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Afghanistan

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

Unchanged Situation

U.S. President Trump made surprise visit to U.S. troops, week after U.S. and Taliban traded hostages for prisoners in confidence-building measure ahead of planned resumption of informal talks over peace process, while violence remained high despite seasonal winter lull in fighting, and further delay in results of Sept presidential election raised concerns about legitimacy of vote and fuelled political tensions. Trump made unannounced Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Bagram Airfield 28 Nov, confirmed U.S. officials were meeting with Taliban representatives, and said he believed Taliban would agree to ceasefire. Earlier, U.S. 18 Nov released three Taliban prisoners, including brother of Taliban deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, in exchange for release next day of two Australian and American academics held hostage by Taliban since 2016, in southern Zabul province. Taliban described prisoner swap as “confidence-building measure to help the peace process”. Despite slower pace of fighting, serious security incidents included Taliban 29 Oct capture of military base in Aqcha district, Jowzjan province in north, killing 24 security personnel and capturing five soldiers; govt recaptured base but Taliban escaped with vehicles, weapons and equipment. In Kunduz province in north east, Taliban 20 Nov attacked military base killing thirteen soldiers; U.S. aerial counter-attack killed three Taliban. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in 2019 reported at record high amid concern over increasing civilian casualties. Number of high-profile attacks in Kabul down slightly; car bomb 13 Nov exploded near convoy of foreign security contractors, killing twelve; no group claimed responsibility. Independent Election Commission (IEC) 13 Nov postponed results of 28 Sept presidential election for second time, sparking complaints among opposition factions; President Ghani’s leading opponent in race Abdullah Abdullah 17 Nov said his campaign would try to stop partial vote recount until decision on status of 300,000 votes he considers suspicious; also accused IEC of favouring Ghani. Abdullah’s campaign organised protests throughout month, growing bigger at end of Nov.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

21 Oct 2019
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 New Yorker

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
2 Oct 2019
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. Twitter

Robert Malley

President & CEO
27 Aug 2019
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. NPR

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
5 Jul 2019
An agreement that is just between the US and the Taliban is not a peace agreement for Afghanistan. AFP

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
4 Mar 2019
I don’t believe that Pakistan has the capability to straight out make peace happen in Afghanistan, but they definitely have the capability to make peace not [happen]. Reuters

Laurel Miller

Program Director, Asia
12 Feb 2019
[Without a solid plan for the US to leave Afghanistan] the inferno of violence that follows might be much worse. AFP

Graeme Smith

Senior Consultant, Afghanistan

Latest Updates

EU Watch List / Global

Watch List 2019 – Third Update

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.

Speech / Asia

The Trump Administration’s Afghanistan Policy

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. 

Also available in پښتو
Q&A / Asia

Behind Trump’s Taliban Debacle

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.

Op-Ed / Asia

The U.S. Shouldn’t Stumble Out of Afghanistan

Letting the country unravel isn't an exit strategy.

Originally published in Foreign Policy

Q&A / Asia

Afghanistan Diplomacy Gathers Steam Even as Attacks Increase

This week the Afghan government and Taliban met publicly for the first time – albeit informally – for a peace dialogue. Crisis Group’s Senior Afghanistan Analyst Borhan Osman explains what the talks mean and what may lie ahead.

Our People

Graeme Smith

Senior Consultant, Afghanistan
smithkabul

Borhan Osman

Senior Analyst, Afghanistan