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Afghanistan ‘here to stay’ problem at the top of 2022 conflicts to watch: foreign policy experts

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Foreign policy experts have placed concerns about rising terrorism and political instability in Afghanistan, following the complete military withdrawal of the Biden administration, at the top of a list of potential conflicts to watch for in 2022.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) released the results of its “Preventive Priorities Survey” on Monday. The survey, conducted by CFR’s Center for Preventive Action in November 2021, asked 400 experts to rate 30 “ongoing or potential violent conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring or worsening this year, as well. than their possible impact on American interests. “

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The “leading” risk category of the survey includes rising humanitarian crises, the potential for armed clashes between powers and the growing risk of regional conflicts due to nuclear proliferation.

“The Joe Biden administration is facing several acute humanitarian crises this year amid growing tensions with China, Iran and Russia,” according to the press release accompanying the investigation.

Jeh Johnson, former Homeland Security secretary, appears on “Meet the Press” in Washington, DC on Sunday, February 24, 2019. (Photo by: William B. Plowman / NBC / NBC Newswire / NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

“A worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, caused by severe food shortages, persistent political instability and reduced foreign aid, leading to a mass exodus of refugees,” is listed as the first and foremost concern.

In a virtual meeting after the survey’s publication on Monday, prominent foreign policy experts discussed major crises they say could escalate in 2022, starting with Afghanistan.


Jeh Charles Johnson, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under President Obama, said the Afghanistan “problem” is here now and “here to stay.”

The “picture from the American point of view does not look bright,” Johnson said, referring to the decline in women’s rights and the Taliban takeover since the departure of US troops in August. The new Taliban-led government is “not moderate” as promised, and instead reflects previous governments that have fueled terrorism in the region and around the world, he said.

Afghanistan ‘here to stay’ problem at the top of 2022 conflicts to watch: foreign policy experts

Internally displaced Afghans in northern provinces, who fled their homes due to fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security personnel, take refuge in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, August 13, 2021. ( AP Photo / Rahmat Gul)

The study, for the first time since its launch in 2008, indicates that the likelihood of a “massively casualty terrorist attack against the United States or a treaty ally by a foreign terrorist organization” is low and is not. no longer considered a priority, but some experts disagreed with this assessment.

The “global terrorist risk has not necessarily diminished,” warned Harvard Kennedy School professor Meghan L. O’Sullivan during the virtual discussion.

O’Sullivan said that due to the current “massive humanitarian crisis” in Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover, the terrorist risk has not been completely eliminated.


Paul B. Stares, director of the Center for Preventive Action, called the situation in Afghanistan a “paradox”, as the terrorist threat could in fact increase again due to the departure of the United States after declaring “war on” terrorism “ended.

Afghanistan ‘here to stay’ problem at the top of 2022 conflicts to watch: foreign policy experts

A Taliban fighter sits in the back of a vehicle with a machine gun in front of the main gate leading to the Afghan Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday August 16, 2021.
(AP Photo / Rahmat Gul)

The discussion of mounting threats in Afghanistan came a day before the White House announced $ 308 million in additional humanitarian aid for the country, as it heads into a humanitarian crisis within five months of taking Taliban control.

“The United States is committed to supporting the Afghan people and we continue to explore all of our options. We are on the side of the Afghan people, ”National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Emily Horne said on Tuesday.


Other areas of concern raised by the CFR study were the high likelihood of further disruptive cyberattacks on US critical infrastructure, an increase in Russian and Chinese assaults on Ukraine and Taiwan, respectively, and the potential regional military conflict over the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. .

“Cyberspace is the battleground of the 21st century,” Johnson warned during the virtual chat. The former DHS secretary noted that a highly disruptive state-sponsored cyberattack on critical infrastructure would be detrimental to the United States, highlighting the recent attack on the colonial pipeline, which caused huge supply problems to across the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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