Negotiations Cannot Solve Afghanistan's Problems

Testimony November 3
The United States should stop emphasizing talks with the Quetta shura and the Haqqani network as the solution to Afghanistan’s problems. The insurgency has virtually no incentive to negotiate when its adversaries are headed for the exit.
Related Media and Tools

The Obama administration made a grave mistake in announcing a deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, argues Ashley J. Tellis in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He explains why reconciliation talks risk failure, why the real problem lurks across the border in Pakistan, and the steps the United States can take to improve the prospects for a successful transition.

U.S. Policy Recommendations for Afghanistan:

  • Forget reconciliation: The United States should stop emphasizing talks with the Quetta shura and the Haqqani network as the solution to Afghanistan’s problems. The insurgency has virtually no incentive to negotiate when its adversaries are headed for the exit.
  • Postpone the withdrawal of U.S. forces: Washington should delay the withdrawal of surge troops beyond 2012 to consolidate security gains in the south and east.
  • Expand supply networks: As a hedge against continued reliance on Pakistan, the United States should expand its network of air and ground lines into Afghanistan.
  • Secure basing rights: The United States should ensure that the strategic partnership agreement currently being negotiated with Kabul provides sufficient U.S. basing rights to conduct counterterrorism operations and support the Afghan National Security Forces over the long term.

U.S. Policy Recommendations for Pakistan:

  • Reduce equipment transfers: Washington should stop transfers of military equipment that have no relevance to Pakistani counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.
  • Reform security aid: To ensure tax dollars are not wasted, the United States should gradually replace Coalition Support Funds with direct counterterrorism assistance tied to specific counterterrorism targets.
  • Reform civilian aid: Washington should condition future civilian aid to Pakistan on Islamabad’s support for accelerated South Asian economic integration and structural changes in its capacity to mobilize domestic resources.
  • Stand up for the civilian government: The Pakistani security services exercise disproportionate control over key national decisions within Pakistan. The United States should more forcefully support the civilian government in Islamabad, despite its serious weaknesses.

Tellis concludes, “None of these policy changes by themselves will suffice to transform Pakistan into a successful state or to shift the Pakistani military’s current strategies in more helpful directions. But they will signal the limits of American patience and spare the American taxpayer the indignity of having to subsidize Pakistani state actions that directly threaten American lives and interests.”

End of document

About the South Asia Program

The Carnegie South Asia Program informs policy debates relating to the region’s security, economy, and political development. From the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan’s internal dynamics to U.S. engagement with India, the Program’s renowned team of experts offer in-depth analysis derived from their unique access to the people and places defining South Asia’s most critical challenges.


In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036-2103 Phone: 202 483 7600 Fax: 202 483 1840
Please note...

You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.