1. Update
  2. Middle East & Iran, Peacebuilding, U.S. Wars & Militarism

Afghanistan Needs Long Term Peace, Not Quick Fixes

By Timothy McHugh, February 24, 2020


Reporting indicates that the U.S. and Taliban are prepared to sign a deal, provided that each side can maintain a seven-day reduction in violence. Intra-Afghan talks are slated to begin soon after the signing of this deal.

Contact: Tim McHugh, Friends Committee on National Legislation, media@fcnl.org; 202-903-2515

As conditions on the ground in Afghanistan continue to develop, the Friends Committee on National Legislation remains committed to our belief that Congress must work toward a responsible end to the Afghan war. To achieve this, Congress must remain firm and grounded on these four fundamental principles:

The United States – whether through military or non-military means - does not hold the keys to Afghanistan’s future. Afghans must take ownership of their future, and we must accept that we can either help or harm on the margins, but cannot impose or ensure any particular outcome.

Solutions to Afghanistan’s challenges will be long-term. This means we should expect both setbacks and successes for generations to come, rather than quick fixes.

It is not possible to militarily eliminate terrorism or deny armed groups a “safe haven.” It is possible, however, to help create conditions that marginalize them and make them progressively weaker.

The challenge of terrorism is not unique to or limited to Afghanistan. Thus, we should not operate with a disproportionate focus on Afghanistan, causing Afghan civilians to pay the heaviest price.

With these principles in mind, we urge four steps to guide a responsible end to the Afghan war:

We must reject military-first approaches that are not responsive to or effective in confronting the actual challenges in Afghanistan. This means not only withdrawing combat troops, but also ending partnerships with militias, warlords, and kill teams. It also means totally ending the failed strategy of militarily confronting armed terror groups in and outside of Afghanistan. Instead, we should embrace tactics that actually reduce the power of armed terror groups by facilitating conditions that starve them of resources, recruitment, and impunity.

We must commit long-term to doing no further harm in Afghanistan and instead to empowering Afghan-led solutions. Our military withdrawal must be paired with ramped-up diplomatic engagement to encourage a negotiated settlement that addresses the root causes of the fighting and includes women, youth, civil society, ethnic minorities, the Afghan government, and other key stakeholders. We must also work multilaterally with other regional actors to disincentivize further violence and prevent the use of Afghanistan as a playing field for geopolitical maneuvering.

Our leaders must reverse entrenched misinformation that perpetuates endless war. Members of Congress have important platforms that affect the public discourse. They should refrain from using messaging that reinforces false premises, overly inflates threats, fails to represent the reality of impacted people on the ground, or otherwise fuels continual conflict instead of real solutions.

Instead of short-term fixes, we must focus on supporting Afghan-led long-term solutions that address root causes of insecurity and suffering. This includes making a long-term commitment to economic development but narrowly tailoring our efforts to actually meeting local needs while including conditions, oversight, and accountability that avoids further exacerbating corruption.

The situation in Afghanistan is sure to continue to develop rapidly, with conditions changing day by day. Nonetheless, we urge adherence to these principles in furtherance of a responsible end to this war.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation will release a set of detailed issue briefs in March 2020 in support of these recommendations, to empower constituents and elected leaders alike in working toward a responsible end to the Afghanistan war.

Elizabeth Beavers (@_ElizabethRB), an advisor to the Friends Committee on National Legislation on militarism and human rights, contributed greatly to this update.

Timothy McHugh

  • Director of Media Relations

Tim leads organizational efforts to communicate about issues, victories, priorities, and updates through all available news channels – specifically the major media outlets. He is responsible for providing FCNL staff with opportunities to convey our message – in print and through the airways – to the public and throughout the country. He keeps FCNL issues and staff on the collective radars of reporters and journalists nationwide. Lastly, he runs FCNL several media-focused social media channels.