In mid-August 2021, Taliban militants swept into Kabul, completing their takeover of Afghanistan and marking a new phase in what has been the world’s most lethal conflict in recent years. The U.S.-backed government in place since 2001 is gone, as are almost all U.S. and NATO troops. As the new dispensation takes shape, Crisis Group remains focused on promoting a deep understanding of events on the ground and helping the various stakeholders inside and outside the country comprehend their counterparts' motives and political constraints. We also aim to advance policies that improve security and promote inclusive governance.
One year after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, fighting has decreased considerably. Yet serious security problems remain, not least the foreign militants still in the country. External actors should press the new authorities to fulfil their commitments and avoid any steps that could reignite large-scale violence.
UN voiced concerns over human rights under Taliban’s governance, while Taliban continued to battle Islamic State Khorasan Province and Northern Resistance Front. UN Human Rights Council 1 July began session discussing human rights of women and girls in country and adopted resolution reaffirming commitment to rights, including education and free movement. In report on human rights, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 19 July reported “erosion of women’s rights has been one of the most notable aspects of the de facto administration to date”. In attempt to garner domestic legitimacy, Taliban authorities organised gathering of nearly 4,500 scholars and community leaders; participants 2 July pledged allegiance to Taliban Emir, denounced rebellion against govt, and called on international community to recognise Taliban govt. On economic front, hardship continued. Local media reports 18 July indicated some 170,000 retired civil servants are yet to receive pensions. Senior Pakistani trade delegation 20 July visited Kabul to discuss continuation of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement. De facto govt during month sought to reopen women-led businesses, notably in capital Kabul (east), Jowzjan (north), Balkh (north), Herat (west) and Kandahar (south). Meanwhile, Taliban launched raids against Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP): notably, security forces 16 July raided ISKP hideout in Kunduz city (north), allegedly against cell responsible for recent cross-border attacks into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; 19 July launched raid in Samangan province (north), where they killed ISKP members allegedly responsible for beheading of Taliban fighter on 14 July; 20 July allegedly captured three foreign fighters in Kabul. NGO Human Rights Watch 7 July accused de facto authorities of committing war crimes in their fight against ISKP. UN Sanctions Monitoring Team 19 July reported that al-Qaeda in country does not pose major international threat for now due to lack of capacity and need to stay on good terms with Taliban. Fighting in north also continued between Taliban and Northern Resistance Front (NRF). NRF 7 July purportedly captured Taliban military base in Baghlan province. Taliban mid-July launched offensive against NRF in Baghlan’s Andarab region. NRF leader Ahmad Massoud 12 July claimed NRF had 3,000 armed fighters.
International donors cut off all but emergency aid to Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover in August. Months later, the state is collapsing and a humanitarian disaster is looming. Donors should work with the state to restore basic public services and mitigate the population’s suffering.
Pakistan’s stakes in Afghanistan are rising as U.S. and NATO troops prepare to leave. All-out war after the withdrawal could push more Afghan refugees across the border and strengthen Pakistani militants. Islamabad should ratchet up pressure on the Taliban to engage in peace talks.
Peace talks in Afghanistan have only inched forward even as the pace of conflict has picked up. As the Afghan government and Taliban await clearer policy signals from the incoming U.S. administration, their primary goal should be to keep the vital negotiations going.
For Afghanistan's peace talks to work, the Taliban will need to shift focus to what they want, not what they oppose. They should develop clear negotiating positions on key issues and work to convince their members that peace requires compromise.
Eighteen years after the U.S. war with Afghanistan’s Taliban began, all sides are taking the first formal steps toward a political settlement. From designating a neutral mediator to agreeing on “rules of the road”, Crisis Group lays out twelve prerequisites for keeping the talks going.
[The Taliban in Afghanistan] focus on consolidating power by monopolizing resources, squashing perceived threats, and preempting future threats.
The whole world is trying to scramble for limited supplies and Afghanistan will be one of the least able to compete.
Clerics [in Afghanistan] are coming out and issuing statements and saying girls' education is a right.
For now, the Taliban [in Afghanistan] are completely opposed to having an election-based Emirate.
When it comes to military and policing tactics, the Taliban has been observing and learning from their erstwhile enemy over the past 20 years. Now they are imitating many of those tactics to consolidate control.
History shows that ignoring Afghanistan allows problems to fester and grow. Migration, terrorism, drugs: all of these issues could destabilize the region and spill over into Europe.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Afghanistan experts Graeme Smith and Ibraheem Bahiss — both back from a recent visit to Kabul — about life under Taliban rule, the Taliban government’s recent decision to keep girls’ secondary schools closed and Afghanistan’s relations with the outside world.
In a 9 February 2022 hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Crisis Group’s Senior Afghanistan Consultant Graeme Smith outlined two long-term ways the U.S. can mitigate Afghanistan’s humanitarian and economic crises in the aftermath of war and subsequent Taliban takeover.
Crisis Group’s Watch List identifies ten countries or regions at risk of deadly conflict or escalation thereof in 2022. In these places, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could enhance prospects for peace and stability.
The UN mission in Afghanistan will soon be up for renewal. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Ashish Pradhan and Graeme Smith discuss how the UN Security Council could update its list of responsibilities with the Taliban back in charge.
The extension of Taliban-specific sanctions to the entire Afghan state is a primary cause of the Afghan economy’s freefall and has compounded the country’s humanitarian crisis. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to adopt alternative mechanisms for more targeted sanctions and help restore central banking functions to enable the revival of economic activity.