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.

Pakistan After the Lahore Bombing: Shaping the Security Response

Pakistan’s responses to terrorism affect both internal security and the overall balance of power. In light of the attack in Lahore, this brief discusses the implications of the current civil-military relationship and the continuing struggle over who has discretionary power to set and implement relevant policy.

Colin Cookman

Summary

  • Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership have historically resisted calls for an indiscriminate crackdown on groups that use terrorism as a tactic but have acted against groups seen as directly threatening state interests.
  • The Pakistani army has taken new unilateral security measures in Punjab in the wake of a suicide bombing in Lahore in late March, raising tensions with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.
Fri, 04/08/2016 - 14:58
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The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Assessing the Threat

While the Islamic State in “Khorasan” (IS-K) gained strength in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province starting in mid-2014, Taliban and private militia offensives, as well as U.S. drone strikes, have significantly reduced the total number of fighters as of March 2016. However, several factors could reverse this trend. This brief assesses the viability of IS in Afghanistan and whether it poses a long-term threat in the country.

Casey Garret Johnson, Masood Karokhail and Rahmatullah Amiri

Summary

  • The Islamic State’s “Khorasan” branch (IS-K) emerged in Afghanistan in mid-2014, but little is understood about its aims and viability or the extent of its operational links with IS-Central in Iraq and Syria.
  • The estimated number of IS-K fighters in Afghanistan varies widely; however, due to offensives by the Taliban and private militias and drones strikes by the U.S. military, the number has significantly declined as of early March 2016 and is now likely around 2,500 fighters, concentrated mainly in eastern Nangarhar Province.
Thu, 04/07/2016 - 13:09
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Afghanistan’s Revenue Turnaround in 2015

Afghanistan experienced an impressive revenue turnaround in 2015. This brief examines the sources of the revenue increase and the actions that helped spur it, and discusses lessons learned and future challenges.

William A. Byrd & M. Khalid Payenda

Summary

  • After stagnation and decline in 2013–14, Afghanistan’s total budgetary revenue increased by nearly 22 percent in 2015—an extraordinary turnaround of 30 percent as compared to the 8 percent drop in 2014.
  • Only one-fifth of this revenue growth reflected currency depreciation and other macro- economic trends; a little less than a quarter of the increase was the result of new and increased taxes, and more than half was due to stronger tax collection efforts, including better control of corruption.
Wed, 02/24/2016 - 13:22
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Preventing Violent Extremism through Inclusive Politics in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has a long history of political and electoral violence that has shaped its political culture. Since the early 2000s, it has experienced a renewal of violent extremism and an increasingly polarized political climate. By addressing the relationship between radicalization and institutional dysfunctions, this Peace Brief examines how Bangladesh can help undermine the issues that bolster radicalization efforts by strengthening political and social institutions and making them more inclusive.

Geoffrey Macdonald

Summary

  • The role of Islam in Bangladeshi politics is highly contested and presents a focal point of past and current violence.
  • The polarized political climate and institutionalized repression of Islamic parties appear to enhance radicalization dynamics.
  • The current environment in Bangladesh presents an opportunity to prevent violent extremism before it fully manifests itself.
Thu, 01/14/2016 - 10:33
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The Forced Return of Afghan Refugees and Implications for Stability

Afghan refugees have been returning home from Pakistan and Iran in growing numbers, and many of these returns have been involuntary. The situation is adding stress to an already challenging environment, characterized by insecurity, lack of access to employment and services, land and housing tensions, and rapid urbanization. This brief presents important considerations for developing a clear, well-coordinated strategy that addresses the impacts of large-scale returns and the specific needs of returnees and internally displaced persons, particularly youth and women.

Belquis Ahmadi and Sadaf Lakhani

Summary

  • Afghans are the third largest refugee group worldwide, and even though the largest numbers of returns come from Pakistan and Iran, an increasing number are being repatriated from Europe.
  • Lack of access to land, essential services, and income-earning opportunities and exposure to violent conflict means that returnees often become displaced internally, joining the close to one million current internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 13:41
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Regional Security through Inclusive Reform in the Maghreb and the Sahel

Throughout the Maghreb and the Sahel, governments are struggling to manage a security environment fundamentally transformed by the Arab Spring. Within this region, the efforts of governments to secure their territories and civil society organizations to create accountable and transparent security institutions have proceeded almost wholly divorced from each other. This Peace Brief shares key insights from the engagement between official and civil society actors both within and across borders to address these gaps, makes the case for working regionally to address the twin challenges of security and reform, and highlights how community-security partnerships offer one approach to advancing the region’s security and reform agenda.

Querine Hanlon and Joyce Kasee

Summary

  • In the countries of North and West Africa, few mechanisms exist for security officials and their civil society counterparts to work in concert to address the critical reform and security agendas.
  • Regional knowledge sharing and collective problem solving can generate broader interest in and political support for the region’s reform agendas.
Wed, 12/23/2015 - 10:00

Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations: The Prospect of Reviving Taliban Talks

There are few viable options for resolving Afghanistan’s conflict other than an inclusive peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Momentum toward this goal must be maintained following the “Heart of Asia” Ministerial Conference on December 9, 2015, where Afghan, Pakistani, and U.S. officials renewed their commitment to resuming dialogue. This brief discusses three key concerns that need to be addressed to effectively move the peace process forward and achieve a near-term cease-fire.

