The Current Situation
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.
After more than a decade of intervention in Afghanistan, the insurgency (Taliban and other groups) remains resilient, the Afghan government weak, and the international community fatigued. Many analysts (and policy makers) have reached the conclusion that the war has reached a stalemate, and that Afghanistan’s future stability depends on a political reconciliation with the Taliban. After years of refusing to negotiate, the U.S. government in early 2011 began to openly pursue a negotiated solution.
While these talks have so far yielded few clear results, the international community and the Afghan government have continued to implement the transition plan agreed to in 2010, according to which Afghan security forces will be in the lead across the country by the end of 2014, allowing the gradual drawdown of the 140,000 international military forces from 40 countries fighting under an alliance led by NATO. The signing of a Special Partnership Agreement between Presidents Obama and Karzai in May 2012 provided reassurances to Afghans that the United States would not remove all of its troops, a development welcomed in Afghanistan across the political spectrum (though not, of course, by the Taliban).
The next major hurdle to be faced will be presidential elections in 2014. President Karzai is barred by the Constitution from running again, and the most recent Afghan elections in 2009 and 2010 revealed significant flaws in Afghanistan’s democratic institutions. Ensuring a credible election and an effective change of power in 2014 will be crucial for Afghanistan’s future stability, regardless of progress on reconciliation or on training of Afghan security forces.
USIP is actively addressing these issues through three interrelated objectives:
- 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.