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.
Talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital Doha have raised hopes that the U.S. could end its involvement in Afghanistan’s war. Our Asia Program Director Laurel Miller and Afghanistan analysts Borhan Osman and Graeme Smith break down what was achieved and what remains unresolved.
Talks resumed between U.S. and Taliban and month also saw unprecedented talks between Taliban and Afghan political figures in Moscow, however political tensions continued over fallout of Oct 2018 parliamentary elections and upcoming July presidential polls. Following Jan agreement in principle on framework for peace deal, U.S. and Taliban officials resumed discussions in Doha 25-28 Feb; U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad described talks as productive. Taliban representatives and range of Afghan political figures – including former President Karzai and opposition leaders but excluding govt – held unprecedented meeting in Moscow 5-6 Feb, declaring support for talks in Doha, reform of institutions including security sector and withdrawal of foreign forces. Amid ongoing concerns over Taliban’s refusal to engage in negotiations with Kabul, and latter’s continued insistence that it should have ownership of dialogue, govt 11 Feb held first National Advisory Meeting on Peace in Kabul and announced national consultative meeting to be held 17-20 March, to include representatives from across Afghan society. Hostilities continued across country without significant changes in control of territory; Taliban attacked govt positions including near provincial capitals of Kunduz 4-5 Feb and Farah 14-15 Feb, while govt continued to claim arrest or killing of key insurgents. UN 24 Feb reported 3,804 civilians were killed in 2018, highest total since records began in 2009. Amid continued reports of U.S. troop reduction, acting U.S. Secretary of Defence 11 Feb said there were currently no plans for significant change in troop levels. Political tensions increased after President Ghani 12 Feb removed chair and members of Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission, both criticised for problems with Oct 2018 parliamentary elections. Former National Security Advisor and current presidential candidate Hanif Atmar criticised move, which threatens presidential elections set for 20 July, and accused govt of “illegally cleaning govt offices of political opposition”.
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.
I don’t believe that Pakistan has the capability to straight out make peace happen in Afghanistan, but they definitely have the capability to make peace not [happen].
[Without a solid plan for the US to leave Afghanistan] the inferno of violence that follows might be much worse.
The most fundamental shift in Kabul politics recently has been the muddying of the waters during the presidential candidate nominations.
While the news of a potential U.S. drawdown may be a reason for cautious optimism in the region, [Afghanistan's neighbours] don’t want an abrupt withdrawal.
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.
International Crisis Group welcomes pledges by the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency that both sides will respect a ceasefire over the Eid al Fitr holiday. If implemented, such a truce would be unprecedented and could represent a concrete step toward peace talks.
Originally published in The New York Times
Taliban attacks in Kabul in late January 2018 are part of an escalation in violence in Afghanistan, where the civilian population is bearing the brunt of a particularly intense winter of fighting.
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.