The international mission to reconstruct Afghanistan may be the most ambitious state-building exercise ever undertaken. Among the least developed on Earth, the country has been the focus of tremendous international political will, copious development assistance and, at least since 2009, overwhelming military power.  Afghanistan’s GDP has quadrupled over the past decade, literacy rates have climbed steadily, and the infrastructure of a modern state has grown significantly, and the Afghanistan National Security Forces are growing dramatically and have begun to assume primary responsibility for certain provinces as international forces prepare to scale down. Yet, after all this effort, the news coming out of Afghanistan is dominated by stories of political dysfunction — electoral fraud, unchecked corruption and venal power brokers.

This paper proposes the establishment of a triple compact, involving the international community and the government of Afghanistan, the government and the people of Afghanistan, and the international community and the Afghan people. Such an agreement could guide the interaction of the international community and the Afghan government with the common goal of advancing the interests of the population. Although the triple compact could be perceived as a violation of national sovereignty, the needs of the population must be upheld over those of the state if the goal is to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

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The Afghanistan Papers are essays authored by prominent academics, policy makers, practitioners and informed observers that seek to challenge existing ideas, contribute to ongoing debates and influence international policy on issues related to Afghanistan’s transition. A forward-looking series, the papers combine analysis of current problems and challenges with explorations of future issues and threats.