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G7 Performance on Afghanistan, 1975–2021

Duja Muhanna, G7 Research Group
August 25, 2021

British prime minister Boris Johnson convened an emergency virtual meeting of G7 leaders to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. They were joined by Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations. High on the agenda was the ongoing collaboration on evacuation efforts at Kabul airport, resettling Afghans who are most in need, stepping up support for refugees and humanitarian aid, and developing a clear plan for working with the new Taliban government in a unified and concerted way.

The G7 meeting ended without an extension of the August 31 deadline, the Taliban's red line for western forces to leave the country. US president Joe Biden has faced political pressure from his G7 allies to extend the deadline for US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan. However, he defended his decision to pull out of Afghanistan by August 31, adding that dangers to US troops will rise significantly if they stayed longer.

In a joint statement following their virtual meeting, G7 leaders said they will engage with the Taliban based on its actions, notably on preventing terrorism, protecting human rights and pursuing an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan. They also said they will support the UN in coordinating the immediate international humanitarian response in Afghanistan, as millions of Afghans could soon face the risk of starvation due to a combination of conflict, drought and COVID-19.

Speaking shortly after the virtual meeting, Johnson said the G7 agreed on a "roadmap" for engaging with the new Taliban government, with the number one condition that the Taliban allow safe passage to Afghans wanting to leave the country even after August 31. He also said the G7 could use considerable political, economic and diplomatic leverage on the Taliban. As part of that leverage, the EU said it was freezing €1 billion in development assistance to Afghanistan unless the Taliban safeguards fundamental freedoms and human rights.

The G7 and Afghanistan

Afghanistan first appeared on the G7 agenda in 1980 at Venice. The G7 issued a standalone document condemning the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It stated the G7's resolve to do everything in its power to help Afghanistan "regain the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and nonaligned character it once enjoyed."

Shortly after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, G20 finance ministers met in Ottawa, where they focused for the first time on stopping terrorist financing and Afghanistan. (For further details, see "Combatting Terrorism, Ottawa 2001," in John Kirton's G20 Governance for a Globalized World.) In 2002, G7 finance ministers pledged to work with the international community to combat the financing of terrorism. However, it was impossible to completely choke off the money to al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

The 2007 Heiligendamm Summit expressed the G7's support for the UN's central role in Afghanistan and encouraged its ongoing leadership and engagement. It also reiterated the G7's commitment "to stay engaged in Afghanistan and contribute to building a safe and prosperous country, free from narcotics and terrorism, on the basis of the Afghanistan Compact."

At the 2021 Cornwall Summit, G7 leaders expressed their determination "to maintain support for the Afghan government to address the country's urgent security and humanitarian needs, and to help the people of Afghanistan, including women, young people and minority groups, as they seek to preserve hard-won rights and freedoms."

Conclusions

From 1975 to 2021, G7 summits dedicated 3,302 words of their public declarations to Afghanistan, with the first mention coming in 1980 at Venice (see Appendix A). There was a high of 507 words (1.6%) at L'Aquila in 2009 and a low of 15 words (0.1%) at Sea Island, United States, in 2004. Between 2017 to 2019, G7 members did not refer to Afghanistan in their declarations. In 2020, the G7's attention was diverted by the shock of the COVID-19 crisis, and thus was no mention of Afghanistan at the only summit that took place (which was a virtual response to the escalating pandemic). At the 2021 Cornwall Summit, the G7 devoted one paragraph with 97 words to Afghanistan.

Commitments

From 1980 to 2021, the G7 made 46 politically binding commitments on Afghanistan (see Appendix B). In 2012, it made nine commitments including a commitment to a sovereign, peaceful and stable Afghanistan and support for the Afghanistan transition process with close coordination of security, political and economic strategies. In 2013, the G7 made five commitments and in 2014 it made seven. After this, the number dropped significantly, with none made between 2017 and 2020. The 2021 Cornwall Summit produced two commitments.

Compliance

The G7 Research Group has assessed three of the 47 commitments on Afghanistan for compliance by G7 members. Compliance averaged 96% (see Appendix C). This is higher than all subjects overall, which averages 75%. The 2010 and 2011 assessed commitments had high compliance of 100%. The 2009 assessed commitment had 89%.

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, the US and the EU lead with 100%, having fully complied with all three commitments. Russia (a member of the G8 from 1998 to 2013 inclusively) fully complied with two commitments and partially complied with the other.

Conclusions

As G7 members and their western allies wind down their Afghanistan evacuation efforts, many questions remain on how to help achieve a decent future for Afghanistan. American economist Jeffrey Sachs offers some good suggestions, stressing that "it is crucial that G7 leaders think clearly about the important objectives for Afghanistan in order to avoid adding yet another cycle of misery, bloodshed, and mass refugee flows."

The G20 can also help the G7 in adopting a common policy on Afghanistan by involving other countries that have the possibility of controlling what happens in Afghanistan, such as Russia and China. Italy said it is organizing a special G20 summit on Afghanistan sometime before its scheduled summit that will be held in Rome on October 30–31, 2021.

