Peace Briefs

Intended for a broad audience, these four-page briefs provide topical news analysis and policy recommendations related to USIP’s mission and work.

Conflict and Extremist-Related Sexual Violence

As extremist groups in the Middle East and North Africa perpetrate sexual violence against women as part of their campaigns to further their interests and propagate fear, scholars are reaching a deeper understanding of the ways in which sexual violence, before, during, and after conflict, arises from a complex pattern of political, military, social, and economic factors. International actors can draw from this work to craft responses that better assist survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.

Kerry Crawford, ed.

Summary

  • The recent use of sexual violence by violent extremist groups, particularly Daesh (or ISIL), has received international attention. The violence resembles the use of sexual violence by state military forces and other armed groups in the past, who have used it to further their interests and propagate fear.
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 13:48
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Insurgent Alliances in Afghanistan

One of the contributing factors to Afghanistan’s civil conflict has been the fluidity within military alliances at the sub-national level. This brief examines the circumstances of military alliances between insurgent commanders—what factors play into an alliance and how they are maintained, with assessments resulting from research from the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies and supported by USIP. 

Summary

  • The degree to which insurgent commanders in Afghanistan coordinate their activities and submit to the overall strategic direction of senior Taliban leadership is a subject of considerable debate. Most insurgent forces are organized into localized fighting groups, and the extent to which they coordinate their actions varies.
Mallory Sutika Sipus
Mon, 06/15/2015 - 17:29
Countries: 

Afghanistan's Continuing Fiscal Crisis: No End In Sight

For several years, Afghanistan’s economy and public finances have worsened, culminating in a full-blown fiscal crisis in 2014. Political uncertainties, the weakening Afghan economy, corruption in tax collection, stagnant government revenues, and increasing expenditures have contributed to the current fiscal impasse.  In the absence of bold actions by the Afghan government along with proactive international support to turn around the fiscal situation, the fiscal crisis and its insidious effects will continue. 

William A. Byrd

Summary

  • The fiscal crisis that has been building over several years in Afghanistan came to a head in 2014, with no abatement in recent months and limited potential for improvement in the current year.
  • Political uncertainty, the weakening Afghan economy, corruption in tax collection, and stagnant government revenues, as well as increasing security and other expenditures, all contributed to the current fiscal crisis.
Fri, 05/15/2015 - 11:40
Countries: 
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Supporting Afghan Women in the 2014 Transition

The 2014 elections in Afghanistan saw great promise for advancing the status of women, with unprecedented voter turnout among women and powerful rhetoric from presidential candidates. As the new administration sets its agenda, this report offers guidelines for Afghan leaders to fulfill their campaign promises by strengthening women’s political participation, access to justice, and involvement in the security sector. 

Summary

  • Women’s civic engagement during the 2014 elections reached an all-time high, with women voters constituting 37.6 percent of all votes and three hundred female candidates running for provincial council posts.
  • Women’s political participation has been supported by the national constitution’s quota system but may be threatened by new constitutional reforms or a failure to nominate a significant number of female ministerial candidates.
Amy Calfas
Thu, 02/26/2015 - 09:27
Countries: 

Forging Afghanistan’s National Unity Government

Afghanistan’s presidential election was resolved by a U.S.-brokered deal that led, ultimately, to a power-sharing arrangement within the new national unity government. This has set up tensions within the government—even as Afghanistan’s leaders face an uncertain political, economic, and security situation across the country, as international financial and military support draws down. The formation of the new government, however, also presents opportunities for serious reforms of Afghanistan’s government, which could lead to greater peace and security if seized effectively.

Summary

  • Afghanistan’s presidential election was resolved in a U.S.-brokered deal that created a national unity government (NUG). New president Ashraf Ghani, by decree, created the post of chief executive officer (CEO), filled by Abdullah Abdullah. This has resulted in a power-sharing arrangement between two teams, the legal parameters of which will not be decided for another two years.
Ali Jalali
Fri, 01/16/2015 - 09:25
Countries: 

Exploitation of Mineral Resources in Afghanistan

Mining companies in Afghanistan are wantonly exploiting the country’s mineral resources with little or no taxes and royalties going to the government. Contracting of mines has been susceptible to political influence, there is little accountability and sometimes conflicts with local communities have led to violence and deaths. This Peace Brief examines these problems and offers some recommendations to improve the situation.

William A. Byrd & Javed Noorani

Summary

  • Case studies of five ongoing mining operations show that Afghan mining companies are wantonly exploiting easily extractable mineral resources with little or no taxes and royalties going to the government.
  • Revenue losses from just two sources—royalties and land rent—at the five mines are more than US$50 million per year. Total revenue losses from all sources for the hundreds of mines contracted to different companies easily could be hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Mon, 12/01/2014 - 09:05
Countries: 

How to Spur Afghan Reforms: The Limits and Benefits of Incentives

Although not a magic bullet, incentive programming can help shape dialogue with the new Afghan administration. What are incentive programs? How do issues such as stakeholder participation, Afghan capacity and consequences of success or failure affect policy decisions for incentive programs? In addressing these questions, this PeaceBrief points the way to more effective incentive programming.

