January 20, 2022

New Report Addresses Dealing with a Taliban Controlled Afghanistan

Washington, January 20, 2022—Nearly 20 years after U.S. forces overturned Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the country is likely to reemerge as a terrorist hotbed. While competing with China may be Washington’s current focus, managing evolving terrorism threats and protecting human rights in Afghanistan demands continued U.S. attention and resources.

In the new CNAS report, Dealing with a Taliban-Controlled Afghanistan, Senior Fellow and Indo-Pacific Security Director Lisa Curtis provides a detailed roadmap for the U.S. role in Afghanistan moving forward—and how policymakers should support the Afghan people without legitimizing the regime. The report also maps how events on the ground have unfolded since the Taliban seized Kabul, examining the key players in the Taliban interim government and how regional political dynamics are likely to exacerbate terrorism challenges.

The United States must address the following areas:

  • Humanitarian Relief. Without aid, the Afghan economy will collapse. The United States has a moral duty to step in and can do so by working with the World Bank and international partners to create financial corridors that circumvent the Taliban government.
  • Security. The U.S. must refuse to officially recognize a government that includes terrorists with U.S. blood on their hands. Instead, Washington can engage strategically with the Taliban without legitimizing them in an effort to shape their policies on human rights and terrorism.
  • Diplomacy and Human Rights. In order to prevent the kinds of serious human rights abuses committed by the previous Taliban regime, the U.S. should work closely with the U.N. and other credible human rights monitoring groups as well as the Afghan diaspora to monitor the treatment of women and minorities. The U.S. should also work more closely with London and Paris to maintain strong human rights language in UNSC resolutions related to Afghanistan and to ensure human rights protection mechanisms remain a core part of the UNAMA mandate.
  • Evacuations. The U.S. must strengthen the State Department’s capabilities and accountability for maintaining an effort to evacuate at-risk Afghans eligible to apply for resettlement in the United States.

“President Biden may want to close the book on Afghanistan and shift the U.S. focus to other parts of the world, but even if this were possible, it would be a mistake for Washington to disengage,” Curtis writes. “The United States still has significant national security interests in the country, namely preventing the resurgence of terrorism. …Finally, the United States has a moral obligation to evacuate and resettle Afghans who worked with the U.S. government and who are now in danger because of that work, and to continue assisting those who remain to fight for human rights in Afghanistan.”

For more information or to schedule an interview with the authors, please contact comms@cnas.org.