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HomeGeopolitical CompassWest & Centeral AsiaAfghanistan: Peace through Power-Sharing?

Afghanistan: Peace through Power-Sharing?

Author: Ulrich Pilster

Affiliation: University of Essex’s Michael Nicholson Centre for Conflict and


Organization/Publisher: The Washington Quarterly

Date/Place: March 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Journal Article

Number of Pages: 22


Keywords: Peace negotiations, Conflict resolutions, Rebels, International community. 



This paper discusses the US-Taliban peace deal and its repercussions for the future of Afghanistan. Although the author highlights the fragile process of reaching a peace agreement that may take years without any guarantee for success, he foresees a viable political arrangement between the Taliban and the Afghan government through a successful power-sharing negotiation. He analyzes three out of 23 historical cases of intervention and a power-sharing agreement between the rebels and the government: (1) Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal (1979-89), (2) Angola after the Cuban intervention (1975-91), and (3) Cambodia after the Vietnamese retreated (1979-89). The author addresses the withdrawal of the foreign powers, the way to peace and power-sharing, and the outcome. Throughout his analysis, Pilster argues that “Gorbachev promoted peace through power-sharing in Afghanistan.” But, the Soviet withdrawal, the policy of national reconciliation, and the Geneva Accord did not end the war. Above all, the end of the Cold War changed the domestic and international parameters. US support towards Mujahedeen had a role. In the case of Angola, “international diplomacy was needed to end the intra-Angolan conflict.” And, the Cambodian case shows that “Power-sharing is precarious.” With reference to 23 historical cases, the author identifies that the rebels took power in only eight cases (35 percent). The cases of Cambodia and Angola are good examples of ending decades-long conflicts peacefully. When a military victory was attainable in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, or in Angola after losing their external support, the result was a peace failure. Peace negotiations are abandoned when the military prospects of the combatants improve or the political prospects worsen. On the contrary, “when a military stalemate coincides with a diplomatic consensus, power-sharing becomes possible.” Pakistan’s seeking international investment, and the US’ willingness to leave Afghanistan have paved the way for a new diplomatic landscape. Overall, the key factor for sustainable peace in Afghanistan through power-sharing is a long-term sociopolitical and economic engagement of the international community. The author concludes his analysis by proposing four policy recommendations: (1) “a withdrawal of Western forces must be conditions-based rather than calendar or clock-based.” (2) “Regional consensus around peace needs to be built and maintained.” (3) “Afghans need to develop a vision of what peace through power-sharing could look like.” And (4) “peace needs a manager, even after a peace accord.” 


By: Abdullah Jurat, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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