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Afghanistan

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.

CrisisWatch Afghanistan

Deteriorated Situation

In rapid takeover, Taliban regained control over country, prompting fall of govt and ending 20-year U.S. occupation; uncertainty over new political order fuelled domestic and international security concerns. In dramatic shift, govt 15 Aug collapsed and Taliban gained control of most territory, including all border crossings and major urban centres – with notable exception of Panjshir Valley province (north). As Taliban reached capital Kabul, President Ghani 15 Aug fled abroad, along with many other govt officials. Govt’s fall prompted mass exodus of Afghans fearing Taliban retaliation, notably causing chaos at Hamid Karzai International Airport; two bombs 26 Aug exploded outside Kabul airport, reportedly killing as many as 200 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members; Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility. Following Taliban’s takeover, U.S. mid-Aug froze Afghanistan’s central bank reserves in U.S. while International Monetary Fund and World Bank suspended payments to country; UN and humanitarian organisations called for continued assistance to country amid dire humanitarian crisis. Regional and international partners to Afghanistan had yet to announce positions on sanctions, financial aid and recognition of new govt by month’s end, waiting for Taliban to make meaningful compromises in new political order. Taliban’s rapid advances in early Aug partly due to local ‘surrender deals’ which granted safe passage to security forces in return for weapons and district centres as insurgents late July to mid-Aug launched simultaneous attacks on provincial capitals in south, east and north. Following initial hearty resistance, particularly in Helmand province (south), Kandahar city (south) and Herat province (west), insurgents captured provincial capitals in lightly defended areas. Taliban 6 Aug held first provincial capital in Nimroz province (south west), gaining control of last remaining border crossing to Iran under govt oversight; 7 Aug captured capital of Jawzjan province (north); 9 Aug captured provinces of Sar-e Pul (north) and Kunduz (north), second largest city in north; 12 Aug captured Ghazni (centre), Kandahar (south), Herat (west) and Badghis (north west). Loss of Herat and Kandahar, notably important cities, seemed to have broken security forces’ moral, who following day had abandoned provincial capitals of Helmand (south), Logar (east), Uruzgan (south), Zabul (south) and Ghor (centre) provinces.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

5 Sep 2021
The US and other Western countries welcome Qatari mediation because of their [own] limited interactions with the Taliban [in Afghanistan]. France 24

Dina Esfandiary

Senior Advisor, Middle East and North Africa
24 Aug 2021
An economic collapse [in Afghanistan] would lead to exactly the outcomes the Europeans fear most: more violence and more refugees. The Economist

Richard Gowan

UN Director
14 Aug 2021
What we’re seeing is a tsunami of individual decisions to abandon the Afghan government, and all of those individual decisions have added up to a collapse. Washington Post

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
9 Aug 2021
After August 31, I fear the war [in Afghanistan] could carry on as intensely or even more than it has the past three months. Bloomberg

Andrew Watkins

Former Senior Analyst, Afghanistan
9 Aug 2021
The Taliban [in Afghanistan], I think, would prefer to have legitimacy and financial assistance from the international community. But their number one preference is gaining power. AFP

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
29 Jul 2021
[President Biden] judged that, although undesirable, that deterioration of conditions in Afghanistan is tolerable for U.S. national security interests. The Independent

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia

Latest Updates

Briefing Note / Asia

Taliban Rule Begins in Afghanistan

It is too soon to know for sure what Afghanistan’s new government will look like and what policies it will pursue. This briefing note highlights several key issues to watch.

Podcast / Asia

What Will the Taliban Do Next?

In this special episode of Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group expert Ibraheem Bahiss about the Taliban’s capture and policing of Kabul, the big decisions facing the former insurgents now they control Afghanistan, and priorities for Western and regional governments.

Q&A / Asia

Are the Taliban on a Path to Victory?

With the Taliban sweeping through provincial capitals, and massing near Kabul, the Afghan government is thus far vowing to resist. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Laurel Miller and Andrew Watkins explain that outside powers’ priority should now be to minimise further human suffering.

Podcast / Asia

The Taliban’s Advance in Afghanistan

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group experts Laurel Miller and Andrew Watkins about the Taliban’s recent gains across Afghanistan as U.S. and NATO forces withdraw, what this means for the war’s trajectory and prospects for peace talks.

Our People

Graeme Smith

Senior Consultant, Afghanistan
smithkabul

Ibraheem Bahiss

Consultant, Afghanistan