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.

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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Deradicalization Programming in Pakistan

The December 2014 terrorist attack in Peshawar that killed 132 schoolchildren forced Pakistan to acknowledge the extent of its ongoing problem with radical Islamist militancy. Islamabad, however, has yet to implement a comprehensive deradicalization strategy. In January 2015, it took a formal step in this direction with its twenty-point National Action Plan in response to the Peshawar attack—a step, but only a first step. If deradicalization is to meet with any success in Pakistan, the national narrative itself needs to change.

Selina Adam Khan

Summary

  • Over the last fifteen years, Pakistan has become a hub for radical Islamist militant groups.
  • Despite the rising militancy and increased terrorist attacks, however, the country has yet to implement a comprehensive deradicalization strategy.
  • Lack of access to mainstream education, poverty, and weak legal and political institutions are major contributors to a growing league of young jihadi recruits.
Mon, 09/14/2015 - 12:50
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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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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...
September 2015
The December 2014 terrorist attack in Peshawar that killed 132 schoolchildren forced Pakistan to acknowledge the extent of its ongoing problem with radical Islamist militancy. Islamabad, however, has yet to implement a comprehensive deradicalization strategy. In January 2015, it took a formal step...
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...