Amidst an intensifying Taliban insurgency and emerging Islamic State threat, Afghanistan's path to peace and stability looks ever more perilous. Taliban militants now control more territory than at any time since its ouster by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001. Crisis Group is one of the few analytical organisations with a presence in Afghanistan. We help local and international stakeholders to comprehend the context and drivers of conflict, militant extremism, political-economic fragility, and its implications for the world and the region. Crisis Group helps local authorities and the international community formulate effective policies to improve governance and security in the country and stop violent extremism.
The Taliban have claimed the assassination of an influential Afghan police chief and another official in an attack that narrowly missed the head of U.S. forces. Senior Analyst Borhan Osman and Consultant Graeme Smith explain the repercussions for political stability in southern Afghanistan.
Hostilities and attacks intensified ahead of 20 Oct parliamentary elections, which were marred by insecurity and organisational and technical problems, while Taliban killing of powerful Kandahar police chief prompted concerns for security in southern region and cast shadow on idea of peace talks. Ten candidates killed in run-up to elections (various dates); Taliban claimed 407 attacks on election day, including suicide bombing near polling centre in Kabul killing at least fifteen and blocked roads; govt reported 193 security incidents. Preliminary figures indicated about four million votes cast (out of nine million registered voters) in 32 of 34 provinces; vote postponed for security reasons in Ghazni and Kandahar provinces (taking place in latter 27 Oct), while polls failed to open in many districts elsewhere. Observers anticipating further political tensions and turbulence when results are announced, expected for 20 Nov. In attack claimed by Taliban, gunman 18 Oct shot dead Kandahar provincial police chief Gen Abdul Raziq, provincial chief of National Directorate of Security, and TV cameraman, in governor’s palace in Kandahar city, also injuring several including provincial governor, two Afghan and one U.S. military commanders, and U.S. civilian and translator; top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan Gen Austin Miller narrowly escaped. Govt claimed increase in offensive operations ahead of election including in Farah, Kandahar, Faryab and Maidan Wardak provinces. Taliban claimed to have overrun at least four districts in Maidan Wardak, Paktika and Ghazni provinces. Taliban 3 Oct claimed to have removed Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) from half of Wazir Tangi in Khogyani, Nangarhar province. Month saw apparent decrease in IS-KP activity, with group claiming suicide attack 2 Oct on office of election candidate in Kama district, Nangarhar province, killing over a dozen; and 29 Oct suicide bombing targeting election commission HQ in Kabul, killing staff member and police officer. New U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad 12 Oct reportedly led delegation talking to Taliban in Qatar; Taliban said they discussed “ending occupation” and working toward peaceful resolution to Afghan conflict. Reports emerged that U.S. did not fully inform Afghan govt; several non-Taliban political factions voiced concerns of potential U.S. appeasement of Taliban.
The end-of-Ramadan truce in Afghanistan was brief but encouraging, demonstrating that both Afghan government soldiers and the Taliban rank and file will respect ceasefire orders from above. Both sides, alongside the U.S., should now seize the opportunity to edge closer to meaningful talks about peace.
The power dispute between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah is imperilling Afghanistan’s fragile security and recent economic progress. To avoid the collapse of the U.S.-brokered National Unity Government, both actors must end political partisanship and prioritise the public interest.
This report examines President Trump’s emerging counter-terrorism policies, the dilemmas his administration faces in battling ISIS and al-Qaeda across the Middle East and South Asia, and how to avoid deepening the disorder both groups exploit.
Too often, the Afghan Local Police (ALP) has preyed on those it is meant to guard. Some members are outright bandits, exacerbating conflict. Rogue units should be disbanded, and better ones integrated into the armed forces. This must be done carefully and slowly, or else insurgents will win a new military edge.
As Pakistan seeks to consolidate its fragile democracy, it should seize the moment to improve relations with its Afghan neighbour. Its biggest challenge comes from within. The civilian government has to regain control over national security and foreign policy from the military.
Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, inherits a government that is running out of money and losing ground to the insurgency. As foreign troops withdraw, the new government must stay united and move quickly on reforms.
Attacking lightly defended targets has been part of [the Islamic State's] modus operandi from the outset.
This mutual [Afghan] ceasefire, if successful, can possibly inspire or encourage future, more substantial steps towards peacemaking. Fighting has been the integral feature that has characterized the Taliban since the movement was born. A break from it, although very brief, represents an important departure from its modus operandi.
The U.S. and Afghan governments are unleashing more violence based on the same rationale that it would tilt this stalemate to favor their conditions at the table.
U.S. allies in Afghanistan should push for a greater diplomatic political component to the U.S. strategy. As it stands, [it] sets the stage for more violence while closing avenues for de-escalation.
Increasing pressure on [Kabul's] battlefield may lead [the Taliban and IS] to hit back in an area where they can publicly disprove the rhetoric of the U.S. military or Afghan government.
[High-profile Taliban attacks in Kabul are] an attempt to disprove statements by U.S. and Afghan officials that the Taliban are weakened.
Originally published in The New York Times
The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is likely to continue unabated in 2018, despite the U.S. effort to step up its military campaign. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to utilise its influence with Afghan political actors to help rebuild trust and increase prospects for mediation.
U.S. aerial bombing of drug laboratories in Afghanistan will solve neither the country’s Taliban insurgency nor its drugs problem.
In recent years, a confrontation between the U.S. government and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been looming over the alleged actions of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Crisis Group's U.S. Program Director Stephen Pomper unpicks the unique U.S.-ICC relationship and outlines the choices left open to Washington.
Originally published in Just Security