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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

Improved Situation

Afghan govt and Taliban began long-awaited peace talks, while violence steadily increased across country. Taliban and govt 12 Sept began intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, Qatar’s capital, in ceremony attended by High Council for National Reconciliation chief Abdullah Abdullah, FM Hanif Atmar and international figures including U.S. Sec State Pompeo; despite some progress in establishing format and procedure of talks, issues emerged over role of religious minorities, such as Hazara community, and govt’s desire not to acknowledge Feb U.S.-Taliban agreement. Other contentious issues included Taliban’s opposition to govt’s open communication with national media, Taliban negotiators being more senior than their govt counterparts and domestic expectation that levels of violence would quickly fall. Meanwhile, Taliban resumed attacks on district centres with at least seven large-scale assaults on urban areas and several on outskirts of provincial capitals; including 20 Sept attack on Afghan security forces convoy outside Maidan Shar, Wardak province (centre) that killed 31 soldiers and 22 Sept raid on Maruf district centre, Kandahar province (south) that killed at least 20 soldiers and wounded 20 others. Fighting intensified in northern regions and southern provinces of Kandahar and Uruzgan, including series of attacks in latter’s Gizab district 17-22 Sept, while clashes continued on Shibergan to Mazar highway in Jawzjan province (north). Govt claimed its forces remained in “active defence” posture but deployed troops to contested areas and continued to conduct airstrikes that caused civilian casualties, including killing dozens of militants and at least ten civilians in Kunduz province (north west) 19 Sept. Govt made progress with political appointments after Abdullah did not object to President Ghani’s 31 Aug decree nomination of several cabinet members; however, concerns continued over underlying Ghani-Abdullah tensions and role that Ghani-controlled state ministry for peace, ostensibly under purview of Abdullah’s High Council, would play in peace process.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

11 Sep 2020
Posturing from the Taliban... suggests they perceive their current position to be one of great strength. Yahoo News Australia

Andrew Watkins

Senior Analyst, Afghanistan
20 Aug 2020
A U.S. departure from Afghanistan without a peace deal would likely result in a protracted and intensified civil war, in which many Afghans will suffer. Voice of America

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
3 Aug 2020
In order to establish greater trust during intra-Afghan negotiations, both sides should quickly discuss practical measures that can be taken to combat the violence of spoiler groups. Voice of America

Andrew Watkins

Senior Analyst, Afghanistan
24 Mar 2020
Huge slashes of aid would mean the U.S. is no longer seeing the [Afghan] government’s survival as necessary to protect U.S. interests. New York Times

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
21 Mar 2020
Attacks like [in Qalat] were precisely why the US has attempted to fast-track intra-Afghan talks: the faster both sides reach the table, the faster conditions can be laid for lasting reductions in violence. The National

Andrew Watkins

Senior Analyst, Afghanistan
9 Mar 2020
Not only will this almost certainly delay the intra-Afghan talks, but complications are very likely to follow from this political standoff [between Ghani and Abdullah]. Al Jazeera

Andrew Watkins

Senior Analyst, Afghanistan

Latest Updates

Q&A / Asia

Afghan Leaders End Political Impasse

On 17 May, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his chief political rival Abdullah Abdullah signed a power-sharing agreement intended to resolve a dispute over last September’s election. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Andrew Watkins examines the deal and its portent for stalled peace talks.

COVID-19 in Afghanistan: Compounding Crises

COVID-19 appears on course to sweep through Afghanistan, yet the public health crisis may pale compared to resultant severe food insecurity. Engaged actors should press for initiation of Afghan peace talks, recognise the potential scope of food shortages and commit to unhindered flow of aid.

Briefing Note / Asia

What Will Peace Talks Bode for Afghan Women?

This is the third in a series of three briefing notes that discuss and analyse the nascent peace process in Afghanistan while focusing on frequently raised questions.

Video / Asia

Afghan Women and Peace with the Taliban

Crisis Group talks with Shaharzad Akbar, Head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Our People

Borhan Osman

Senior Consultant, Afghanistan

Andrew Watkins

Senior Analyst, Afghanistan