Summary

  • Donors have increasingly sought to condition assistance funds for Afghanistan, particularly as a result of inadequate reforms during the Karzai administration.
  • Since its negotiation in 2012, the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework has been the basis of most donor incentive decisions on Afghanistan.
  • Donors need to consider who benefits from incentives, how resources and requests align, Afghanistan’s capacity to implement reform and the consequences of success or failure.
Trent Ruder
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 09:15
Countries: 

Pakistan’s Resurgent Sectarian War

The violence across the Middle East has energized sectarian militant networks on both sides of the conflict in Pakistan. This report gives an overview of the history of conflict between Sunni Deobandi and Shia militant and political organizations in Pakistan and offers warnings about further radicalization there and its effects on the politics of the state.

Summary

  • Sectarian violence between Sunni Deobandi and Shia Muslims in Pakistan has escalated in recent years. Most of this violence is perpetrated by local networks, but the sectarian phenomenon also has important ties to regional security dynamics and transnational terrorist networks.
Arif Rafiq
Wed, 11/05/2014 - 12:18
Countries: 

Licensing Afghan Opium for Medicinal Use

Opium production continues to increase in Afghanistan, but there are no easy, one-dimensional solutions to this problem. Afghanistan unfortunately will not be able to join the small group of countries that produce licit opium for medicinal purposes. The opium it currently produces is both illegal and high-cost. Trying to introduce licit production runs the risk that large-scale illicit production will continue in parallel. In the long term, it is unlikely that Afghanistan could compete in the global market with lower-cost, more efficient growers of licit opiates.

William A. Byrd and David Mansfield

Summary

  • With large increases in Afghan opium cultivation and production in 2013 and 2014, there is a risk that resulting frustration may give rise to a search for extreme but unproductive solutions.
  • There are no easy solutions to the illegal narcotics problem. The proposal that Afghanistan could shift to licensed production of opium for pain medications will not work.
Thu, 09/25/2014 - 13:05
Countries: 

Creating Spaces for Effective CVE Approaches

Unlike other counterterrorism strategies, countering violent extremism (CVE) focuses on preventing individuals from being recruited into or joining violent extremist groups. CVE is a complex endeavor, largely because the reasons individuals become involved in extremist violence are in themselves complex and the dynamics are unique to each conflict. Using Kenya as an example, and drawing on observations from a recent visit, the author explores how promoting a more nuanced understanding of radicalization can help reach those who are at risk of being pushed and pulled into extremist violence.

Georgia Holmer

Summary

  • Countering violent extremism efforts strive to prevent at-risk individuals from being recruited into or joining extremist groups. Identifying who is at risk and who poses a threat, however, is a complicated inquiry.
  • In Kenya, as in many other places experiencing violent extremism, the young, the undecided, the coerced and others might—if properly guided—move away from rather than toward violence.
Wed, 09/10/2014 - 08:17
Countries: 
July 2015
As extremist groups in the Middle East and North Africa perpetrate sexual violence against women as part of their campaigns to further their interests and propagate fear, scholars are reaching a deeper understanding of the ways in which sexual violence, before, during, and after conflict, arises...
June 2015
One of the contributing factors to Afghanistan’s civil conflict has been the fluidity within military alliances at the sub-national level. This brief examines the circumstances of military alliances between insurgent commanders—what factors play into an alliance and how they are maintained, with...
May 2015
For several years, Afghanistan’s economy and public finances have worsened, culminating in a full-blown fiscal crisis in 2014. Political uncertainties, the weakening Afghan economy, corruption in tax collection, stagnant government revenues, and increasing expenditures have contributed to the...
February 2015
The 2014 elections in Afghanistan saw great promise for advancing the status of women, with unprecedented voter turnout among women and powerful rhetoric from presidential candidates. As the new administration sets its agenda, this report offers guidelines for Afghan leaders to fulfill their...
January 2015
Afghanistan’s presidential election was resolved by a U.S.-brokered deal that led, ultimately, to a power-sharing arrangement within the new national unity government. This has set up tensions within the government—even as Afghanistan’s leaders face an uncertain political, economic, and security...
December 2014
Mining companies in Afghanistan are wantonly exploiting the country’s mineral resources with little or no taxes and royalties going to the government. Contracting of mines has been susceptible to political influence, there is little accountability and sometimes conflicts with local communities have...
November 2014
Although not a magic bullet, incentive programming can help shape dialogue with the new Afghan administration. What are incentive programs? How do issues such as stakeholder participation, Afghan capacity and consequences of success or failure affect policy decisions for incentive programs? In...
November 2014
The violence across the Middle East has energized sectarian militant networks on both sides of the conflict in Pakistan. This report gives an overview of the history of conflict between Sunni Deobandi and Shia militant and political organizations in Pakistan and offers warnings about further...
September 2014
Opium production continues to increase in Afghanistan, but there are no easy, one-dimensional solutions to this problem. Afghanistan unfortunately will not be able to join the small group of countries that produce licit opium for medicinal purposes. The opium it currently produces is both illegal...
September 2014
Unlike other counterterrorism strategies, countering violent extremism (CVE) focuses on preventing individuals from being recruited into or joining violent extremist groups. CVE is a complex endeavor, largely because the reasons individuals become involved in extremist violence are in themselves...