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Appendix A: G7/8 Conclusions on Afghanistan (1980–2021)

Year

# words

% total words

# paragraphs

% total paragraphs

# documents

% total documents

# dedicated documents

1980

254

0

3

0

1

0

0

1981

137

0

1

0

1

0

0

1987

58

0

1

0

1

0

0

1988

90

1.5

1

1

1

25

0

2002

24

0.2

1

0.3

1

14.3

0

2004

15

0.1

1

0.1

1

5.0

0

2005

132

0.6

2

0.4

2

13.3

0

2007

268

0.9

1

0.2

1

10

0

2008

273

1.7

1

0.4

1

16.7

0

2009

507

1.6

4

0.9

2

25

0

2010

322

3.6

3

3.1

2

100

0

2011

439

2.4

6

2.4

1

20

0

2012

269

2.4

5

2.7

1

16.7

0

2013

185

1.4

1

0.4

1

25

0

2014

106

2.1

1

1.4

1

100

0

2015

22

0.2

1

0.7

1

50

0

2016

104

0.4

1

0.2

1

14.3

0

2021

97

0.5

1

0.5

1

16

0

Total

3,302

20

35

15

21

451

0

Average

79

0

1

0

1

11

0

Note: There were no Afghanistan conclusions during the period of 2017–2020.

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Appendix B: G7/8 Commitments on Afghanistan

Year

Afghanistan

1980

1

1981

1

1988

1

2002

1

2005

1

2008

6

2009

3

2010

2

2011

4

2012

9

2013

5

2014

7

2015

2

2016

2

2021

2

Total

47

Notes:
There were no commitments during the periods of 1982–1987, 1989–2001 and 2017–2020.
The G7 made 10 commitments on Afghanistan in their Leaders' Statement on August 24, 2021.

1980 Venice, Italy

We have taken note of today's announcement of the withdrawal of some Soviet troops from Afghanistan. In order to make a useful contribution to the solution of the Afghan crisis, this withdrawal, if confirmed, will have to be permanent and continue until the complete withdrawal of the Soviet troops. Only thus will it be possible to reestablish a situation compatible with peace and the rule of law and thereby with the interests of all nations … We are resolved to do everything in our power to achieve this objective.

1981 Ottawa, Canada

The Heads of State and Government are convinced that, in the case of the hijacking of a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft in March, the conduct of the Babrak Karmal government of Afghanistan, both during the incident and subsequently in giving refuge to the hijackers, was and is in flagrant breach of its international obligations under the Hague Convention to which Afghanistan is a party, and constitutes a serious threat to air safety. Consequently the Heads of State and Government propose to suspend all flights to and from Afghanistan in implementation of the Bonn Declaration unless Afghanistan immediately takes steps to comply with its obligations.

1988 Toronto, Canada

We welcome the beginning of the Soviet withdrawal of its occupation troops from Afghanistan. It must be total and apply to the entire country. The Afghan people must be able to choose their government freely. Each of us confirms our willingness to make our full contribution to the efforts of the international community to ensure the return of the refugees to their homeland, their resettlement, and the reconstruction of their country.

2002 Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada

We support the Transitional Authority of Afghanistan. We will fulfil our Tokyo Conference commitments and will work to eradicate opium production and trafficking.

2005 Gleneagles, Scotland, United Kingdom

[We reaffirm] our commitment to support the Government and people of Afghanistan as they tackle their long term challenges of reconstruction, security, counter-narcotics, and restoring the rule of law, and welcomed the forthcoming Parliamentary and Provincial elections.

2008 Hokkaido Toyako, Japan

We reaffirm the importance of economic and social development along with counter-terrorism measures in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, which can play a critical role in bringing lasting peace, stability and security to this region. To this end, we are committed to further strengthening the coordination of our efforts in the border region in cooperation with the respective countries, international organizations, and other donors.

We renew our commitment to support Afghanistan.

We support the strengthened mandate of UNAMA and Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Kai Eide in their key role as overall coordinator.

We will accelerate our assistance to build the Afghan National Army and Police and in other elements of security sector reform, including Disbandment of the Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG), justice reform and counter-narcotics.

We welcome the outcome of the International Conference in Paris in June and commit ourselves to working toward increasing aid effectiveness.

We underscore our commitment to support presidential and parliamentary elections.

2009 L'Aquila, Italy

We reaffirm our commitment to promoting stability and development in both countries and the wider region, also by strengthening their capacity to counter terrorism, illicit trafficking and crime.

We call on Afghan authorities to ensure credible, inclusive and secure elections, reflecting the actual will of Afghan people. We confirm our commitment to the electoral process through provision of technical, logistical, financial and security assistance.

Affirming the critical importance of Afghan ownership, we support capacity-building at all levels, including in governance, customs, the Afghan national security forces and counter narcotic services.

2010 Muskoka, Canada

We reaffirm our commitment to support Afghanistan in this process of transition and development.

We, the G8 countries, stand together to support them, in particular, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sahel, Somalia and Yemen.

