Notably absent from the debate around peace in Afghanistan are the voices of those living in parts of the country that have borne the brunt of the fighting since 2001—particularly those living in areas under Taliban control or influence. This report provides insight into how Afghan men and women in Taliban-influenced areas view the prospects for peace, what requirements would have to be met for local Taliban fighters to lay down their arms, and how views on a political settlement and a future government differ between Taliban fighters and civilians.

Members of the Helmand Peace Convoy rest in Kabul after marching more than three hundred miles from Lashkar Gah to protest the war. (Photo by Massoud Hossaini/ AP/ Shutterstock)
Members of the Helmand Peace Convoy rest in Kabul after marching more than three hundred miles from Lashkar Gah to protest the war. (Massoud Hossaini/ AP/ Shutterstock)

Summary

  • For noncombatants living in areas of Afghanistan under Taliban control or influence, the greatest desire is for an end to violence. Although many Taliban fighters also are tired of the conflict, they express little desire to lay down arms until their goals are achieved.
  • Taliban members consistently articulated two objectives—withdrawal of US forces and establishment of a “truly” Islamic government. However, few had concrete ideas on how such a government would differ from the current Islamic republic beyond strict implementation of sharia.
  • Taliban members were broadly resistant to the idea of peace talks with the current Afghan government, which they view as un-Islamic and illegitimate, and objected to the idea of a power-sharing deal with the government.
  • Both noncombatants and Taliban members alike assume that under any peace deal, the Taliban would retain control in its strongholds and seek to consolidate power in currently contested areas.
  • The majority of women in Taliban-controlled areas, including those married or otherwise related to Taliban fighters, strongly objected to the Taliban’s restrictions on their lives, particularly on their movement and access to health care and education.
  • There was a strong sense that the legacy of the conflict must be addressed as part of any peace process. Justice was seen as a mix of punishment for the most egregious offenses and forgiveness. At the local level, a structured, legitimate process of acknowledgment, atonement, and forgiveness will need to be created.

About the Report

This paper examines perspectives on peace and reconciliation among people living in areas of Afghanistan where the Taliban have significant influence or control. Based on interviews with noncombatants, local Taliban members, and senior Taliban leadership, this study offers insights into their views on peace talks and the prospects for postwar reconciliation and justice. This research was funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and facilitated by the Conflict, Security and Development Research Group at King’s College London.

About the Author

Ashley Jackson is an associate researcher at the Conflict, Security and Development Research Group at King’s College London. Her work focuses on mediation with insurgencies, and she has published extensively on Afghanistan, where she served as a political affairs officer with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan and as head of policy for Oxfam.

Related Publications

Rival Afghan Leaders Agree to Share Power—Now Comes the Hard Part

Rival Afghan Leaders Agree to Share Power—Now Comes the Hard Part

Thursday, May 21, 2020

By: Scott Worden; Johnny Walsh

Last weekend, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and rival Abdullah Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal to end a months-long dispute over the 2019 presidential election. The deal comes amid a spate of high-profile violence, including a recent attack on a Kabul maternity ward by suspected ISIS perpetrators. Meanwhile, the Afghan peace process has stalled since the U.S.-Taliban deal signed at the end of February. The power-sharing agreement could address one of the key challenges to getting that process back on track. USIP’s Scott Worden and Johnny Walsh look at what the agreement entails and what it means for the peace process.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Peace Processes

Scott Worden on the Afghan Power-Sharing Deal

Scott Worden on the Afghan Power-Sharing Deal

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

By: Scott Worden

A political deal to resolve the disputed 2019 presidential election was finally reached over the weekend. USIP’s Scott Worden says the agreement “is quite significant” because it will give the Afghan side “more political coherence to negotiate with the Taliban and, if implemented, it will show the Taliban they can’t divide Afghans.”

Type: Podcast

Democracy & Governance

Afghan Grassroots Activists Could Help Build a Lasting Peace

Afghan Grassroots Activists Could Help Build a Lasting Peace

Thursday, May 7, 2020

By: Ehsan Zia; Tabatha Thompson

Since the U.S.-Taliban deal was inked at the end of February, progress in the Afghan peace process has stalled due to disagreements over prisoner releases and complicated by an ongoing political dispute over last year’s presidential election. And now Afghanistan must confront a COVID-19 outbreak. But, the logjammed top-down peace process is only one piece of the puzzle to ending the country’s long-running conflict: there’s also the grassroots.

Type: Blog

Nonviolent Action; Peace Processes

Service Delivery in Taliban-Influenced Areas of Afghanistan

Service Delivery in Taliban-Influenced Areas of Afghanistan

Thursday, April 30, 2020

In 2018 and 2019, USIP partnered with the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), a Kabul-based research and policy organization, in an effort to understand how the Taliban provide education, health, and other services to people who live in areas where they are the dominant power. Based on a series of studies conducted by AAN in five districts across the country, the report also examines the Taliban's motivations as a governing entity and their implications for a potential peace settlement.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications