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.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has long been a cornerstone of Middle East stability, wielding significant political and strategic influence in the region. As a small country with a weak economy bordered by Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories, adroit diplomacy is one of its key national resources. Now, Jordan faces a fresh diplomatic challenge: the potential impact of President Trump’s plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its strategic interests and very future. In the months ahead, Jordan—a crucial partner to the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinians—faces a critical juncture in its relations with both the U.S. and Israel coupled with unprecedented internal challenges.
As the COVID pandemic complicates Afghanistan’s embryonic peace process, government-appointed negotiators urged the Taliban to begin talks without preconditions and stressed that a peace accord must make governments accountability to Afghan citizens. A day after the government announced the release of 71 more Taliban prisoners—a process central to starting talks—the head of the government negotiating team said direct discussions with the Taliban are important to accelerate releases. Analysts have voiced fear that deaths from COVID of prisoners held by the government and the Taliban could stall or scuttle the current peace efforts.
For nearly nine years, Libyans have lived through war and political turmoil. The country has become a place for regional heavyweights and aspiring major powers to advance self-interests, often at the expense of the Libyan people. International attention and the recent peace conference in Berlin have focused on the role of external actors who violate U.N. arms embargoes, funnel money to militants, and incite violence through propaganda.
After February’s landmark U.S.-Taliban framework agreement, Afghanistan is still trying to initiate the next steps of their peace process, including intra-Afghan talks and prisoner exchanges. The country’s regional neighbors will be critical to the success or failure of the proposed talks. And while most attention naturally goes to Pakistan, with some focus also given to Iran and China, U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad has made clear that India also has a vital role to play.
The COVID-19 crisis comes at a critical juncture for Afghanistan. The disputed 2019 presidential election has led to a stalemate between incumbent President Ghani and the chief executive of the last government, Abdullah Abdullah, both of whom claim the right to govern. At a time when the Afghan government should be focused on the best chance to bring peace in years, it’s distracted by a political crisis. Meanwhile, progress in the peace process has slowed since the U.S. and Taliban signed a deal in late February.
Diplomats, politicians and analysts have invoked a range of obstacles over the years to explain why Israelis and Palestinians can’t make peace: The time is not ripe; there is no partner; there isn’t enough pressure on one party or the other; one side is willing but unable to make concessions, the other is able but unwilling. Now, as the world focuses on the coronavirus pandemic and its economic repercussions, we can add another, more inclusive explanation: Israeli, Palestinian, and American leaders have all embraced self-delusion on the road to pyrrhic victory.
Helping Venezuela resolve its political crisis will be vital to containing the potentially catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic there. A truce in the country’s power struggle is urgent, and last week’s U.S. proposal for a transitional government offers useful ideas, even for a naturally skeptical governing regime. Advancing them would benefit from mediation, perhaps by the Vatican or the United Nations, and will require cooperation among the major powers—the United States, Russia and China—involved in the crisis. If Venezuelans and outsiders can join against the common human threat of coronavirus, that could lay foundations for an eventual political solution to the decade of turmoil that has brewed the hemisphere’s worst humanitarian disaster.
Nigerian leaders struggling to reduce violence in the country’s myriad conflicts should take some lessons—from their own response to the coronavirus. While Nigeria’s COVID-19 ordeal is still unfolding, its eventual casualties unknown, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and several governors have modeled the ways to reduce catastrophic outbreaks. The simple existence of a national prevention center with sustained resources has proven critical. Key officials have applied vital principles, acting at the first sign of danger and keeping the public widely informed. These are precisely the ways to confront Nigeria’s other national plague—of violence.
The Afghan peace process has been at a stalemate for weeks, as President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban remain far apart on the logistics of prisoner releases. Intra-Afghan talks that were tentatively scheduled for March 10 have not got off the ground. Meanwhile, the disputed presidential election has led to two rival camps claiming the legitimacy to govern. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s effort this week to bring the parties together failed and led the U.S. to reduce aid to Afghanistan. Amid all this uncertainty, Afghanistan is beginning to see the signs of a coronavirus outbreak, which could devastate the country given its poor health infrastructure and pollution problems. USIP’s Scott Smith explains how the coronavirus could further exacerbates an already complex situation.