Andrew Watkins is a senior expert on Afghanistan for the U.S. Institute of Peace. 

Watkins has worked in and on Afghanistan in a number of roles; he joined USIP after serving as the senior analyst on Afghanistan for the International Crisis Group, where he researched and published in-depth reports and analytical commentary on the country’s conflict and efforts to initiate a peaceful settlement. He was previously an analyst of the country’s insurgent landscape for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, and studied the Taliban as an independent researcher. As an advisor to humanitarian organizations based across the country, he traveled widely and conducted extensive field research. He also served as a liaison with local security forces for several years.

Watkins' research focuses on insurgency in Afghanistan, regional engagement in the Afghanistan conflict, and challenges and opportunities for humanitarian access. He has written extensively on the phenomenon of cohesion and fragmentation within the Taliban. His commentary and analysis have been widely published by major media outlets and research institutes, and he is regularly cited by global press such as the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the BBC, the Economist, Associated Press, NPR, Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera and many others.

Watkins has a master’s from Harvard University and a bachelor’s from Columbia University.

Publications By Andrew

Moscow Concert Hall Attack Will Have Far-Reaching Impact

Moscow Concert Hall Attack Will Have Far-Reaching Impact

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

By: Mary Glantz, Ph.D.;  Gavin Helf, Ph.D.;  Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.;  Andrew Watkins

On Friday, terrorists attacked the Crocus City Hall outside Moscow leaving 140 people dead and 80 others critically wounded. Soon after, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. The terrorist group, which is headquartered in Iraq and Syria, has several branches, including in South and Central Asia. Press reports suggest the U.S. government believes the Afghanistan-based affiliate of the Islamic State, ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K), was behind the attack. The Biden administration has publicly noted that it had warned the Russian government of the terrorism threat in early March in line with the procedure of “Duty to Warn.”

Type: Question and Answer

Global Policy

What to Expect from the Doha Conference on Afghanistan

What to Expect from the Doha Conference on Afghanistan

Thursday, February 15, 2024

By: Kate Bateman;  Andrew Watkins

On February 18-19, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will convene a meeting on Afghanistan in Doha to discuss the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crises and the recent report on a way forward by U.N. Special Coordinator for Afghanistan Feridun Sinirlioğlu. Special envoys from U.N. member states and international organizations will attend; representatives from Afghan civil society, women’s groups and Taliban officials have also been invited. The conference is a critical, high-level opportunity for donors and the region to chart next steps on how to improve the situation in Afghanistan and engage with the Taliban regime.

Type: Question and Answer

Global Policy

What the Taliban’s Defensive Public Messaging Reveals

What the Taliban’s Defensive Public Messaging Reveals

Thursday, July 13, 2023

By: Andrew Watkins

In the nearly two years since the Taliban’s takeover, much of the Afghan population continues to struggle to meet basic daily needs amid a severe humanitarian crisis. The Taliban have imposed a raft of draconian restrictions on Afghan women and girls, effectively erasing them from public life. Yet, in a recent public address, the Taliban’s supreme leader, the emir Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, claimed his government has provided Afghan women with a “comfortable and prosperous life.”

Type: Analysis

Democracy & Governance

Five Takeaways from China’s Latest Diplomacy

Five Takeaways from China’s Latest Diplomacy

Thursday, May 18, 2023

By: Carla Freeman, Ph.D.;  Mary Glantz, Ph.D.;  Daniel Markey, Ph.D.;  Jason Tower;  Andrew Watkins

China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, has been on a whirlwind diplomatic tour in recent weeks, with high-profile meetings in Europe, Myanmar, Pakistan — where he also met with Taliban officials — and back home in Beijing with the U.S. ambassador to China. With U.S.-China relations as frosty as ever, Qin’s meeting with Ambassador Nicholas Burns signals that both sides want to manage better manage their differences. In Europe, Beijing is promoting its peace plan for Ukraine despite European concerns that Beijing is decidedly pro-Moscow. Meanwhile, amid crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myanmar, China is wielding its clout to advance its own interests in spite of the implications for long-term stability.

Type: Analysis

Global Policy

U.N. Conference Highlights Global Unity but Limited Leverage Over the Taliban

U.N. Conference Highlights Global Unity but Limited Leverage Over the Taliban

Thursday, May 4, 2023

By: Belquis Ahmadi;  Kate Bateman;  Andrew Watkins;  Scott Worden

Over a year and a half since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, not a single country has recognized its government. Yet, it has resulted in no change in Taliban behavior. The worst predictions of what Taliban rule could be like have come true, as the regime has implemented unprecedented restrictions on women amid a brutal humanitarian crisis. The situation is so bad that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres convened a special conference in Doha, Qatar this week — with no Taliban representation — to discuss Afghanistan’s international isolation. While there were no tangible outcomes — evidence of how limited the international community’s leverage really is — it did demonstrate remarkable consensus on the imperative to help the Afghan people.

Type: Analysis

GenderGlobal PolicyHuman Rights

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