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Tabadlab Policy Roundtable 03: Covid-19, Peace and Afghanistan

You can download the e-reader friendly version here.

How will COVID-19 impact the Afghan Peace Process?

Securing peace in Afghanistan has been one of the most awaited outcomes for the global community in the past two decades. However, the COVID-19 crisis has hit the peace process at a time when we seemed tantalisingly close to witnessing a consensus. Tabadlab spoke to some of the leading experts on the region to gauge the impact of the pandemic on Afghanistan and what this may spell for peace and development prospects going forward.

Featured Panelists:

Shaharzad Akbar is Chairperson of the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission and former Deputy of the National Security Council on Peace.


Janan Mosazai is a Senior Fellow at Heart of Asia Society and former Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Afghanistan.


Hina Rabbani Khar is a Member of National Assembly and the former Foreign Minister of Pakistan.


Jawed Ludin is the Chairperson at Heart of Asia Society and former Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan.


Barnett Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the Center on International Cooperation and former Senior Adviser for Afghanistan & Pakistan, US State Department.


Discussion Summary:

With US being worst-hit by COVID-19, the White House has threatened to scale back aid to Afghanistan by at least USD 1 billion. What would this financial blow mean for their allies in the Afghan government as they grapple with the pandemic and the Taliban simultaneously?

How equipped is Afghanistan for the kind of health crisis that is likely to prevail? What is the scale of preparations, if any, for medical staff, provision of PPEs, ventilators and boosting testing capacity?

Who are the people at highest risk of being exposed to COVID-19 in Afghanistan? How are the most vulnerable segments of the population – particularly women, minorities and IDPs – going to deal with a pandemic while ensuring their voices remain heard?

Peace Process
What have the primary stumbling blocks been to the quest for peace in Afghanistan? Will a pandemic alter the prevailing power dynamics, capabilities and weaknesses, or will it prove to be a catalyst for the status quo? What can we expect for peace in Afghanistan in the future?

Will Afghan leaders step up to the grave challenges posed to their country during this time? Will the people of Afghanistan witness transformative leadership and a fresh start to rebuild their country on their own terms? Or will the schisms within, and pressures without continue to push away any such possibilities?

It has often been said that Afghanistan’s prosperity depends on its level of connectivity with the world. But how possible will this be in a new world determined to increase distances with each other? What role can Afghanistan’s neighbours such as Pakistan and China play in the geopolitical and economic future of the country?

While it is hard to predict the fate of a globalised world order following COVID-19, what could be some of the opportunities awaiting Afghanistan after the “Great Pause”? Will the country be able to forge a better place for itself once the dust settles down?


Bracing for an inevitable downsizing of US aid to Afghanistan
Ensuring the most vulnerable communities are protected during COVID-19
Maintaining flexible and realistic expectations of the peace process
Rebooting the mindset regarding regional cooperation
Working towards the political, social and economic opportunities a post-COVID world might offer

Key Resources:

How Far Is Afghanistan From Peace With Itself? – Tabadlab

Barnett R. Rubin(2017) – Partners for Afghanistan: Linking Security, Development and Peace in the Central Asian Region

Shaharzad Akbar – How millions of Afghan women are fighting to transform their lives

Jawed Ludin – Working With Conflict: Skills and Strategies for Action

Hina Rabbani Khar – Pakistan in a Changing
Regional and Global Environment

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A Resident Fellow and Head of Growth at Tabadlab.