cannot proceed in earnest without imposing this accountability and securing this critical assurance.

While Afghanistan has faced its fair share of challenges and failures, great successes and milestones have been achieved thanks to the support of the American people. Under no circumstance should we undermine that progress or create a path for a return to a less secure and less promising Afghanistan. We trust that you agree and we hope you to continue to seek out an array of voices to help guide the administration’s approach in Afghanistan going forward, including those within the Afghan-American community.

Afghan-American Foundation (AAF)

cc: Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor (NSA)

cc: Lloyd J. Austin III, Secretary, U.S. Department of Defense