On October 8th, Arash Yaqin, a Master’s candidate in the Statecraft and National Security Affairs program at IWP, participated in a Stimson Center virtual panel discussion as a part of a South Asian Voices Project.
Mr. Yaqin is a native Afghan who lived as a refugee in Russia and Europe for two decades. He has worked for the UN in capacity-building, Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies, and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as a senior cultural affairs advisor. His studies focus on countering violent extremism and great power competition in South and Central Asia.
Trump vs. Biden
Mr. Yaqin opened by establishing that both candidates desire to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and reach a peace deal with the Taliban. Mr. Yaqin contended that the differences between Biden and Trump are minimal in the eyes of Afghans, though the Afghan government anticipates Biden will take a tougher stance against the Taliban.
When asked which candidate Afghans would prefer, Mr. Yaqin leaned toward Biden because there is hope he will change the Trump administration’s course. Trump was welcomed by Afghans early in his administration, but the Taliban deal releasing thousands of Taliban fighters is unpopular and viewed as a result of American pressure.
Mr. Yaqin said that he anticipates that the U.S. will attempt to keep Afghanistan aligned with India, as opposed to cozying up to Iran, though it depends on the strength of the Kabul government. When asked about the role of China after the U.S. withdrawal, Mr. Yaqin spoke about how Afghanistan is not interested in an economic partnership with China; however, it does have a good reputation because it does not have a negative history, like the Soviets or Americans. Additionally, Russia maintains a strategic security interest in Afghanistan and continues to have some influence.
For the next presidential administration, the U.S. needs to use its political, military, and financial leverage to achieve peace, according to Mr. Yaqin. In all likelihood, the Afghan government will continue to rely on foreign, mostly American, aid, though relations are tiring out.
Mr. Yaqin recently wrote an article on this topic (https://southasianvoices.org/u-s-elections-2020-the-united-states-in-afghanistan/) for South Asian Voices.