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.
Taliban attacks in Kabul in late January 2017 are part of an escalation in violence in Afghanistan, where the civilian population is bearing the brunt of a particularly intense winter of fighting.
Unusually intense winter violence by all sides continued. In west, Taliban continued encroachment on Farah provincial capital, reportedly capturing four checkpoints and killing 35 police 19 Feb; over twenty others killed in nearby district 24 Feb. Taliban activities increased in northern Faryab and southern Helmand provinces. Two suicide attacks carried out in Helmand’s Nad Ali district and Lashkarga 24 Feb; in Greshk district, four national intelligence operatives gunned down sixteen colleagues 11 Feb. BBC 30 Jan reported Taliban had active presence in 70% of Afghanistan; govt denied. U.S. and Afghan forces (ANSF) operations and air strikes continued, reportedly killing at least twenty villagers in Kandahar’s Band-i Timor district 31 Jan-1 Feb. U.S. military dropped 24 guided bombs in four days against Taliban and small Chinese militant group in Badakhshan province early Feb. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) claimed suicide attack on intel centre in Kabul that killed two people 24 Feb. UN mission 15 Feb released report citing 10,453 civilian casualties in 2017, including 3,438 deaths: 9% less than 2016, but with marked rise in casualties from suicide attacks and airstrikes. 42% of casualties attributed to Taliban, 20% to govt forces, 2% to international forces. Taliban in open letter 14 Feb appealed to U.S. public and politicians to pressure their govt into ending war, saying they were ready for negotiations. Opening international peace conference in Kabul 28 Feb, President Ghani said govt willing to recognise Taliban as legitimate political party and proposed starting talks without preconditions, reviewing constitution as part of a roadmap to peace. Discord within National Unity Govt continued, while row brewed over rollout of new ID cards. Defiant Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Nur 11 Feb announced massive anti-govt rallies before cancelling them later. Samangan Governor Abdul Karim Khadam 18 Feb announced he would also defy govt order dismissing him, before agreeing to step down next day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Donors and Afghan state agencies must urgently tackle an economic crisis building up since 2014, when foreign troops started leaving and political instability worsened. The starting point must be a socio-economic assessment of just how big the problems are.