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Afghanistan

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.

CrisisWatch Afghanistan

Unchanged Situation

Amid stalled formal peace process, violence remained at high levels while electoral commission delayed results of Sept presidential elections. In continued fighting, Taliban 4 Oct attacked Kunduz City, killing at least ten soldiers and capturing outpost later re-taken by govt forces; The New York Times counted at least 383 pro-govt forces killed 20 Sep-24 Oct. High level of civilian casualties continued including govt airstrike 12 Oct killing at least eight civilians in Wardoj District, Badakhshan Province. Suicide bomber 18 Oct detonated during Friday prayers at mosque in Nangarhar Province, killing some 73 people, in attack Taliban blamed on Islamic State Khorasan Province. UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 17 Oct reported 1,174 civilian deaths 1 July-30 Sept, highest quarterly number since UN began documentation in 2009, saying numbers driven by increased attacks by “anti-govt elements” as well as “aerial and search operations” by pro-govt forces. Formal peace process remained stalled following U.S. President Trump’s Sept decision to pause negotiations with Taliban, though informal efforts continued; Taliban delegation led by deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar 3 Oct met Pakistani FM Qureshi in Islamabad; U.S. Special Envoy Khalilzad was present in Islamabad at same time, with unconfirmed reports he met with delegation. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper 19 Oct travelled to Afghanistan to meet President Ghani and other govt officials, remarking “political agreement” remained “best way forward”. Khalilzad 22 Oct began trip to Brussels, Paris and Moscow to discuss peace process; in Moscow meeting with Russia, China and Pakistan 25 Oct, participants expressed support for “earliest resumption of negotiation process”. China reportedly offered to hold intra-Afghan talks in Beijing. Taliban reportedly reiterated willingness to resume formal negotiations while govt continued to express scepticism over Khalilzad’s efforts. Announcement of results from 28 Sept presidential elections, originally scheduled for 19 Oct, hampered by technical issues with new biometric voter system; electoral commission announced low preliminary turnout of 1.93mn, 27 Oct said preliminary results will be announced 14 Nov.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

21 Oct 2019
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 New Yorker

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
2 Oct 2019
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. Twitter

Robert Malley

President & CEO
27 Aug 2019
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. NPR

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
5 Jul 2019
An agreement that is just between the US and the Taliban is not a peace agreement for Afghanistan. AFP

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
4 Mar 2019
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]. Reuters

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
12 Feb 2019
[Without a solid plan for the US to leave Afghanistan] the inferno of violence that follows might be much worse. AFP

Graeme Smith

Senior Consultant, Afghanistan

Latest Updates

EU Watch List / Global

Watch List 2019 – Third Update

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.

Speech / Asia

The Trump Administration’s Afghanistan Policy

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. 

Also available in پښتو
Q&A / Asia

Behind Trump’s Taliban Debacle

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.

Op-Ed / Asia

The U.S. Shouldn’t Stumble Out of Afghanistan

Letting the country unravel isn't an exit strategy.

Originally published in Foreign Policy

Q&A / Asia

Afghanistan Diplomacy Gathers Steam Even as Attacks Increase

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.

Our People

Graeme Smith

Senior Consultant, Afghanistan
smithkabul

Borhan Osman

Senior Analyst, Afghanistan