Special Reports

Short, timely, policy-relevant reports. These accessible reports offer policymakers, practitioners, and scholars a distillation of expert research, lessons learned, and problem solving across the full gamut of conflict areas and themes that USIP covers.

UNSCR 1325 in the Middle East and North Africa: Women and Security

The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325 fifteen years ago. The resolution addresses the disproportionate impact war has on women and reaffirms their important role in conflict management, conflict resolution, and sustainable peace processes. This report pulls from interviews conducted with academics, activists, government officials, and nongovernmental leaders in Egypt, Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Tunisia. It examines the benefits and challenges of the resolution in these countries as well as its potential in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Paula M. Rayman, Seth Izen and Emily Parker

Summary

  • The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325 in October 2000. The resolution is not being utilized consistently across the studied nations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This disparity exists not only among the five nations examined by this report but also within each nation.
  • Internally, there are differences among women and men in their support for the resolution and a Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda due to factors such as rural/urban divides, religious/secular affiliations, and socioeconomic status.
Wed, 05/04/2016 - 09:43
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What Can Be Done to Revive Afghanistan’s Economy?

Reviving the Afghan economy during a time of intensifying violent conflict, declining external financial aid, and ongoing political uncertainty and dysfunction will be extremely challenging. But the country cannot wait for these entrenched problems to be addressed. While keeping expectations modest, this report proposes some targeted, near-term measures to increase confidence and stimulate the economy. Rather than engaging in politics as usual and following conventional policy prescriptions that will not work in the short run, the Afghan government and international community need to focus limited available resources on efforts that will have the highest visibility and impact on the current situation.

William A. Byrd

Summary

  • Afghanistan’s National Unity Government (NUG) needs to operate more like the unified government of a country facing a national crisis.
  • Tens of billions of dollars in Afghan private capital is being held outside the country, but the money is unlikely to be repatriated and invested effectively in Afghanistan unless confidence in the future increases, the NUG becomes more effective, and prospects for reconciliation and reduced violence improve.
Tue, 02/09/2016 - 09:11
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Resources over Reform in Afghanistan

The election of Ashraf Ghani as president in 2014 gave Afghans and the international community hope that political reform was on its way. However, thus far, little has been achieved to improve governance and reduce corruption, especially at the local level. Based on interviews conducted in four communities in Afghanistan, this report reveals that economic and security changes are having the greatest impact on local politics, keeping the powerful elite in positions of influence as they compete over shifting resources and unpredictable political processes.

Summary

  • Following the negotiated settlement of Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election, hopes were high for political reform. Realistically, achieving corruption-free, local governance and increased citizen participation was always going to be a long-term endeavor, but even incremental shifts toward this goal have not materialized. This has led to a growing disillusionment with President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, and the prospects for democratic reform more generally.
Anna Larson and Noah Coburn
Thu, 02/04/2016 - 12:42
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Provincial Governors in Afghan Politics

The presidency of Hamid Karzai was a significant transition for Afghanistan. This report describes subnational politics—specifically, provincial governorships—over the period in general terms, exploring the gaps between assumptions that drove belief in the possibility of a radically new and improved brand of governance and the realities on the ground. The findings aim to inform a more realistic outlook not only on Afghan politics past and future, but also on subsequent foreign-led interventions to foster improved governance in conflict-ridden countries worldwide.

Dipali Mukhopadhay

Summary

  • In post-2001 Afghanistan, the president’s prerogative to shape (or dictate) provincial appointments was a vital tool for managing competition, resources, and conflict in Kabul and the provinces. A provincial governor’s primary value was, thus, not in governing a province. Foreign-led state-building and counterinsurgency efforts operating under the assumption that subnational governance was about “governing” were bound to fail before they even started.
Fri, 01/08/2016 - 11:02
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The Basque Conflict and ETA: The Difficulties of an Ending

Violence at the hands of the Basque separatist organization ETA was for many years an anomalous feature of Spain’s transition to democracy. This report, which draws on the author’s book Endgame for ETA: Elusive Peace in the Basque Country (Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2014), explains why this was the case, examines both the factors that contributed to ETA’s October 2011 announcement of an end to violence and the obstacles encountered in moving forward from that announcement to disarmament and dissolution, and extracts lessons relevant for other contexts.

