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.
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.
Intra-Afghan peace efforts continued, while violence on civilians remained high with insurgent bomb attacks and U.S. and Afghan airstrikes in numerous provinces including Ghazni, Logar, Paktika and Helmand. Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada 1 June rejected govt-requested temporary truce during Eid al Fitr religious holiday. Govt 11-14 June released 490 Taliban prisoners, first batch out of nearly 900 promised total; insurgent group praised move but claimed that only 261 prisoners were Taliban members. Seventh round of U.S.-Taliban talks began in Doha 29 June; talks followed U.S. Special Envoy Khalilzad 18 June remarks that U.S. sought “comprehensive peace agreement, not withdrawal agreement”. Violence in urban centres increased; in Kabul, Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) claimed 2 June explosion that killed two people, allegedly targeting bus with members of Shiite community; two more explosions followed, wounding several; unclaimed bombing 3 June killed five govt employees. In south-eastern Ghazni province, Taliban car bomb 1 June killed seven police. In Nangarhar provincial capital Jalalabad, IS-KP suicide bomber 13 June killed nine people. In Kandahar province, authorities 16 June reported eight Taliban killed in clashes in Takhta Pul district and along Kandahar-Tarinkot highway. Taliban late June continued attacks including suicide bombers killing at least 34 in attack on govt compound in Maruf district, Kandahar 30 June. U.S. and govt forces reportedly increased night raids and airstrikes, leading to civilian casualties; in northern Kunduz province, in case of mistaken identity, U.S. airstrike 11 June accidently killed six Afghan soldiers in response to soldiers mistakenly firing on U.S.-Afghan joint patrol; U.S. military reported two servicemen killed 26 June, in Taliban attack in Uruzgan province. UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 9 June issued statement denouncing insurgent groups’ deliberate attacks on civilians, reporting at least 100 deaths in Kabul alone during Ramadan that ended 3 June, and urged all parties to meet obligations on civilian protection in line with international law. President Ghani 27 June visited Pakistani capital Islamabad for “wide-ranging talks”, including on Pakistan’s help facilitating intra-Afghan talks with 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.
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.
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.
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.
The new U.S. adviser on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has a tough assignment: fostering peace between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Crisis Group’s Borhan Osman says that recent violence has soured the public mood, but that leaders on all sides still appear committed – at least rhetorically – to peace talks.
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