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

Unchanged Situation

Taliban claimed they killed deputy leader of Islamic State’s local branch, while border clashes erupted between Taliban and Iranian forces, killing at least three.

Violence countrywide remained low despite Taliban crackdown on Islamic State. Hostilities remained at low ebb compared to past 18 months. Notably, Taliban 8 May announced that they had killed deputy head of Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) in recent operation; announcement followed U.S. statement 25 April that ISKP’s mastermind behind August 2021 attack at Kabul Airport had been killed, reportedly by Taliban. After suffering loss of several leaders in recent months, ISKP may go further underground to rebuild capabilities. Taliban suppressed other insurgents: reports 12 May emerged that former Afghan governor of Bamyan province (centre), Muhammad Tahir Zuhair, who had joined Mawlawi Mehdi’s rebellion against Taliban, had surrendered.

Taliban and Iran traded barbs over water dispute and exchanged fire at border. Amid water shortages on both sides of Iran-Afghan border, FMs 17 May discussed flow of Helmand river to Iran. Iran’s President Raisi next day urged Kabul to take seriously Iran’s concerns and abide by 1973 water agreement; in response, Taliban voiced commitment to 1973 deal and criticised Raisi’s statements as “harmful” to bilateral ties. Skirmishing with heavy weapons at border post between Nimroz province (south west) and Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province 27 May killed at least two Iranian border guards and one Taliban fighter; such fatalities along border are unusual, and no link with water dispute was confirmed.

Taliban’s emir reportedly met Qatar’s PM, UN criticised Taliban’s harsh justice. Reuters 31 May reported that Qatar’s PM held talks with Taliban’s Supreme Leader on 12 May in Kandahar city, which if confirmed marks first such meeting between Taliban emir and foreign leader. Taliban-run Supreme Court 4 May announced that courts had handed down 175 judgements of qisas (death penalty) and 37 stonings since returning to power. UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 7 May published report calling Taliban’s use of corporal punishment violation of peremptory norms of international law and urged death penalty moratorium. Meanwhile, Minister of Interior Siraj Haqqani 11 May stated that Taliban govt should not be so exclusive that only people from “one madrasah” see themselves being represented.

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In The News

21 Dec 2022
The flood of outrage from the West will strengthen the resolve of the Taliban leadership [in Afghanistan], which defines itself as a bulwark against the outside world. Reuters

Graeme Smith

Senior Consultant, Afghanistan

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