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.
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.
Taliban announced farming restrictions which could aggravate economic crisis, series of terror attacks claimed over one hundred civilian casualties, and several new armed resistance groups emerged. In move that is likely to exacerbate financial woes of many farmers, Taliban 3 April announced ban on cultivation of all poppy crops and production of all other narcotics (including alcohol); implementation remained uncertain. Taliban also reportedly increased interference in humanitarian efforts in April, pushing for aid to be distributed in coordination with govt. After relatively calm months, country witnessed several mass casualty attacks coinciding with Spring season, mostly targeting Shia Hazara ethnic minority, as Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) launched some of its deadliest attacks of year. Notably, bomb blasts 2 April killed five and injured at least 20 people on playground in Herat (west); bomb blasts 19 April targeted Hazara children going to school and education centres in capital Kabul; bomb blasts 21 April targeted minivan in Kunduz province (north), killing at least 18 govt employees; ISKP same day attacked Hazara mosque in Balkh province (north), killing dozens; bomb blasts 22 April targeted Sunni mosque, killing 33 in Kunduz province, with no group claiming responsibility; twin explosions 28 April killed at least nine people on two buses in Balkh province (north), again targeting Hazara. Explosion at Khalifa Sahib Mosque in Kabul 29 April killed over 50 Sunni worshippers. Grievances against Taliban govt appeared to rise, with several new armed resistance groups emerging, bringing total to near dozen such groups active inside country, mostly in northern provinces; National Resistance Front (NRF) led by Ahmad Massoud, Afghanistan Freedom Front (purportedly led by former General Zia Yasin) and High Council for Resistance (led by Atta Noor) appeared to be particularly active. Most notably, NRF attacks and Taliban counter-operations continued in Panjshir, Parwan, Kabul, Kapisa, Baghlan and Takhar provinces in April. Meanwhile, relations with Pakistan worsened. Pakistan 16 April launched cross-border airstrikes, resulting in dozens of civilian casualties in Kunar and Khost provinces (east); Taliban authorities warned Islamabad of dire consequences, while Pakistan accused Taliban of failing to prevent Pakistani Taliban from launching cross-border attacks against Pakistani security forces.
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.
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 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.
If we do nothing, Afghanistan drifts into state collapse. The economic chokehold is squeezing the air out of the economy.
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.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirazadeh talk to Crisis Group Consultant Graeme Smith about Afghanistan and what can be done to prevent millions from falling into famine as winter approaches.
In a 17 November 2021 hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director Laurel Miller outlined five lessons learned from twenty years of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and suggested some steps Washington can take in reformulating its Afghanistan policy.
This virtual event on Afghanistan explores what the future looks like for Afghanistan under Taliban rule.