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.
On 21 February, U.S. and Taliban representatives announced a deal paving the way for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and talks among Afghan parties to the conflict. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Andrew Watkins explains what the agreement entails and what comes next.
Incremental progress in U.S.-Taliban peace process slowed Taliban attacks in cities, but insurgent violence persisted in rural areas while U.S. stepped up air attacks and tensions persisted over electoral results. Taliban and U.S. govt 16-17 Jan held talks in Qatar to discuss possible deal; discussions involved U.S. proposal for reduction in violence that would facilitate start of formal peace process, deal now reportedly under consideration by U.S. military; nothing formally announced. Despite lull in major attacks in urban areas, insurgents’ operations in rural areas continued. Taliban fighter 7 Jan disguised as woman killed three security forces in Faryab province (north); Taliban roadside bomb 11 Jan killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded two in Kandahar province (south); Taliban elite unit 16 Jan attacked police checkpoint, killing eleven police officers in Kunduz province (north); Taliban 28 Jan killed at least seven police officers in police station in Baghlan province (north), and 29 Jan killed at least thirteen Afghan security officers in Kunduz province (north). U.S. military aircraft 27 Jan also crashed in Ghazni province (east) killing two; Taliban claimed responsibility but U.S. military said no indication of enemy action. Throughout month U.S. stepped up air attacks, including drone strike 8 Jan which killed 16 militants and reportedly 10 to 40 civilians in Herat province (west). Afghan security forces 25-26 Jan carried out attacks against Taliban across several provinces, allegedly killing 51 militants; airstrikes left at least seven civilians dead in Balkh province (north), prompting demonstration next day in front of district governor’s office demanding investigation. In provincial capital Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh province, car bomb 4 Jan killed one and wounded at least two, and two bombs 14 Jan killed two and wounded at least nine; no one claimed responsibility for the attacks. Following on complaints from main opponent to President Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, over elections’ results, Electoral Complaints Commission 28 Jan contemplated recounts in 2,500 polling sites amid ongoing review of appeals.
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.
It’s unclear if other parties will openly break with the [Afghan] government’s line.
Looks like U.S.-Taliban deal is imminent. That will be the biggest milestone by far in 10 years of off-and-on efforts to launch an Afghan peace process.
[The Taliban's] pause in attacks on cities is unprecedented over the last dozen years.
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.
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