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.

Overcoming Barriers to U.S.-China Cooperation

In 2011, U.S. president Barack Obama announced plans to "pivot" toward Asia. In 2012, Chinese president Xi Jinping expressed his hope for "a new type of relationship" with the United States. A lack of strategic trust between the two countries, however, prevents critically needed productive cooperation. This Peace Brief addresses the misunderstandings behind this mistrust and a possible way to move beyond them.

Maral Noori, Daniel Jasper and Jason Tower

Summary

  • The United States has urged China to take on greater international responsibility and to leverage its rise to power by adhering to international law and urging its strategic partners to do the same. However, Beijing’s adherence to its principle of noninterference has drawn sharp U.S. criticism, as has its tendency to support incumbent governments in contentious states.
Mon, 08/24/2015 - 14:25
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The Future of Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade Relations

Pakistan and Afghanistan are among each other’s largest trading partners. Though an agreement was signed in 2010 to strengthen trade relations and facilitate Afghan transit trade through Pakistan, implementation has been mixed, with many on both sides of the border complaining of continued barriers to exchange. Both nations need to improve trade facilitation through streamlined payments settlement and improved insurance mechanisms, the use of bonded carriers, visa issuance, trade financing, tax collection, and documentation.

Ishrat Husain and Muhammad Ather Elahi

Summary

  • Pakistan is Afghanistan’s largest trading partner, while Afghanistan is Pakistan’s second-largest export market.
  • Both Pakistan and Afghanistan face significant challenges in their respective security, political, and economic realms over the coming years. The drawdown of NATO forces from Afghanistan has dealt a negative shock to both economies, particularly in the transportation sector.
Mon, 08/17/2015 - 12:49
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Promoting Rule of Law: Myth Versus Reality

Rule of law has long been a key international concern, especially for conflict-affected countries, and promoting it is a critical challenge to the international community. This Peace Brief focuses on the misconceptions of what is called the golden hour approach to offer more practicable alternatives. The issue is focus—whether to find a solution among Western paradigms or to empower people, support sustainable change, and provide enough time for the people to act and the process to unfold on their own terms. 

Summary

  • In the medical field, the silver day or bronze week are approaches to emergency medicine in rural and developing countries.
  • Promoting the rule of law has the most sustainable impact when done using a silver day or bronze week approach rather than RAND’s golden hour approach.
  • The key to the alternative approaches is to use whatever resources might be available but to allow more time for the patient, in this case, the peacebuilding process.
Christina Murtaugh
Tue, 08/11/2015 - 12:55
Issue Areas: 

Afghanistan’s Fourth Estate: Independent Media

Afghanistan’s media have evolved at warp speed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, yet being a journalist remains an extremely dangerous occupation, as many have been killed and still more threatened with violence if they persist in their work. The growth of Afghanistan’s democracy depends on a functioning media. This report examines the situation and offers paths forward to making Afghanistan safer for journalism.

Summary

  • Over the last decade, Afghanistan has experienced the rise of a robust media sector. Programming fills the airwaves with everything from news to comedy, open debate to open audition, soap operas to police dramas to ABCs.
  • Journalists, however, operate in a climate of fear and insecurity, under threats of reprisal and violence, with insufficient state support for freedom of the press.
  • The National Unity Government’s pledge to promote good governance and fight corruption cannot succeed absent a free and independent media.
Ann Procter
Mon, 08/10/2015 - 13:22
Countries: 

Afghan Youth and Extremists

Four decades of political instability, violent conflict, and socioeconomic crisis has had a devastating impact on Afghanistan and its citizens. As this Peace Brief explains, understanding the process of radicalization and the drivers of violent extremism is vital to designing effective counterstrategies.

Belquis Ahmadi

Summary

  • Afghanistan’s population is among the world’s youngest and fastest growing: half its population is under eighteen and more than three-quarters under forty.
  • The need is dire for strategies and policies to respond to the largest and fastest-growing segment of the population and to enable these citizens to meaningfully engage in their country’s affairs.
  • Many young men are frustrated with real and perceived injustice, regular and observable impunity and corruption, and lack of basic infrastructure and community support facilities.
Tue, 08/04/2015 - 15:11
Countries: 

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: 
August 2015
In 2011, U.S. president Barack Obama announced plans to "pivot" toward Asia. In 2012, Chinese president Xi Jinping expressed his hope for "a new type of relationship" with the United States. A lack of strategic trust between the two countries, however, prevents critically needed productive...
August 2015
Pakistan and Afghanistan are among each other’s largest trading partners. Though an agreement was signed in 2010 to strengthen trade relations and facilitate Afghan transit trade through Pakistan, implementation has been mixed, with many on both sides of the border complaining of continued barriers...
August 2015
Rule of law has long been a key international concern, especially for conflict-affected countries, and promoting it is a critical challenge to the international community. This Peace Brief focuses on the misconceptions of what is called the golden hour approach to offer more practicable...
August 2015
Afghanistan’s media have evolved at warp speed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, yet being a journalist remains an extremely dangerous occupation, as many have been killed and still more threatened with violence if they persist in their work. The growth of Afghanistan’s democracy depends on a...
August 2015
Four decades of political instability, violent conflict, and socioeconomic crisis has had a devastating impact on Afghanistan and its citizens. As this Peace Brief explains, understanding the process of radicalization and the drivers of violent extremism is vital to designing effective...
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...