The challenges for peace and stability in a country ravaged by more than three decades of war are considerable. Efforts to guarantee stability continue to be undermined by the Taliban-led insurgency that has access to safe-havens in Pakistan, concerns about the international community’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan following the transition to Afghan security lead in 2014, as well as by the implications of a political settlement with the Taliban and other armed opposition groups. | Read more
In the Field: The Kabul Office
USIP maintains a full-time presence in Afghanistan to help plan, implement, and oversee all USIP projects in Afghanistan.The Kabul Office staff is made up of Americans and Afghans who play an indispensable role in providing the latest on-the-ground information on Afghanistan and who support and administer all USIP programs in the country. | Read more
Publications & Tools
The following are highlights to USIP’s recent publications and tools on Afghanistan:
- Omar Samad, USIP Olive Branch Post on Credible and Legitimate Elections Are a Must, November 2012.
- Smith Scott, USIP Olive Branch Post on Afghan Elections: The Dating Game, November 2012.
- USIP Staff, USIP Olive Branch Post on A Step Toward Transparency in Afghanistan's Mining Sector, October 2012.
- Tim Luccaro, USIP Peace Brief on Providing Space for Positive Youth Engagement, September 2012.
- William Byrd, USIP Special Report on Lessons from Afghanistan’s History for the Current Transition and Beyond , September 2012.
- Frances Z. Brown, USIP Special Report on The U.S. Surge and Afghan Local Governance, September 2012.
USIP experts in Kabul and Washington are working diligently toward peace and stability by implementing projects aimed at:
- Informing United States, Afghan and international policy and practice;
- Strengthening governance and the rule of law;
- Building understanding of and capacity in conflict prevention, mitigation and resolution for Afghan individuals and institutions.
Afghanistan Senior Experts Program
USIP offers, through its Senior Experts in Residence Program, opportunities for scholars and experts on Afghanistan to conduct research and communicate their insights to academic and policy audiences as well as the general public in the U.S. and Afghanistan. Currently, USIP hosts the following experts:
Ambassador Omar Samad – Afghanistan Senior Expert
Prior to coming to USIP, Amb. Omar Samad served as the Afghan Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson (2001-4), and as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canada (2004-9) and France (2009-11). Amb. Samad’s research focuses on identifying the views of a cross-section of politically-engaged Afghans on key priority issues that are of current concern in the country and with international stakeholders. In addition to his research project, Amb. Samad has been an invited speaker and panelist at numerous conferences, been widely quoted in the media on Afghanistan-related issues, and written several policy-oriented articles.
Dr. William Byrd – Afghanistan Senior Expert
After a long and distinguished career at the World Bank, including as the World Bank’s first Country Representative in Afghanistan in 2002 following the defeat of the Taliban, Dr. William Byrd joined USIP as a Senior Afghanistan Expert in April 2012. His research as USIP focuses on economic aspects of Afghanistan’s ongoing transition (2011-2014). The objective is to bring insights on this area to the attention of the policymaking and analytical community working on Afghanistan, by engaging in real-time research, policy work, and advocacy on selected topics related to the economics of transition through timely, policy-oriented secondary research, briefing papers, short analytical pieces, and participating in USIP’s workshops and other similar events for substantive discussions of concrete policy issues.
Enhancing Women’s Access to Justice
Ensuring women’s access to justice and protecting their rights is central to building a lasting peace. The task is particularly daunting in Afghanistan, where the much-used informal dispute resolution mechanisms do not always respect women’s rights, and religious and cultural norms limit their role in public life. Afghanistan has formally acceded to the principal international treaties supporting women’s rights, and the Afghan Constitution affirms that that women and men are equal under the law. Yet weaknesses of the formal justice institutions undermine the government’s claim to be an equitable arbiter of justice. This has left women in many rural communities unprotected from traditionally conservative values and harmful practices. USIP is exploring practical and effective ways to protect the rights of women within the Afghan context (both formal and informal), and to empower advocates (both male and female) for women’s rights within an Afghan framework to positively influence practices and perceptions within their communities and country.
Promoting Legal Awareness through Youth Outreach Volunteers
In 2011, USIP staff began discussions with multiple, self-funded volunteer groups that were conducting community education campaigns throughout the eastern province of Nangarhar, including in unstable districts where government actors and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were unable to work. These campaigns focused on basic literacy and numeracy skills, as well as, Arabic, English and computer literacy. USIP’s discussions revealed, however, a fundamental lack of understanding of basic civics and citizens’ rights among the population. To fill this gap, it began to work with local government authorities, civil society organizations, and local academic institutions to create an accessible civics and rights awareness curriculum that youth volunteer groups could teach in their respective districts. The expectation is that an educated and well-informed populace can hold all parties to the conflict accountable for their actions within all the relevant legal frameworks (statutory, Islamic and customary), and begin to assure through this awareness that rights are respected. USIP’s Center for Media, Conflict and Peacebuilding is assisting with the project by training the volunteers on social media and radio production skills. The goal is to enable these groups to develop advocacy campaigns based upon self-identified interests around Rule of Law issues.
Supporting Analytical Work on Critical Development, Peace and Stability Issues
USIP uses its existing partnerships with Afghan civil society organizations, policy-research institutions and universities to conduct fieldwork, commission research papers, and host workshops and seminars. The activities include in-depth studies based both on primary and secondary data, on-the-ground surveys, key-informant interviews, and focus group discussions. The objective of this project is not simply to conduct research, but to insure that evidence-based policy research generates practical policy recommendations on key issues related to development, peace and stability. Dissemination activities will take place in Afghanistan as well as in the U.S. and other international locations. These activities building on existing USIP program strengths, which include a broad array of research and outreach efforts, as well as partnerships with Afghan research organization and civil society institutions.
Build Understanding of and Capacity in Conflict Prevention, Mitigation and Resolution for Afghan Individuals and Institutions
Enhancing the Role of Women in Peacebuilding
USIP’s Gender and Peacebuilding Center has brought together a community of practice that is examining the lessons learned from programs of support for women in Iraq and Afghanistan. Along with best practices derived from those programs, the objective is to strengthen the effectiveness of women’s programs. This working group consists of representatives of the U.S. government (USG), international NGOs, and the Allied embassies, along with key members of Congress and their staff and members of the U.S. Armed Forces. From these working group meetings, USIP’s Gender and Peacebuilding Center continues to glean best practices and lessons learned in Afghan and Iraqi women’s programming.
Priority Grant Competition: Civil Society Capacity Building for Peace, Dialogue, and the Rule of Law
Through its Priority Grant Competition, USIP is helping strengthen the capacity of local communities to analyze and resolve conflicts through peaceful means, integrating best practices in negotiation and mediation with traditional means of conflict resolution. USIP is working on a project with BBC Media Action on a 12-month radio series that will create a better understanding among rural audiences of the peaceful alternatives to the violent resolution of conflict. USIP is also working with Future Generations Afghanistan to create an Afghan-led network committed to amplifying successful community strategies for security, development and peace. In addition, USIP is working with Bond Street Theatre to train youth in conflict prevention and reconciliation through a series of workshops and collaborations with theatre and NGO partners.