Asia Carrousel: The Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, the NATO Warsaw Summit, and Afghanistan’s Regional Future

On 1 March, in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Asia Carrousel lecture series, The Hague Institute for Global Justice, Clingendael, Oxfam Novib, and the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law co-organized a panel discussion on “The Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, the NATO Warsaw Summit, and Afghanistan’s Regional Future”. The discussion followed an expert roundtable with a broad group of international and Afghan experts, focusing on economic development, migration, the security situation, the political process, and human rights and gender in Afghanistan.

Insights and recommendations generated during the two events were captured in this summary report: Afghanistan_The Road Ahead_Summary report.

In her opening remarks for the panel discussion, Ms. Mira Woldberg, Head of the South and Southeast Asia and Oceania Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands, emphasized the need for an integrated approach in advancing peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. She noted that in the last fifteen years, the international community has invested heavily in Afghanistan, and that “reconciliation is a prerequisite for durable peace.” Adopting a forward perspective, she expressed hope for progress through the steps toward peace talks made by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, as well as the upcoming Brussels Conference and NATO Summit.

Mr. Wahid Waissi, Director-General for Economic Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan provided a comprehensive overview of Afghanistan’s efforts in light of the upcoming conferences, highlighting the need to promote private sector investment and regional economic cooperation to reduce Afghanistan’s dependency on aid. “Afghanistan is working to open doors in order to connect regionally and economically”, he said.

Ms. Dewi Suralaga, Policy Advisor Women’s Leadership, Security and Justice at Cordaid, noted positive developments in Afghanistan from a gender perspective, such as the launch of the National Action Plan on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, the increase of women in high level government positions, and participation of women in the country’s High Peace Council. However, she added, research shows that the main challenges for women in Afghanistan remain illiteracy, forced marriage, and family disputes on the role of women. Ms. Suralaga offered several recommendations for the future, emphasizing the importance of coherence and multi-stakeholder cooperation in pursuing reconciliation.

Elaborating on the security dimension in Afghanistan, Lt Col Rob Hendriks, Research Fellow at Clingendael and former ISAF Senior Subject Matter Expert on Counter-Insurgency & Security Forces Assistance, analyzed the transition from the International Security Assistance Force to the Resolute Support Mission, arguing that “the development of several functionalities of the ANSF was brought to an end too hastily, which, in combination with the very large reduction of the NATO mission’s footprint, rendered detrimental consequences.” He urged Afghanistan to convey the feasibility of a reconciliation process, and through the wider peace process to convince the international community to prolong their dedication and engagement in Afghanistan.

The discussion concluded with an extensive Q&A session with the audience, covering a range of topics, including possible compromises in the peace process to advance reconciliation, the relation between reconciliation and justice, and Afghan women’s issues.

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