The war in Afghanistan is the world’s most lethal conflict. Taliban militants now control more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led coalition drove the group out of Kabul in 2001. At the same time, an unprecedented ceasefire in 2018 and subsequent negotiation efforts have illuminated the possibility of peace. Crisis Group is one of the few organisations conducting research on the ground in Afghanistan. We seek to help the conflict parties comprehend their adversaries’ motives and political constraints, while encouraging them to pursue talks. We also help Afghan and international leaders formulate policies to improve governance and security.
Negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban collapsed in September, but there have been signs that they could soon resume, paving the way for crucial intra-Afghan talks. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 - Third Update for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage the resumption of these talks and to establish a regular channel to the Taliban.
U.S. President Trump made surprise visit to U.S. troops, week after U.S. and Taliban traded hostages for prisoners in confidence-building measure ahead of planned resumption of informal talks over peace process, while violence remained high despite seasonal winter lull in fighting, and further delay in results of Sept presidential election raised concerns about legitimacy of vote and fuelled political tensions. Trump made unannounced Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Bagram Airfield 28 Nov, confirmed U.S. officials were meeting with Taliban representatives, and said he believed Taliban would agree to ceasefire. Earlier, U.S. 18 Nov released three Taliban prisoners, including brother of Taliban deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, in exchange for release next day of two Australian and American academics held hostage by Taliban since 2016, in southern Zabul province. Taliban described prisoner swap as “confidence-building measure to help the peace process”. Despite slower pace of fighting, serious security incidents included Taliban 29 Oct capture of military base in Aqcha district, Jowzjan province in north, killing 24 security personnel and capturing five soldiers; govt recaptured base but Taliban escaped with vehicles, weapons and equipment. In Kunduz province in north east, Taliban 20 Nov attacked military base killing thirteen soldiers; U.S. aerial counter-attack killed three Taliban. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in 2019 reported at record high amid concern over increasing civilian casualties. Number of high-profile attacks in Kabul down slightly; car bomb 13 Nov exploded near convoy of foreign security contractors, killing twelve; no group claimed responsibility. Independent Election Commission (IEC) 13 Nov postponed results of 28 Sept presidential election for second time, sparking complaints among opposition factions; President Ghani’s leading opponent in race Abdullah Abdullah 17 Nov said his campaign would try to stop partial vote recount until decision on status of 300,000 votes he considers suspicious; also accused IEC of favouring Ghani. Abdullah’s campaign organised protests throughout month, growing bigger at end of Nov.
Talks between the U.S. and the Taliban insurgency are suspended, though an agreement is reportedly ready for signature. The U.S. should resume negotiations and seal the deal, so that a broader peace process in Afghanistan can go forward.
The UN General Assembly kicks off on 17 September amid general scepticism about the world body’s effectiveness in an era of rising great-power competition. But the UN is far from paralysed. Here are seven crisis spots where it can make a positive difference for peace.
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.
The Taliban have always said, ‘We will never negotiate the future of Afghanistan while foreign troops have their boots on our soil.’ They compromised on that, and that’s huge.
The debate about [whether] US should distance itself from the [Mideast] region and reduce its military footprint is important but somewhat beside the point. The more consequential question is what kind of Middle East the United States will remain engaged in or disengaged from.
A U.S.-Taliban deal cannot be a peace agreement because it settles nothing about the dispute within Afghanistan. It only settles the question of the American presence in Afghanistan.
An agreement that is just between the US and the Taliban is not a peace agreement for Afghanistan.
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.
Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The third update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Sudan and Yemen.
In this written statement to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on 19 September, Crisis Group's Program Director for Asia Laurel Miller assesses the Trump Administration's efforts to secure a peace deal with the Taliban and the potentional risks and rewards of such a deal.
Originally published in U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs
On 7 September, U.S. President Donald Trump made the startling announcement that he had invited Taliban leaders to Camp David for talks – and then cancelled the gathering. Crisis Group Asia Program Director Laurel Miller and consultant Graeme Smith explain what happened and what it means for prospects of ending Afghanistan’s war.
Letting the country unravel isn't an exit strategy.
Originally published in Foreign Policy
This week the Afghan government and Taliban met publicly for the first time – albeit informally – for a peace dialogue. Crisis Group’s Senior Afghanistan Analyst Borhan Osman explains what the talks mean and what may lie ahead.