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.
Islamic State staged deadly attacks in north and capital Kabul, defying Taliban crackdown, while earthquakes in west compounded suffering and Taliban wrestled for control of embassies.
Islamic State’s local branch conducted attacks despite ongoing Taliban raids. After Taliban security forces early Sept dismantled Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) cell, Taliban-affiliated media Al Mirsad 3 Oct published confessions from the cell, which is purportedly responsible for some of largest attacks in Badakhshan province (north). Dismantling this network will likely represent blow to ISKP’s strong presence in Badakhshan, although group remains active and capable of attacks. Notably, in one of its largest attacks in months, ISKP 13 Oct assaulted mosque in Baghlan province (north), killing around seventeen Shia worshippers. ISKP claimed bomb attack 26 Oct in Kabul that killed at least four in sports club in Shia area.
Earthquakes and aftershocks in west aggravated humanitarian crisis. Powerful earthquake 7 Oct struck Herat province (west), levelling entire villages before series of shallow earthquakes and aftershocks in subsequent weeks hit region, killing over 2,000 people and destroying 2,500 homes. While humanitarian actors quickly provided $18mn in assistance, many affected communities are likely to remain in desperate need as winter fast approaches.
Taliban reportedly clamped down on anti-Pakistan militants and rival group. Following deadly militant attacks in Pakistan in Sept, reports emerged that Afghan security forces arrested hundreds of Pakistani militants and Afghan nationals involved in activities against Pakistan. Taliban forces reportedly also began clampdown on rival group Hizb ut-Tahrir countrywide, arresting dozens of members in multiple provinces.
Taliban intensified efforts to rein in Afghan embassies abroad. Afghan embassy in India 1 Oct stated it would be shutting down operations amid reports of infighting among embassy staff, pressure from Indian govt, and attempts by Taliban to takeover. In subsequent days, Afghan embassies in Netherlands and Spain announced their cooperation with de facto govt. Taliban-run foreign ministry 8 Oct issued notice advising services by Afghan embassies in London and Vienna were invalid; both posts have been most critical of Taliban govt; London embassy rejected notice.
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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