In mid-August 2021, Taliban militants swept into Kabul, completing their takeover of Afghanistan and marking a new phase in what has been the world’s most lethal conflict in recent years. The U.S.-backed government in place since 2001 is gone, as are almost all U.S. and NATO troops. As the new dispensation takes shape, Crisis Group remains focused on promoting a deep understanding of events on the ground and helping the various stakeholders inside and outside the country comprehend their counterparts' motives and political constraints. We also aim to advance policies that improve security and promote inclusive governance.
Surviving the impact of climate change and adapting to harsher new environments are collective tasks that need the cooperation of all countries, even Afghanistan under the outcast Taliban regime.
Tensions mounted between Taliban and Pakistan as Islamabad forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of Afghans, while Islamic State’s local branch targeted ethnic minority Hazara community.
Tensions continued to rise with Pakistan amid Afghan exodus. Relations between Kabul and Islamabad continued to face strains as pair traded public criticism and Pakistan forcibly deported hundreds of thousands – and perhaps soon millions – of Afghans to Afghanistan ahead of harsh winter months, which could overwhelm Taliban authorities ill-prepared for massive influx amid one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises and as country reels from devastating earthquakes, economic challenges and sanctions. Some of those forced by Pakistan to cross border fled Taliban rule after group’s takeover in August 2021 and could risk Taliban reprisals (see Pakistan). After Pakistan’s caretaker PM stated that relations will improve when “a legitimate government is established in Kabul”, Taliban 17 Nov responded that ties will improve when “there is wise leadership in Pakistan”. Taliban-affiliated media during month continued to imply that Pakistan is supporting anti-Taliban armed groups inside Afghanistan.
Islamic State targeted ethnic minority Hazaras. Reeling from losses inflicted by security forces in recent months, Islamic State Khorsan Province (ISKP) maintained low-level activity, opting to target unarmed Hazara civilians whom group sees as soft target. Notably, ISKP 7 Nov targeted van in the Hazara enclave of Dasht-e Barchi in western neighbourhoods of Kabul, killing at least seven and wounding over dozen. Taliban intelligence forces 6 Nov reportedly targeted ISKP cell in Suki district, Kunar province (east).
Taliban convened high-level meeting to address economy and Pakistan ties. Taliban’s Emir 19 Nov held meeting with de facto cabinet in Kandahar city, which appeared to be primarily concerned with economic direction of govt as well as deteriorating relations with Pakistan; although exact details are unknown, such meetings are significant as key govt policies are often decided.
As Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban severed, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also gotten cold feet in their engagement [with the Taliban].
The flood of outrage from the West will strengthen the resolve of the Taliban leadership [in Afghanistan], which defines itself as a bulwark against the outside world.
Pakistan has started repatriations that could force millions of Afghans back to their crisis-wracked home country. As Crisis Group expert Ibraheem Bahiss explains in this Q&A, the policy could bring further trouble to the region, notwithstanding Islamabad’s efforts to justify itself on security grounds.
On 13 September, Crisis Group Asia Program Director Pierre Prakash spoke at the Afghanistan Humanitarian Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) at Brussels.
How to Help Afghanistan Without Normalizing Relations
The Taliban have barred women from universities and many workplaces, compelling several aid organisations to pause operations in Afghanistan and donors to contemplate cuts to assistance. Yet the principled response remains to mitigate the harm these harsh rulings are doing to the most vulnerable Afghans.
The Taliban seem determined to isolate the country from the world, which can only lead to greater misery for Afghans. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023, Crisis Group explains how the EU and its member states can help address the challenges Afghanistan faces.
Like It or Not, Donors Must Work With The Taliban on Economic Recovery.
Technical negotiations may succeed where political ones have failed, says the policy expert.
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