Ethnic and religious minorities in Afghanistan have historically faced persecution and violence, which intensified at the hands of various armed groups over the last four decades. Even before the Taliban returned to power last summer, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Early Warning Project ranked Afghanistan as the second most at-risk country for a new onset of mass killing. The situation hasn’t improved under the new Taliban government. The Hazara, an ethnic and religious minority group, remain a primary target of attacks. And many in the Sikh community have fled in recent months due to threats and harassment. These recent attacks and threats toward ethnic groups and other at-risk civilians once again raise the specter of mass atrocities. 

To complicate matters, the country has plunged into a humanitarian crisis since the Taliban’s abrupt takeover of Kabul. And many of the same oppressive policies against women and girls that made the group international pariahs in the 1990s have been reintroduced.

Meanwhile, reports of crimes against humanity in Ukraine have brought significant international attention to prevention, protection and accountability efforts — as well as sparked debate over the lack of a similarly swift response to atrocities in Afghanistan and other conflict zones. U.S. policymakers and the international community now face the urgent challenge of assessing, monitoring and responding to the heightened risk for mass atrocities and protecting vulnerable civilian populations.

On June 3, USIP and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide held a discussion with distinguished experts and activists to assess the atrocity risks faced by Hazaras and other vulnerable groups in Afghanistan and the key perpetrators driving the rising threat. The discussion also considered how the risks for atrocities may evolve in the coming months, and what the United States and international community can do to prevent further violence against Afghan civilians.

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #AfghanistanUSIP.


Scott Worden, introductory remarks
Director, Afghanistan & Central Asia, U.S Institute of Peace

Rina Amiri, keynote remarks 
U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls and Human Rights

Farkhondeh Akbari
Postdoctoral Fellow, Gender, Peace and Security Centre, Monash University

Lauren Baillie
Senior Program Officer, Atrocity Prevention, U.S Institute of Peace 

Shukria Dellawar
Legislative and Policy Manager for the Prevention of Violent Conflict, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Naomi Kikoler, moderator 
Director, Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum 

Related Publications

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

Why Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan Still Matters

Why Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan Still Matters

Thursday, May 9, 2024

From wars in Ukraine and the Middle East to rising tensions in the South China Sea, there is no shortage of crises to occupy the time and attention of U.S. policymakers. But three years after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the threat of terrorism emanating from South Asia remains strong and policymakers need to be more vigilant. Indeed, at the end of March, an Afghanistan-based affiliate of ISIS launched a devastating attack outside of Moscow, killing over 140 people.

Type: Question and Answer

Global PolicyViolent Extremism

View All Publications