Afghan politician, US defense official discuss Afghanistan withdrawal at NYU event

A member of Afghanistan’s ousted government and a former U.S. assistant defense secretary talked with NYU faculty about the aftermath of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan as well as the country’s future.

NYU invited Fawzia Koofi, the leader of the Movement of Change for Afghanistan Party, and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Collins to an event to discuss the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Collins and Koofi discussed the factors that led up to the collapse of the Afghan government. (Image via nyu.edu)

NYU invited Fawzia Koofi, the leader of the Movement of Change for Afghanistan Party, and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Collins to an event to discuss the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Collins and Koofi discussed the factors that led up to the collapse of the Afghan government. (Image via nyu.edu)

By Carmo Moniz, Contributing Writer

An Afghan political leader and a former Department of Defense official sat down at an NYU event to discuss the aftermath of the U.S. military withdrawal and the future of Afghanistan on Oct. 18.

The virtual event, hosted by the Center for Global Affairs at NYU’s School of Professional Studies, featured Fawzia Koofi, the leader of the Movement of Change for Afghanistan Party, and Joseph Collins, a former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. They were joined by Barnett Rubin, an NYU fellow who has written extensively about Afghanistan.

The three panelists examined the presence of military forces in Afghanistan, failed negotiations with the Taliban and the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis.

One of the most pressing issues addressed at the event was the Taliban takeover of the country following the U.S. withdrawal in August. The event moderator, Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, a clinical professor at the SPS Center for Global Affairs, said that other nations, such as the United Kingdom, also decided to withdraw from Afghanistan due to a lack of American support.

Collins attributed the collapse of the Afghan government to its failure to maintain morale among its supporters and army and the lack of planning by the U.S. military.

“In the end, they stopped fighting, but that was only in the last inning,” Collins said. “Why did they do that? They did that because the Taliban, very convincingly, were able to tell them, ‘Look, you’ve already been abandoned.’”

Koofi, the first woman to lead an Afghan political party, was a key negotiator in peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. When asked why the peace process failed to prevent the Taliban takeover, she pointed to the agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban signed in February 2020, which senior Pentagon officials now say was at the root of the Afghan government’s collapse.

“The peace negotiations failed because the U.S. signed and negotiated an agreement with the Taliban without the Afghan state and different political groups being part of it,” Koofi said. “So the Taliban already felt that the Afghan government was being replaced. The former government was corrupt, and was not able to create consciousness or motivate our forces.”

Rubin, a senior fellow at NYU’s Center for International Cooperation, discussed the humanitarian crisis that Afghans are now facing. He said that Canada, the European Union and the United States are facing the difficult question of how to maneuver international aid so that it reaches the Afghan people instead of Taliban leaders.

“Because of the country’s financial dependence, the longer it goes with all that aid being cut off, the less leverage they will actually have,” Rubin said. 

Koofi said the United Nations is currently working on a solution for the distribution of international aid, part of which will be used to pay the salaries of its Afghan employees.

“Distributing aid to the local population and to the people in need, trying to avoid the collapse of the economy and trying to pay the salaries of the civil servants is very tricky,” Koofi said. “We continue to depend on aid … [The Taliban] could still use the private sector in terms of private banks to deliver the salaries for the teachers who have not been paid since four, five months.”

[Read more: ‘I’m scared for my life’: An Afghan student on the collapse of Afghanistan]

A version of this story appeared in the Oct. 25, 2021, e-print edition. Contact Carmo Moniz at [email protected]