Despite trillions of dollars invested in the Afghanistan war and reconstruction effort, the U.S. government failed to achieve an inclusive and durable political settlement to the conflict. Why were negotiations among the three main parties to the conflict — the United States, the Taliban and the Afghan government — ultimately unsuccessful? Why did the United States not prioritize a peace process until it was too late?
On October 25, USIP hosted a conference that brought together former senior officials and top experts to explore these critical questions and identify lessons to inform U.S. policy in the future. The conference featured two public panels that looked at why no meaningful intra-Afghan peace talks took place from 2001 to 2021, as well as the missed opportunities and missteps that derailed efforts to reach a political settlement to the conflict.
Drawing on U.S., Afghan, regional, civilian and military perspectives, these discussions explored how the various parties viewed their interests, incentives and leverage over time, and what key assumptions constrained these actors. The conference probed the extent to which the United States had a political strategy to guide its military strategy, the various parties’ goals and strategy during talks in Doha, and why Afghan government leaders failed to achieve a unified position in negotiations when the Afghan Republic had the most to lose from a failed peace process.
Given the enormous costs of the failure to achieve a political settlement and the dire conditions in Taliban-run Afghanistan today, the goal of these conversations was not only to advance our collective understanding of why the peace process failed but to inform future U.S. policy in Afghanistan and other conflict-affected countries.
Continue the conversation on Twitter using #AfghanistanUSIP.
Learning from Missed Opportunities and Mistakes by the U.S. Government
- Christopher Kolenda
Retired U.S. Army Colonel; Adjunct Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security
- Dipali Mukhopadhyay
Associate Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota; Senior Expert, U.S. Institute of Peace
- Tamanna Salikuddin
Director, South Asia Programs, U.S. Institute of Peace
- Kate Bateman, moderator
Senior Expert, Afghanistan, U.S. Institute of Peace
Afghan, Regional and International Perspectives on the Failed Peace Process
- Masoom Stanekzai
Former Chief Negotiator, Intelligence Chief, and Defense Minister, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
- Habiba Sarabi
Former Negotiator, Provincial Governor, and Minister of Women’s Affairs, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
- Steve J. Brooking
Former Special Advisor on Peace and Reconciliation, U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
- Kristian Berg Harpviken
Research Professor, Peace Research Institute Oslo
- Scott Worden, moderator
Director, Afghanistan and Central Asia, U.S. Institute of Peace