Afghanistan is in a crucial phase of transition. In this report, USIP's first Afghanistan fellow Masoom Stanekzai, who has interviewed a broad spectrum of Afghan senior government officials, members of the international community, and ordinary citizens in the country, shares his recommendations for a pragmatic approach toward peace and reconciliation.

Special Report: Thwarting Afghanistan’s Insurgency: A Pragmatic Approach toward Peace and Reconciliation


  • Afghanistan is at a crucial stage of transition. The Taliban, with sanctuaries and a support base in the tribal areas, has grown stronger, relying on a wide network of foreign fighters and Pakistani extremists who operate freely across the Afghan-Pakistani border.
  • Present trends raise serious doubts about whether military solutions alone can defeat the insurgency and stem the expansion of terrorism. In short, reconciliation must also be a key element of comprehensive stabilization in Afghanistan.
  • A multitude of factors suggest that the time is ripe for a reconciliatory process.
  • The Taliban and the Hekmatyar Group will be key challenges to any reconciliation process as long as they enjoy sanctuaries and support outside of Afghanistan.
  • An examination of past attempts at reconciliation with the Taliban reveals that the process has lacked consistency. The Afghan government and its international partners have offered conflicting messages, and there has been no consensual policy framework through which to pursue reconciliation in a cohesive manner.
  • The goal of reconciliation in Afghanistan must be to achieve peace and long-term stability under the Afghan Constitution with full respect for the rule of law, social justice, and human rights. To successfully meet this goal, Afghanistan’s reconciliation program must be carefully targeted and guided by a clear set of principles.
  • A comprehensive and coordinated political reconciliation process must be started. At the same time, significant progress must be made on the security front and on the international (regional) front. Without security and stability or cooperation from Afghanistan’s neighbors, reconciliation will not occur.

About the Report

The analysis and conclusions drawn in this report are based on the author’s wide range of discussions with ordinary Afghans (men and women), senior government officials, and members of the international community working in or on Afghanistan. Over the course of years, the author has traveled to many places inside Afghanistan and participated in numerous meetings and conferences centered on peace, stability, and reconstruction.

A senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in 2007–2008, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai serves as an adviser to Afghan president Hamid Karzai and vice chair of the Disarmament and Reintegration Commission. He served as the minister of telecommunications in Afghanistan’s transitional government.

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