Summary

  • The violent separatist group Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) emerged in 1959 in response to General Francisco Franco’s repression of Basque identity during and after the Spanish Civil War and pursued the independence of a Basque homeland, Euskal Herria, that extends across seven administrative units in Spain and France.
  • ETA’s continued violence after Spain’s transition to democracy reflected support within a wider community of radical nationalists that believed the transition had been incomplete.
Teresa Whitfield
Wed, 12/09/2015 - 09:24
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Afghan Economic Policy, Institutions and Society Since 2001

The general expectation among Afghans after the fall of the Taliban was that the state, equipped with financial resources and technical assistance from the international community, would once again take the lead in the economic sphere. Instead, Kabul adopted a market economy. The move remains controversial in some quarters. This report, derived from interviews conducted in 2015 and 2010, takes stock of the competing ideologies in Afghanistan today with respect to the economy.

Paul Fishstein and Murtaza Edries Amiryar

Summary

  • In 2001, Afghanistan shifted to a market economy, but the move remains controversial among its citizens, in part because of dissatisfaction with social conditions and because of an association with Western values.
  • The younger generation is somewhat more in favor of a market economy that rewards initiative and merit. At the same time, desire for the government to exert greater control is widespread.
Mon, 10/26/2015 - 14:27
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Ten Years in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley

The al-Qaeda presence in the Pech valley is greater now than when U.S. forces arrived in 2002, and counterterrorism efforts in the region continue. This report looks at U.S. military involvement in the Pech valley and the lessons it offers both the Afghan National Security Forces and the U.S. military. It is derived from interviews with some three hundred Americans and Afghans, including general officers, unit commanders, members of parliament, district and provincial governors, Afghan interpreters and U.S. and Afghan combat veterans. 

Wesley Morgan

Summary

  • From 2002 until their withdrawal in 2013, U.S. conventional and special operations forces were involved in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Pech valley system. Today, Afghan government security forces hold the Pech and a tributary valley, the Waygal, where U.S. special operations forces continue to mount an aerial campaign against isolated but potentially threatening al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan elements.
Tue, 09/22/2015 - 07:51
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Women’s Leadership Roles in Afghanistan

In the days after September 11, the international community’s desire to “rescue” Afghan women from their social, political, and economic fate was key to mobilizing global support to topple the Taliban regime. Since then, the Afghan government and the international community have invested vast resources seeking to improve the status of women in the country, primarily through programs to support women leaders in politics, business, and civil society. Drawn on interviews and focus group discussions with more than two hundred people, this report seeks to understand factors that contribute to the emergence of women leaders by identifying and assessing the past decade and a half’s efforts to promote women’s leadership.

Aarya Nijat and Jennifer Murtazashvili

Summary

  • Since 2001, the Afghan government, in partnership with the international community, has invested vast resources seeking to ensure the emergence of women as leaders in politics, business, and civil society.
  • The adaptive leadership framework used in this analysis stresses contextual awareness and a leader’s sense of purpose, and views leadership as mobilizing people to tackle collective challenges. Authority is only one of many tools leaders have at their disposal.
Fri, 09/04/2015 - 13:59
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Understanding and Countering Violent Extremism in Afghanistan

Youth recruitment into extremist groups in Afghanistan continues to be a major source of group building. In field studies and interviews conducted in three provinces to elicit views on extremist groups, both violent and nonviolent, and factors thought to induce youth to join such groups, violent extremist groups emerged as unpopular and mistrusted, being perceived as un-Islamic and controlled by foreign powers. Nonetheless, the activities and ideologies of such groups have not been effectively countered by the government of Afghanistan, civil society, or the international community. Programs to counter extreme violence should emphasize the Islamic basis of Afghan civil law, accommodate local differences, and be conducted in partnership with moderate voices and youth, with international organizations remaining in the background.

