Amidst an intensifying Taliban insurgency and emerging Islamic State threat, Afghanistan's path to peace and stability looks ever more perilous. Taliban militants now control more territory than at any time since its ouster by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001. Crisis Group is one of the few analytical organisations with a presence in Afghanistan. We help local and international stakeholders to comprehend the context and drivers of conflict, militant extremism, political-economic fragility, and its implications for the world and the region. Crisis Group helps local authorities and the international community formulate effective policies to improve governance and security in the country and stop violent extremism.
U.S. aerial bombing of drug laboratories in Afghanistan will solve neither the country’s Taliban insurgency nor its drugs problem.
Originally published in POLITICO Europe
Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-KP) continued attacks in urban centres, including three suicide attacks on national intelligence agency facilities in Kabul 18 Dec and 25 Dec, latter killing at least five, and another 28 Dec targeting Shia cultural centre in Kabul killing 50. At least fifteen people killed in suicide attack on funeral in Jalalabad (east) 31 Dec. Amid seasonal lull in fighting, U.S. bombing campaign against illicit drug processing labs in southern Helmand province reportedly destroyed 25 labs 20 Nov-12 Dec. U.S. airstrike 3 Dec killed Taliban Commander Haji Naser; interior ministry reported at least three senior Taliban commanders killed in air raids in Laghman province (east) 24 Dec. Several al-Qaeda commanders were among some 80 militants reported killed during joint U.S.-Afghan operations in south early Dec. Taliban stormed police checkpoints in Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah 17 Dec, killing around a dozen. Former deputy IS-KP leader Abdul Raziq Mehdi defected to Taliban 30 Nov; IS-KP Laghman cell leader killed by Taliban 18 Dec. U.S. military late Nov reported it had conducted 1,400 airstrikes and ground operations against IS-KP since March 2017, killing over 1,600 fighters. New York Times 11 Dec reported U.S. dropped over 3,900 bombs and missiles in Afghanistan in 2017, three-fold increase from 2016. U.S. VP Pence 21 Dec made unannounced visit to Afghanistan. Govt’s High Peace Council 6 Dec offered Taliban option to open representative office in Kabul for negotiations; Taliban declined. Amid growing U.S./Afghan frustration over Pakistan’s failure to take action against Afghan Taliban inside its territory, U.S. military continued to bomb militants from Haqqani Network inside Pakistan. Amid deepening political discord, dozens of Afghan MPs and activists joined opposition meeting in Kandahar 2 Dec calling for more inclusive govt; Afghan govt reportedly blocked participation of most prominent officials. President Ghani 18 Dec dismissed powerful governor of Balkh province (north) Atta Muhammad Noor, who dismissed decision and refused to leave office, saying his departure would carry risk of civil unrest and insecurity; Atta Noor’s Jamiat-e Islami party threatened to withdraw support from national unity govt.
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.
Too often, the Afghan Local Police (ALP) has preyed on those it is meant to guard. Some members are outright bandits, exacerbating conflict. Rogue units should be disbanded, and better ones integrated into the armed forces. This must be done carefully and slowly, or else insurgents will win a new military edge.
As Pakistan seeks to consolidate its fragile democracy, it should seize the moment to improve relations with its Afghan neighbour. Its biggest challenge comes from within. The civilian government has to regain control over national security and foreign policy from the military.
Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, inherits a government that is running out of money and losing ground to the insurgency. As foreign troops withdraw, the new government must stay united and move quickly on reforms.
To contain a growing, increasingly confident insurgency as NATO troops withdraw, Afghanistan needs continued international support, including military, and the new government in Kabul will need to reinvigorate the state’s commitment to the rule of law.
U.S. strategy [in Afghanistan] is so military-centric. Even 100,000 troops couldn’t finish the Taliban, and ever since those days, they have been zealously confident.
It should not come as a surprise that some of the [Afghan] youth inculcated in the ideology of jihadism embrace the next version of jihadism, the most violent one.
Most of those blowing themselves up [in Kabul] are the young Salafis who are indoctrinated into jihadism and find in Islamic State a cool political ideology seeking to dominate the world.
[The Islamic State Khorasan Province's] 7th suicide bombing in [Kabul] since 20 October, killing 130 people in total, [makes] ISKP a larger threat in Kabul than Taliban for this period.
[The bombing of Afghanistan's drug labs] will solve neither the country’s Taliban insurgency nor its drugs problem.
What distinguishes [the Taliban 'Special Forces Unit'] from other fighting units is its intensive and longer training, the degree of vetting, its tactics, weapons and equipment, and structure.
In recent years, a confrontation between the U.S. government and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been looming over the alleged actions of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Crisis Group's U.S. Program Director Stephen Pomper unpicks the unique U.S.-ICC relationship and outlines the choices left open to Washington.
Originally published in Just Security
Political fractures continue to weaken the Afghan National Unity Government as the Taliban insurgency expands and an Islamic State affiliate strengthens its foothold. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to continue to provide technical support to the negotiating process and take measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
Originally published in Boston Globe