Amidst an intensifying Taliban insurgency and emerging Islamic State threat, Afghanistan's path to peace and stability looks ever more perilous. Taliban militants now control more territory than at any time since its ouster by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001. Crisis Group is one of the few analytical organisations with a presence in Afghanistan. We help local and international stakeholders to comprehend the context and drivers of conflict, militant extremism, political-economic fragility, and its implications for the world and the region. Crisis Group helps local authorities and the international community formulate effective policies to improve governance and security in the country and stop violent extremism.
U.S. aerial bombing of drug laboratories in Afghanistan will solve neither the country’s Taliban insurgency nor its drugs problem.
Originally published in POLITICO Europe
With end of fighting season, month saw reduced fighting across country, with few major Taliban attacks, but increased Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP)-related casualties. Taliban 13-14 Nov attacked military positions in Kandahar (south) and Farah (west) provinces, killing scores. In Kabul, IS-KP suicide bombers 7 Nov stormed television station, killing at least two, and 16 Nov attacked gathering of Jamiat-e Islami supporters in north of city, killing fourteen, mostly police. IS-KP also expanded control in Nangarhar (east), Laghman (east) and Jawzjan (north) provinces disputed with Taliban during month, despite continued U.S. strikes on IS-KP positions. Local sources said U.S. airstrikes 3 Nov killed dozens of civilians in Kunduz’s Chardara district in north; U.S. military rejected reports, but UN mission (UNAMA) confirmed death of at least ten civilians. During visit to Afghanistan late Oct, U.S. Sec State Rex Tillerson pledged U.S. support to fight Taliban. Taliban and independent Afghan politicians postponed meeting scheduled early Nov in Dubai, after United Arab Emirates denied visas. Pakistan 13 Nov said Pakistani militants hiding in Afghanistan crossed border to attack army post in Pakistan’s Bajaur Agency, killing two soldiers; 15 Nov said it fired over 500 missiles into eastern Kunar province in retaliation, killing at least one civilian, displacing hundreds. Pakistan 14 Nov summoned Afghan ambassador in Islamabad and pressed govt to take action against Pakistani militants in Afghanistan, saying NATO and Afghan authorities should “do more” to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries; U.S. General Joseph Votel 16 Nov urged Islamabad to act against militant groups in Pakistan. President Ghani 15 Nov fired head of Independent Election Commission, criticised for being “incompetent” and “politicised”. Opposition accused govt of failing to deliver on promises, said govt unwilling to hold free and fair elections in 2018 (legislative) and 2019 (presidential). UN 15 Nov reported opium production increased by 87% from 2016, due in part to insecurity and increasing corruption. Long-awaited agreement signed in Turkmen capital Ashgabat 15 Nov to connect Afghanistan to Europe by road, rail and sea through Turkmenistan (see Turkmenistan).
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.
As Pakistan seeks to consolidate its fragile democracy, it should seize the moment to improve relations with its Afghan neighbour. Its biggest challenge comes from within. The civilian government has to regain control over national security and foreign policy from the military.
Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, inherits a government that is running out of money and losing ground to the insurgency. As foreign troops withdraw, the new government must stay united and move quickly on reforms.
To contain a growing, increasingly confident insurgency as NATO troops withdraw, Afghanistan needs continued international support, including military, and the new government in Kabul will need to reinvigorate the state’s commitment to the rule of law.
What distinguishes [the Taliban 'Special Forces Unit'] from other fighting units is its intensive and longer training, the degree of vetting, its tactics, weapons and equipment, and structure.
IS in Afghanistan never was such a solid, coherent organization, even from the beginning.
[Afghanistan's minister for border and tribal affairs] Sherzai has been prone to arming people of his own tribe after he emerged as one of the most powerful men in the south after the fall of the Taliban.
[The use of the "Mother of All Bombs" is about] sending a clear message to regional players [...] to say that the U.S. is ready to take action and utilize necessary force.
[The U.S. bombing] sounds more like a message to the international rivals [...] than actually a serious attempt by the Trump administration to get more deeply involved in the Afghan war.
We don’t know whether the former commanders [of Hezb-i-Islami in Afghanistan] will unite around [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar or work against him. This is his last attempt to reach power.
In recent years, a confrontation between the U.S. government and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been looming over the alleged actions of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Crisis Group's U.S. Program Director Stephen Pomper unpicks the unique U.S.-ICC relationship and outlines the choices left open to Washington.
Originally published in Just Security
Political fractures continue to weaken the Afghan National Unity Government as the Taliban insurgency expands and an Islamic State affiliate strengthens its foothold. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to continue to provide technical support to the negotiating process and take measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
Originally published in Boston Globe