Moeed Yusuf

Summary

  • There are few viable options for resolving Afghanistan’s conflict other than an inclusive peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
  • For peace talks to proceed, the Afghan and Pakistani governments must put aside their differences and work together to achieve a near-term, cease-fire agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:49

Security and Social Developments in Kunduz

Long-standing social and political grievances, combined with an unresponsive, factionalized government and abusive militias, facilitated the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz in September 2015. The fall of Kunduz raised questions regarding future political and security implications across the northeast region of Afghanistan. This Peace Brief highlights findings from interviews with a range of actors comparing what the government’s political and security response should look like and what it’s expected to look like, as well as offering recommendations for government and civil society.

Summary

  • Long-standing social and political grievances, combined with an unresponsive and factionalized government and abusive militias, facilitated the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz. Taliban messaging was relatively effective in using these grievances to their advantage.
  • The Afghan government’s response seems to be largely military and security focused.
Peyton Cooke and Eliza Urwin
Thu, 12/17/2015 - 12:16

National Dialogues: A Tool for Conflict Transformation?

National dialogue is an increasingly popular tool for conflict resolution and political transformation. It can broaden debate regarding a country’s trajectory beyond the usual elite decision makers; however, it can also be misused and manipulated by leaders to consolidate their power. This brief includes principles to strengthen national dialogue processes and considerations for international actors seeking to support these processes.

Summary

  • National dialogues are becoming an increasingly popular tool for conflict resolution and political transformation. In the past several years, national dialogues have been proposed or carried out in a diverse group of countries and circumstances.
Susan Stigant and Elizabeth Murray
Fri, 10/23/2015 - 14:49
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Reviving Afghanistan's Economy

Some say reviving the Afghan economy in a time of intensifying violent conflict and declining external financial inflows will be impossible. Expectations need to be kept modest, and measures must go beyond conventional economic approaches in order to be effective. This brief puts forward some outside-the-box ideas, which, combined with greater government effectiveness and, hopefully, reductions in violent conflict, may help turn the economy around.

William A. Byrd

Summary

  • Expectations about reviving Afghanistan’s economy need to be modest and must start with a more effective Afghan government, acting in a unified manner as if the country faced a national emergency.
  • Business-as-usual approaches by the government or the international community will not succeed in reviving the Afghan economy.
  • This brief puts forward some outside-the-box ideas, which, combined with greater government effectiveness and, hopefully, reductions in violent conflict, may help turn the economy around.
Thu, 10/22/2015 - 14:34
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April 2016
Pakistan’s responses to terrorism affect both internal security and the overall balance of power. In light of the attack in Lahore, this brief discusses the implications of the current civil-military relationship and the continuing struggle over who has discretionary power to set and implement...
April 2016
While the Islamic State in “Khorasan” (IS-K) gained strength in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province starting in mid-2014, Taliban and private militia offensives, as well as U.S. drone strikes, have significantly reduced the total number of fighters as of March 2016. However, several factors could...
February 2016
Afghanistan experienced an impressive revenue turnaround in 2015. This brief examines the sources of the revenue increase and the actions that helped spur it, and discusses lessons learned and future challenges.
January 2016
Bangladesh has a long history of political and electoral violence that has shaped its political culture. Since the early 2000s, it has experienced a renewal of violent extremism and an increasingly polarized political climate. By addressing the relationship between radicalization and institutional...
January 2016
Afghan refugees have been returning home from Pakistan and Iran in growing numbers, and many of these returns have been involuntary. The situation is adding stress to an already challenging environment, characterized by insecurity, lack of access to employment and services, land and housing...
December 2015
Throughout the Maghreb and the Sahel, governments are struggling to manage a security environment fundamentally transformed by the Arab Spring. Within this region, the efforts of governments to secure their territories and civil society organizations to create accountable and transparent security...
December 2015
There are few viable options for resolving Afghanistan’s conflict other than an inclusive peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Momentum toward this goal must be maintained following the “Heart of Asia” Ministerial Conference on December 9, 2015, where Afghan, Pakistani, and...
December 2015
Long-standing social and political grievances, combined with an unresponsive, factionalized government and abusive militias, facilitated the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz in September 2015. The fall of Kunduz raised questions regarding future political and security implications across the northeast...
October 2015
National dialogue is an increasingly popular tool for conflict resolution and political transformation. It can broaden debate regarding a country’s trajectory beyond the usual elite decision makers; however, it can also be misused and manipulated by leaders to consolidate their power. This brief...
October 2015
Some say reviving the Afghan economy in a time of intensifying violent conflict and declining external financial inflows will be impossible. Expectations need to be kept modest, and measures must go beyond conventional economic approaches in order to be effective. This brief puts forward some...