Summary

  • Field studies and interviews were conducted in three provinces in Afghanistan, Nangarhar, Balkh, and Herat, to elicit views on extremist groups, both violent and nonviolent, and factors thought to induce youth to join such groups.
  • The two strands of youth recruitment are a rural, less educated demographic, which has traditionally formed the primary recruiting pool for violent extremist groups such as the Taliban, and an urban, educated constituency, more amenable to nonviolent group recruitment.
Reza Fazli, Casey Johnson and Peyton Cooke
Thu, 09/03/2015 - 16:37

Building a Sustainable Afghanistan

Drafted in 2012, the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) provides guidelines for Afghan reform and ongoing donor support and has proved useful, but it is hobbled by political, social, financial, and bureaucratic factors. The Ghani-Abdullah unity government, inaugurated in the autumn of 2014, is looking to refresh the agreement to fit an evolving political and economic context. Policy trade-offs are inevitable, however. They raise a critical question: Is the document intended to organize policy-level cooperation on all development efforts or is it a targeted and sequenced blueprint for enabling Afghan financial independence? This report examines the context and policy options of the TMAF and what it means for the future of Afghanistan.

Summary

  • The Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF), the primary development agreement between donors and the Afghan government, provides political guidelines for Afghan reform and continued donor support.
Trent Ruder
Tue, 09/01/2015 - 14:51
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May 2016
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325 fifteen years ago. The resolution addresses the disproportionate impact war has on women and reaffirms their important role in conflict management, conflict resolution, and sustainable peace processes. This report pulls from interviews...
February 2016
Reviving the Afghan economy during a time of intensifying violent conflict, declining external financial aid, and ongoing political uncertainty and dysfunction will be extremely challenging. But the country cannot wait for these entrenched problems to be addressed. While keeping expectations modest...
February 2016
The election of Ashraf Ghani as president in 2014 gave Afghans and the international community hope that political reform was on its way. However, thus far, little has been achieved to improve governance and reduce corruption, especially at the local level. Based on interviews conducted in four...
January 2016
The presidency of Hamid Karzai was a significant transition for Afghanistan. This report describes subnational politics—specifically, provincial governorships—over the period in general terms, exploring the gaps between assumptions that drove belief in the possibility of a radically new and...
December 2015
Violence at the hands of the Basque separatist organization ETA was for many years an anomalous feature of Spain’s transition to democracy. This report, which draws on the author’s book Endgame for ETA: Elusive Peace in the Basque Country (Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2014), explains why this...
October 2015
The general expectation among Afghans after the fall of the Taliban was that the state, equipped with financial resources and technical assistance from the international community, would once again take the lead in the economic sphere. Instead, Kabul adopted a market economy. The move remains...
September 2015
The al-Qaeda presence in the Pech valley is greater now than when U.S. forces arrived in 2002, and counterterrorism efforts in the region continue. This report looks at U.S. military involvement in the Pech valley and the lessons it offers both the Afghan National Security Forces and the U.S....
September 2015
In the days after September 11, the international community’s desire to “rescue” Afghan women from their social, political, and economic fate was key to mobilizing global support to topple the Taliban regime. Since then, the Afghan government and the international community have invested vast...
September 2015
Youth recruitment into extremist groups in Afghanistan continues to be a major source of group building. In field studies and interviews conducted in three provinces to elicit views on extremist groups, both violent and nonviolent, and factors thought to induce youth to join such groups, violent...
September 2015
Drafted in 2012, the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) provides guidelines for Afghan reform and ongoing donor support and has proved useful, but it is hobbled by political, social, financial, and bureaucratic factors. The Ghani-Abdullah unity government, inaugurated in the autumn of...