Michael Keating is Executive Director of the European Institute of Peace (EIP), an independent body partnering with the European Union and European states as a resource to promote and provide practical support for more effective approaches to conflict prevention, resolution and mediation. Until September 2018, he was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia. From 2008 – 2010, he served as the Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel, a policy group chaired by Kofi Annan. Furthermore, he is former UN Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.
In conversation with GPI, Michael Keating shares his insights on how the Taliban managed to overrun the Afghan military so quickly and without much resistance, and what consequences the international community should draw from this for the future.
When asked how he views the current situation in Afghanistan, Michael Keating sees the missing morale of Afghan troops as a short-term reason for the pace of the collapse of Afghanistan. The heavily advertised and quick withdrawal of US and NATO troops had a deep impact on the Afghan forces. Moreover, the Taliban have been clearly present already all across the country, which is why there were no large movements of troops.
As crucial failures in the international engagement in forefront, that led to the Taliban’s takeover, Michael Keating sees the “failure to put the needs, including the security concerns of people front and center” and the “failure to understand how traditional governance works, the history of the country, the importance of different forms of identity when you are building institutions.”
On what needs to happen now, Michael Keating underlines three key steps to try and de-escalate the situation:
- “Protect those who are most vulnerable and offer them safe passage.”
- “Facilitate humanitarian access and increase the level of humanitarian support.”
- “Look at the basis upon which services such as electricity, water, and policing can be maintained.”
Stopping development assistance to Afghanistan because of the Taliban’s policies would increase the humanitarian problem and lead to increased movement of people. Furthermore, it is now of utmost importance to monitor other jihadist groups in the Middle East, at the Horn of Africa and in the Sahel closely and make sure they do not follow the Taliban’s path and try to shift their objectives, moving from political negotiations to military activity.
Thus, Michael Keating calls for “much more muscular action by the UN Security Council that has been conspicuously lacking”, more international coherence in dealing with this problem and freeing Afghanistan from the rivalries of the great powers.
He concludes that “the international community must put people at the center of the efforts in order to achieve sustainable peace.”