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.
The Taliban have claimed the assassination of an influential Afghan police chief and another official in an attack that narrowly missed the head of U.S. forces. Senior Analyst Borhan Osman and Consultant Graeme Smith explain the repercussions for political stability in southern Afghanistan.
Taliban made further territorial gains and launched large-scale attacks on previously peaceful areas of Ghazni province, and govt forces suffered heavy casualties in Farah province. Major incidents included Taliban assaults 6-7 Nov and again from 20 Nov on Jaghori district (Ghazni province), overrunning govt positions and reportedly killing at least 30 soldiers; Taliban 28 Nov attacked British security firm, killing six including one Briton. Taliban roadside bomb 26 Nov killed three U.S. soldiers in Ghazni, worst loss of life for U.S. military so far in 2018 in Afghanistan. At least six killed in suicide attack on a demonstration in Kabul 12 Nov claimed by Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP). In Farah province, Taliban early Nov assaulted govt positions in Pusht-i Kuh, Khok-i Safed and Baka Bluk districts, killing dozens; and 26 Nov killed at least twenty police in ambush near Lash wa Juwayn district. Defence and interior ministers 14 Nov acknowledged serious threats in Ghazni, Ghor, Farah, Uruzgan and Kunduz provinces. Arrest of Hazara militia commander 25 Nov prompted further violent protests in Kabul, forcing govt to release him two days later. Suicide attacker 20 Nov killed at least 50 at gathering of religious scholars near Kabul Airport; Taliban condemned attack. IS-KP claimed responsibility for 23 Nov explosion in mosque in Afghan army base in eastern Khost province, killing at least 26. U.S. airstrike 27 Nov reportedly killed at least 23 civilians in Garmsir district (Helmland province). Delegations from Taliban and Afghanistan’s High Peace Council participated in international peace conference in Moscow 9 Nov, but reported no progress; Afghan delegation restated offer for unconditional direct peace talks with Taliban, while Taliban called intra-Afghan talks premature as long as Taliban are negotiating withdrawal of U.S. forces. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held talks with Taliban representatives in Doha 14-16 Nov; Taliban described meetings as “preliminary talks”, said “no agreement was reached on any issue”. President Ghani 28 Nov announced roadmap to peace with Taliban that he said would take at least five years. Complaints about alleged fraud and disenfranchisement during Oct parliamentary elections continued; full preliminary results delayed until 1 Dec.
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.
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.
Attacking lightly defended targets has been part of [the Islamic State's] modus operandi from the outset.
This mutual [Afghan] ceasefire, if successful, can possibly inspire or encourage future, more substantial steps towards peacemaking. Fighting has been the integral feature that has characterized the Taliban since the movement was born. A break from it, although very brief, represents an important departure from its modus operandi.
The U.S. and Afghan governments are unleashing more violence based on the same rationale that it would tilt this stalemate to favor their conditions at the table.
U.S. allies in Afghanistan should push for a greater diplomatic political component to the U.S. strategy. As it stands, [it] sets the stage for more violence while closing avenues for de-escalation.
Increasing pressure on [Kabul's] battlefield may lead [the Taliban and IS] to hit back in an area where they can publicly disprove the rhetoric of the U.S. military or Afghan government.
[High-profile Taliban attacks in Kabul are] an attempt to disprove statements by U.S. and Afghan officials that the Taliban are weakened.
Originally published in The New York Times
The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is likely to continue unabated in 2018, despite the U.S. effort to step up its military campaign. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to utilise its influence with Afghan political actors to help rebuild trust and increase prospects for mediation.
U.S. aerial bombing of drug laboratories in Afghanistan will solve neither the country’s Taliban insurgency nor its drugs problem.
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