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A Muslim solution for Afghanistan

Let Muslim nations, not Western coalition, lead the mission to bring peace there.

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Wealthy Muslim states such as Malaysia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates can provide funding. Members of NATO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes China and Russia, can also contribute donations and offer expertise.

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But the military presence must be limited to personnel from Muslim states. Given Afghanistan's problematic relations with its neighbors, peacekeepers should come from nonneighboring Muslim states, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, and Turkey.

Many of those nations have valuable experience to offer. Bangladesh, for example, is a leading troop contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions. Turkey (a NATO member) and the UAE already have a physical presence in Afghanistan. Peacekeeping in Afghanistan would be a natural extension of their present foreign missions.

Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey have the most developed bureaucracies and armies among Muslim states. They can help train the Afghan civil, foreign, and security services. A Muslim-led mission in Afghanistan would offer middle powers such as Egypt and Turkey an opportunity to revitalize regional leadership roles they once had. It would also provide regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia with a platform to constructively resolve a problem integral to their security concerns and interests.

And a number of international organizations, such as the Islamic Development Bank as well as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, should help continue to rebuild Afghanistan's economy.

Through the auspices of the Pakistani Army and Saudi royal family, this plan can be presented to the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Omar. Via his official spokesman, Mullah Omar has made clear he is willing to talk to the Kabul government, but only in the context of the US-led coalition's withdrawal.

His representatives and those of other regional militant commanders can be joined with a wide scope of Afghan political, religious, and tribal leaders in a loya jirga, or grand council. It could take place in Kabul or another Muslim capital, to set up a transitional coalition government amid a phased Western withdrawal.

In the interim, the US, in concert with Pakistan, must continue to root out the foreign jihadi presence along the border with Afghanistan.

Having Muslims lead the mission to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan would create a wedge between Afghan insurgents and transnational jihadists, such as Al Qaeda, the elimination of which is the Obama administration's major goal in the region.

Ultimately, Al Qaeda will be given a decisive blow when Muslim states rise to the challenge and bring stability to Afghanistan.

Arif Rafiq is president of Vizier Consulting, LLC, which provides strategic guidance on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues.