This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s Afghanistan expert Andrew Watkins about the looming withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, how Afghan leaders are preparing and the challenges ahead.
Originally published in Foreign Policy
In his introduction to this month’s CrisisWatch, Interim President Richard Atwood reflects on the pandemic’s impact one year after Crisis Group published its first report on COVID-19 and conflict.
Two months after the 1 February coup, Myanmar is in a deep crisis. The military seems bent on imposing its will, using draconian tactics that are only strengthening demonstrators’ will to resist. International actors should stay united in urging the junta to change course.
Myanmar’s military overthrew its newly elected parliament on 1 February, halting the country’s democratic transition and sparking massive protests. External actors should cooperate to prevent a violent crackdown and adopt tailored measures that target coup leaders, without penalising the population or damaging the broader economy.
Peace talks in Afghanistan have only inched forward even as the pace of conflict has picked up. As the Afghan government and Taliban await clearer policy signals from the incoming U.S. administration, their primary goal should be to keep the vital negotiations going.
An informal ceasefire has created the best opportunity in two years to curb fighting between Myanmar and the Arakan Army, the ethnic Rakhine rebels in the country’s north. To seize it, all three of the military, civilian government and insurgency need to make significant concessions.
De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to win Myanmar’s 8 November elections. The next test will be whether the result entrenches minority grievances that fuel armed conflict or revives reform efforts to give minorities a fairer deal alongside the Burman Buddhist majority.
Ethnicity and conflict are tightly linked in Myanmar, as communal groups take up arms to press grievances for which they have found no other recourse. The problem calls for dialogue and deep reform, but meanwhile authorities can take smaller steps to indicate their positive intent.
I think [the new Iran-China deal] will make Europe and the U.S. a little more nervous because it looks like Iran may have a way out of economic strangulation.
[The legitimacy the Taliban want is] never going to come without engaging with the outside world and the international community.
There will inevitably be calls for UN sanctions [against Myanmar], but I don’t think China and Russia are ready to go that far.
The [Afghan] peace process is the best option for a decent outcome, even though it’s the least likely to succeed. You need a six-month extension to have any possibility of getting it back on track.
If the Taliban want to become a legitimate power in an Afghan state, then they’re going to need to show the world that they take global counterterrorism concerns seriously.
Posturing from the Taliban... suggests they perceive their current position to be one of great strength.
In a briefing to the UN Security Council’s 9 April 2021 'Arria-Formula' Meeting on the situation in Myanmar, Crisis Group’s Myanmar expert Richard Horsey warned that the country stands on the brink of state failure, and argued that there is every justification for the Council to impose an arms embargo on the regime.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope discuss with cultural historian and author David van Reybrouck his new book on the legacy of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia and his parallel work on improving the functioning of democracy.
The UN Human Rights Council will soon discuss Sri Lanka, where the new government has scotched truth and justice efforts related to the 1983-2009 civil war. The Council should demand accountability for past crimes but stress that Colombo’s present policies may spark further deadly conflict.
In testimony to the European Parliament about efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, Crisis Group expert Andrew Watkins describes the current scale of fighting, Taliban policies and how outside actors can support the peace process.