For the Taliban, it seems that defeating the Afghan military and overthrowing the elected government as U.S. troops departed was the easy part. Now, the insurgency faces the daunting challenge of governing a weak and divided country. Their failure to provide basic services like health, education and a functioning economy is already causing a growing humanitarian disaster — one that will only worsen as winter approaches. The politics of the takeover are daunting too: Rival factions within the Taliban are competing for influence in the new government while non-Pashtun ethnic groups, women and skilled officials from the former government are left out.

The consequences of a Taliban failure to govern are far reaching. Afghans could see mass starvation over the winter if economic conditions do not improve. Meanwhile, new terrorist safe havens are likely to emerge and the movement of refugees, terrorists and narcotics from Afghanistan will threaten regional security. 

With so much at stake, USIP held a discussion with Afghanistan experts on the current political, economic and human rights situation in Afghanistan. The conversation looked at how the Taliban are likely to respond to internal and external pressure to govern more inclusively as conditions inside Afghanistan worsen, as well as what the United States and the region can do to avoid the worst consequences of failed governance and mitigate a looming disaster. 

Take part in the conversation on Twitter with #AfghanistanUSIP.

Speakers

Andrew Wilder, welcoming remarks
Vice President, Asia Center, U.S. Institute of Peace

Stephen Brooking
Former Peace Process Special Advisor, U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

Naheed Farid 
Chairperson of House Standing Committee for Human Rights, Civil Society and Women Affairs

Lotfullah Najafizada
Director, TOLO News

Scott Worden, moderator
Director, Afghanistan and Central Asia Programs, U.S. Institute of Peace
 

Related Publications

As Taliban Poppy Ban Continues, Afghan Poverty Deepens

As Taliban Poppy Ban Continues, Afghan Poverty Deepens

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Afghanistan, historically the leading source of the world’s illegal opium, is on-track for an unprecedented second year of dramatically reduced poppy cultivation, reflecting the Taliban regime’s continuing prohibition against growing the raw material for opiates. The crackdown has won plaudits in international circles, but its full implications call for clear-eyed analysis and well considered responses by the U.S. and others. The ban has deepened the poverty of millions of rural Afghans who depended on the crop for their livelihoods, yet done nothing to diminish opiate exports, as wealthier landowners sell off inventories. The unfortunate reality is that any aid mobilized to offset harm from the ban will be grossly insufficient and ultimately wasted unless it fosters broad-based rural and agricultural development that benefits the most affected poorer households. 

Type: Analysis

Economics

Senior Study Group on Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Final Report

Senior Study Group on Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Final Report

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

When announcing the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in April 2021, President Joe Biden identified counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan as an enduring and critical US national security interest. This priority became even more pronounced after the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, the discovery of al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul less than a year later, and the increasing threat of the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISIS-K) from Afghanistan. However, owing to the escalating pressures of strategic competition with China and Russia, counterterrorism has significantly dropped in importance in the policy agenda.

Type: Report

Violent Extremism

View All Publications