After months of delay, the Afghan government and the Taliban are finally set to commence peace talks in the Qatari capital. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Andrew Watkins explains what to expect as the discussions proceed.
Intra-Afghan dialogue remained delayed while violence persisted across country. Following 3 Aug end of Eid holiday ceasefire between Taliban and govt, several attacks occurred, which govt blamed on Taliban but militants did not claim: militants 8 Aug attacked govt base on outskirts of Ghazni city (south east), killing seven Afghan security forces and wounding at least 12, while ten militants died during attack; militant suicide attack in Farah city (south west) on vehicle of deputy provincial police chief killed four police officers and wounded 15 people 12 Aug. Fighting intensified in northern regions, where Taliban did claim several attacks, including one on govt-sponsored militia in Takhar province (north east), killing nine militia members. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) 2-3 Aug carried out major coordinated attack on prison in Jalalabad city, Nangarhar (east), leading to 29 deaths and escape of hundreds of prisoners; although IS-KP claimed attack, govt officials blamed Taliban, who strenuously denied accusation. Attacks on activists and politicians increased: notably, in capital Kabul, unidentified attackers 15 Aug attempted to assassinate MP, women’s rights activist and member of govt’s intra-Afghan team Fawzia Koofi; bomb 19 Aug killed ministerial official involved in Doha meetings between govt and Taliban. Despite international hopes intra-Afghan dialogue could begin in Aug, peace process remained delayed amid Taliban violence and govt blocking release of final several-hundred prisoners; President Ghani convened 7-9 Aug Loya Jirga (traditional assembly of influential figures) in Kabul over issue of final several hundred prisoners, with govt claiming prisoners guilty of crimes including terrorist attacks and drug trafficking; Jirga 9 Aug voted to release prisoners amid concerns of Australia and France, both of which reportedly oppose release of several prisoners accused of killing their citizens. Domestic political stasis continued with tensions between Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah over appointments including positions in newly-created High Council of National Reconciliation; Ghani reportedly objected to Abdullah’s nomination of Minister of Economy Mustafa Mastoor for position of State Minister for Peace. Ghani 29 Aug named some 40 individuals to council, but Abdullah 31 Aug said president did not have authority to appoint people to body, which he heads.
For Afghanistan's peace talks to work, the Taliban will need to shift focus to what they want, not what they oppose. They should develop clear negotiating positions on key issues and work to convince their members that peace requires compromise.
Eighteen years after the U.S. war with Afghanistan’s Taliban began, all sides are taking the first formal steps toward a political settlement. From designating a neutral mediator to agreeing on “rules of the road”, Crisis Group lays out twelve prerequisites for keeping the talks going.
Talks between the U.S. and the Taliban insurgency are suspended, though an agreement is reportedly ready for signature. The U.S. should resume negotiations and seal the deal, so that a broader peace process in Afghanistan can go forward.
The UN General Assembly kicks off on 17 September amid general scepticism about the world body’s effectiveness in an era of rising great-power competition. But the UN is far from paralysed. Here are seven crisis spots where it can make a positive difference for peace.
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.
Posturing from the Taliban... suggests they perceive their current position to be one of great strength.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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].
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 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.
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.
Crisis Group talks with Shaharzad Akbar, Head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
This is the second in a series of three Briefing Notes that discuss and analyse the nascent peace process in Afghanistan, focused on frequently raised questions.