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.


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

After the Taliban’s Takeover: Pakistan’s TTP problem

After the Taliban’s Takeover: Pakistan’s TTP problem

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

By: Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.

In 2021, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) insurgency escalated its challenge against Pakistan. Operating from bases in Afghanistan, and with a growing presence inside Pakistan, the group mounted an increasing number of attacks against Pakistani security forces — as well as against some critical Chinese interests in Pakistan. The insurgency also showed renewed political strength by bringing in splintered factions and improving internal cohesion. Additionally, al-Qaeda signaled its continued alliance with the TTP. On Tuesday, after an attack by the TTP on the police in Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad, Pakistan’s Interior Minister warned that more attacks by the group are likely.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionViolent Extremism

Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Dispute Heats Up

Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Dispute Heats Up

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

By: Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.;  Ambassador Richard Olson;  Andrew Watkins

In at least two incidents in late December and early January, Afghan Taliban soldiers intervened to block an ongoing Pakistani project to erect fencing along the shared border between Afghanistan and Pakistan — the demarcation of which prior Afghan governments have never accepted. Despite attempts to resolve the issue diplomatically, and the Taliban’s dependence on Pakistan as a bridge to the international community, both sides remain at odds over the fence. USIP’s Richard Olson, Asfandyar Mir and Andrew Watkins assess the implications of this border dispute for Afghanistan and Pakistan’s bilateral relationship and the region at large.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

How to Mitigate Afghanistan’s Economic and Humanitarian Crises

How to Mitigate Afghanistan’s Economic and Humanitarian Crises

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

Afghanistan is teetering on the brink of a famine and economic collapse. Millions face the prospect of falling into poverty, starvation and even death. On December 22, the U.S. Treasury Department and United Nations Security Council provided sanctions relief for humanitarian assistance flowing to Afghanistan. USIP’s William Byrd says these actions are welcome but insufficient and discusses what more can be done to ensure the delivery of essential, life-saving aid to the Afghan people.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience

What Afghanistan Teaches Us About Evidence-Based Policy

What Afghanistan Teaches Us About Evidence-Based Policy

Thursday, December 2, 2021

By: Corinne Graff, Ph.D.

Even as the debate over the lessons learned by the U.S. government in Afghanistan continues, several clear conclusions have emerged. One is that U.S. agencies repeatedly underestimated the time and resources needed to support a nation wracked by decades of war, while they failed to follow a consistent plan for civilian recovery efforts. U.S. personnel also lacked the training needed to be successful in the field, and monitoring and evaluation efforts did not receive the policy attention required to enable course corrections and learning. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global PolicyFragility & Resilience

View All Publications