2011 Deauville, France

We renew our commitment in favor of a stable, peaceful and sovereign Afghanistan

We reaffirm our commitment to a stable, peaceful and sovereign Afghanistan, free of terrorism, extremist violence, and illicit drug production and trafficking, with full ownership of its own security, governance and development, based on the principle of non-intervention in Afghanistan internal affairs and mutual non-interference.

We will continue to support the transition process endorsed by Afghanistan and the international community at the London and Kabul Conferences as well as at the NATO Lisbon Summit.

We reaffirm our support for the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), conducted in partnership with the Afghan Government, for strengthening peace and democracy in the country.

2012 Camp David, United States

We reaffirm our commitment to a sovereign, peaceful, and stable Afghanistan, with full ownership of its own security.

We reaffirm our commitment to a sovereign, peaceful, and stable Afghanistan, with full ownership of its own] governance.

We reaffirm our commitment to a sovereign, peaceful, and stable Afghanistan, with full ownership of its own] and development.

We reaffirm our commitment to a sovereign, peaceful, and stable Afghanistan] free of terrorism, extremist violence, and illicit drug production and trafficking.

We will continue to support the [Afghanistan] transition process with close coordination of our security, political and economic strategies.

With an emphasis on mutual accountability and improved governance, building on the Kabul Process and Bonn Conference outcomes, our countries will take steps to mitigate the economic impact of the transition period and support the development of a sustainable Afghan economy by enhancing Afghan capacity to increase fiscal revenues and improve spending management, as well as mobilizing non-security assistance into the transformation decade.

We will support the growth of Afghan civil society

We will mobilize private sector support by strengthening the enabling environment and expanding business opportunities in key sectors, as well as promote regional economic cooperation to enhance connectivity.

We will also continue to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in its efforts to meet its obligation to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, including in the rights of women and girls and the freedom to practice religion.

2013 Lough Erne

We will continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan with meeting their commitments to strengthen their institutions of governance.

[We will continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan with meeting their commitments to strengthen their institutions of governance] to combat corruption

[We will continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan with meeting their commitments to strengthen their institutions of governance] and the threat of terrorism.

We support an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation, based on the principles of renouncing violence, cutting ties with terrorist groups and respecting the Afghan Constitution, including its human rights provisions, notably on the rights of women and minorities.

Our commitment to Afghanistan, within a stable region, will endure beyond this important year of transition.

2014 Brussels, Belgium

We renew our long-term commitment to a democratic, sovereign, and unified

We continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan to strengthen their institutions of governance.

[We continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan to] reduce corruption

[We continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan to] combat terrorism

[We continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan to] support economic growth

[We continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan to] counter narcotics.

We continue to actively support an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation.

2015 Elmau, Germany

[Based on our common values and principles we are committed to:] Supporting Afghanistan

We are committed to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan in support of its stability, prosperity and democratic future.

2016 Ise-Shima, Japan

We stand firm in our longstanding commitment to Afghanistan and its people and our continuing support for the government, as it counters terrorism and undertakes reforms.

We remain concerned by the threat to security and stability in Afghanistan, and strongly support efforts toward establishing an Afghan-led peace process.

2021 Cornwall, UK

We are determined to maintain our support for the Afghan government to address the country's urgent security and humanitarian needs

[We are determined to] … help the people of Afghanistan, including women, young people and minority groups, as they seek to preserve hard-won rights and freedoms.

2021 Virtual Summit, August

We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan

[We] support the UN Security Council statement of 16 August.

Working with partners, in particular NATO allies, we will continue to fight terrorism with resolve and solidarity, wherever it is found.

We affirm our enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan, including through a renewed humanitarian effort by the international community.

To this end we support the UN in coordinating the immediate international humanitarian response in the region, including unfettered humanitarian access in Afghanistan, and will contribute collectively to that response.

As part of that, we will cooperate together and with neighbouring and other countries in the region on supporting Afghan refugees and host communities as part of a coordinated long-term regional response.

As part of this, our immediate priority is to ensure the safe evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have partnered with us and assisted our efforts over the past twenty years, and to ensure continuing safe passage out of Afghanistan.

We will continue to coordinate closely on this, and we expect all parties to continue to facilitate this, and to ensure the safety of humanitarian and medical personnel, and other international service providers.

We will cooperate together, and with neighbouring and other countries in the region hosting refugees, on a coordinated approach to safe and legal routes for resettlement.

We will work together, and with our allies and regional countries, through the UN, G20 and more widely, to bring the international community together to address the critical questions facing Afghanistan.

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Appendix C: Compliance on Afghanistan

Canada

France

Germany

Italy

Japan

Russia

United Kingdom

United States

European Union

Average

2009

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

0
50%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

89%

2010

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

100%

2011

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

+1
100%

100%

Note: The commitment for 2009 included Pakistan.

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Duja Muhanna is a research analyst with the G7 and G20 Research Groups. She joined the G7 Research Group in 2013 and has served as a compliance analyst and lead analyst. She was a member of the field team at the G7 summit in Charlevoix in Canada in 2018. She also worked as a knowledge management advisor for the 2020 G20 Saudi Presidency. Duja graduated from the University of Toronto with an honours bachelor of arts in political science and history with a focus in international relations.

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