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.
Month saw deadly attacks on both sides; Taliban’s ceasefire and govt’s release of prisoners in later part of month raised prospects intra-Afghan peace process could start in Aug. Despite international expectations intra-Afghan dialogue could begin in July, peace process remained on hold for most of month with attacks on both sides and delays in further govt release of prisoners. Taliban intensified attacks on major highways in north, including assault along Kabul to Mazar-e Sharif highway in Sar-e Pul province 7-14 July and clashes on Shibergan-to Mazar highway in Jawzjan province and Kabul-Kunduz highway in Baghlan province (north). While Taliban continued to refrain from attacks on large cities, some major attacks took place. Notably, Taliban 13 July bombed govt intelligence agency in Aybak, capital of Samangan province (north), killing ten and injuring over 50, in first high-profile Taliban-claimed attack on provincial capital since Feb U.S.-Taliban agreement; also launched 13-17 July series of suicide vehicles bombings in Kandahar (south) and Wardak (centre) provinces, with group justifying attacks as “retaliations” for violations of agreement by govt forces, blaming U.S. for not preventing govt attacks. Meanwhile, govt increased airstrikes against suspected Taliban targets with reported high civilian toll; govt air raids 22 July reportedly killed some 45 people, including civilians, in Kham Zaiarat area, Herat province (west); U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalizad next day condemned airstrikes as well as “recent Taliban attacks”, urging “all sides to contain the violence”. Taliban 18 July reshuffled negotiating team and restructured political office in Doha ahead of future talks, incorporating figures from differing wings of movement. Domestic political stasis continued despite President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah’s May agreement to form inclusive govt; Ghani 18 July reappointed hardline interior and defence ministers who hold tough stance toward Taliban; many provincial governors and ministerial positions remained unfilled. In major step forward and following U.S. pressure, Taliban 28 July announced second three-day ceasefire for Eid holiday and govt responded, declaring final hundreds prisoners of total 5,000 to be released, raising prospect intra-Afghan dialogue could begin in August.
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.
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.
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].
[The U.S. air strike against the Taliban] is significant. I don’t think it signals the collapse of the whole U.S.-Taliban agreement...[but] you can easily see how things could spiral.
[The prisoner swap requirement has the] potential to bloom into a real obstacle before intra-Afghan talks even get off the ground.
Crisis Group talks with Shaharzad Akbar, Head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Graeme Smith tells about his travels to Afghanistan as a Crisis Group's expert and about the efforts to get the Taliban to elaborate on their demands for the peace process.
This is the first in a series of three Briefing Notes that discuss and analyse the nascent peace process in Afghanistan while focusing on frequently raised questions.
Graeme Smith, Crisis Group’s former Afghanistan Senior Analyst, underscores in this film from the main morgue in the city of Kandahar the continuing and shocking rise of the human toll in what is one of the world’s most-deadly conflicts.
In this testimony delivered to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Crisis Group's Asia Program Director Laurel Miller analyses the 29 February U.S.-Taliban agreement, assessing its implications for both the U.S. military presence and the larger peace process in Afghanistan.
Originally published in U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs