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.
Talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital Doha have raised hopes that the U.S. could end its involvement in Afghanistan’s war. Our Asia Program Director Laurel Miller and Afghanistan analysts Borhan Osman and Graeme Smith break down what was achieved and what remains unresolved.
Intra-Afghan peace dialogue stalled and spring fighting season began, while political tensions grew amid competition for influence over nascent peace process, delayed presidential election and extension of President Ghani’s mandate. Planned intra-Afghan dialogue on peace between Taliban and Afghan representatives scheduled for 20-21 April was postponed indefinitely 18 April, with organisers citing “lack of agreement around participation and representation”. Taliban accused govt of breaching agreements that participants could join in personal (not official) capacity and sabotaging dialogue, while opposition figures said they were not sufficiently represented. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad 24 April returned to Kabul, building support for anticipated U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha early May. Seven out of eighteen candidates registered to contest presidential election mid-April announced boycott of govt’s 29 April national consultative meeting (jirga) aimed at rallying support behind govt’s position in process. Taliban dismissed meeting as “fake”, but gathering of thousands bolstered Ghani ahead of expected challenges to his legitimacy after expiry of his five-year mandate. After announcing start of its annual spring offensive 12 April, Taliban advanced on Kunduz city before being repelled by govt forces 14 April. Taliban targeted several district centres, attacking Murghab in Badghis province 31 March-20 April, and Ab Kamari district centre 5-6 April; security forces claimed to have retaken both. Govt sources reported more than 1,000 security forces killed in single month at start of annual fighting season. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) continued attacks on urban centres, killing ten in Jalalabad 6 April, and attacking govt ministry in Kabul 20 April, killing at least seven. IS-KP clashes with Taliban in Kunar province late March-early April reportedly displaced more than 21,000. UN 24 April reported govt and international coalition attacks were responsible for majority of civilians killed in first three months of 2019. Political tensions remained high: Supreme Court 22 April announced Ghani could stay in office beyond 22 May end of mandate until 28 Sept presidential election; eleven of eighteen presidential candidates said mandate extension was illegitimate and called for interim govt.
The end-of-Ramadan truce in Afghanistan was brief but encouraging, demonstrating that both Afghan government soldiers and the Taliban rank and file will respect ceasefire orders from above. Both sides, alongside the U.S., should now seize the opportunity to edge closer to meaningful talks about peace.
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.
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].
[Without a solid plan for the US to leave Afghanistan] the inferno of violence that follows might be much worse.
The most fundamental shift in Kabul politics recently has been the muddying of the waters during the presidential candidate nominations.
While the news of a potential U.S. drawdown may be a reason for cautious optimism in the region, [Afghanistan's neighbours] don’t want an abrupt withdrawal.
Attacking lightly defended targets has been part of [the Islamic State's] modus operandi from the outset.
This mutual [Afghan] ceasefire, if successful, can possibly inspire or encourage future, more substantial steps towards peacemaking. Fighting has been the integral feature that has characterized the Taliban since the movement was born. A break from it, although very brief, represents an important departure from its modus operandi.
International Crisis Group welcomes pledges by the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency that both sides will respect a ceasefire over the Eid al Fitr holiday. If implemented, such a truce would be unprecedented and could represent a concrete step toward peace talks.
Originally published in The New York Times
Taliban attacks in Kabul in late January 2018 are part of an escalation in violence in Afghanistan, where the civilian population is bearing the brunt of a particularly intense winter of fighting.
The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is likely to continue unabated in 2018, despite the U.S. effort to step up its military campaign. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to utilise its influence with Afghan political actors to help rebuild trust and increase prospects for mediation.