On August 15, 2021, the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan nearly 20 years after the United States ousted its previous regime and the movement regrouped as a formidable insurgency. The Taliban’s military victory occurred amid the final stages of the withdrawal of U.S. and international forces. The Taliban quickly appointed an exclusive government comprised solely of its own leadership. Their rank and file began to enforce harsh social restrictions amid reports of abuses and reprisal killings. As the Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan economy collapsed after foreign aid withdrew along with international troops. The Taliban resisted Western conditions on human rights and inclusive governance, complicating diplomatic engagement and efforts to deliver desperately needed foreign aid.

Afghanistan

The United States’ attempts to sustain a formal peace process between the Taliban and the former Afghan government grew defunct when the insurgent movement marched on Kabul. But even after the collapse of the Islamic Republic and the re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate, peacebuilding efforts remain critical in Afghanistan.

The country has entered an unpredictable new phase in the decades-long, elusive effort to achieve peace and stability. The Taliban’s takeover ended the war associated with their insurgency, but the country’s underlying drivers of conflict remain unresolved. The Taliban’s nascent government has marginalized ethnic and political groups outside of its own core membership, excluded women from politics and increasingly from the public sphere, alienated the country’s largest foreign donors, committed war atrocities and continues to harbor international terrorist groups. Violent resistance has percolated across the country, with ousted former military leaders, ethnic militia commanders and extremist groups like the local branch of the Islamic State all keen to contest the Taliban’s authority.

Supporting an inclusive and sustainable peace in Afghanistan therefore remains a key priority of the USIP Afghanistan program. Our goal is to encourage efforts to help Afghans establish inclusive political structures that bring an end to over four decades of violent conflict, protect human rights and improve access to basic services. Achieving a stable peace also has clear national security benefits for the United States. Greater stability leads to fewer safe havens that terrorists can use to plan and organize attacks.

A sustainable peace will need to address at least five key categories of issues that have been heavily contested over the past decades of conflict: 

These factors are common keys to success or failure in other post-conflict and fragile states, and some comparative lessons can be drawn, but each has unique attributes in the Afghan context. USIP has conducted research in each of these issue areas, drawing on top subject matter experts and consultations with diverse Afghan and international stakeholders. The resources on each page are offered to Afghans and others with an interest in Afghanistan to help facilitate positive political and civic discourse and a peaceful future.

Related Publications

Can Blinken’s Letter Jump-start the Afghan Peace Process?

Can Blinken’s Letter Jump-start the Afghan Peace Process?

Thursday, March 11, 2021

By: Belquis Ahmadi;  Scott Smith;  Johnny Walsh;  Ambassador Richard Olson

With intra-Afghan talks gridlocked and the U.S. troop withdrawal deadline looming, Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed new plans to advance the peace process in a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The letter recommends several efforts to “move matters more fundamentally and quickly” toward peace, including a U.N.-convened conference of key regional actors, a senior-level meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban hosted by Turkey and a 90-day reduction in violence to head off the Taliban’s annual spring offensive. Blinken also recommended an interim power-sharing government composed of Taliban and other Afghan leaders.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Afghan Peace Talks: Could a Third-Party Mediator Help?

Afghan Peace Talks: Could a Third-Party Mediator Help?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

By: Scott Smith

At present, the Afghan peace negotiations (APN) between the Afghan government and the Taliban do not involve any third-party presence beyond hosting and supporting roles. The parties to the conflict and members of the international community might consider the benefits of a neutral, third-party mediator to help resolve the impasses that have dogged and delayed the negotiations so far. While the presence of a mediator does not guarantee success, there are very few examples of a significant peace agreement that has been reached without some sort of third-party facilitation or mediation.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace ProcessesMediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

How to Prevent Fresh Hostilities as Afghan Peace Talks Progress

How to Prevent Fresh Hostilities as Afghan Peace Talks Progress

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

By: Meghan L. O’Sullivan;  Vikram J. Singh;  Johnny Walsh

Many peace processes experience at least short-term reversions to violence. Even a successful Afghan peace process will be at risk of the same, especially in the likely event that the United States and its allies continue to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Ideally, such troop reductions would move in parallel with de-escalatory measures by the Taliban and other armed actors on the ground. A healthy dose of realism is in order, however. Though the Taliban and others in Afghanistan are unlikely to ever fully disarm or demobilize, persistent resources and attention from the United States and its allies can help prevent any regression to full-scale violence during the years of any peace agreement’s implementation.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

View All

Latest Publications

One Year Later, Taliban Unable to Reverse Afghanistan’s Economic Decline

One Year Later, Taliban Unable to Reverse Afghanistan’s Economic Decline

Monday, August 8, 2022

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

Afghanistan’s economy was already deteriorating before the Taliban takeover of the country on August 15, 2021, suffering from severe drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, declining confidence in the previous government, falling international military spending as U.S. and other foreign troops left, human and capital flight, and Taliban advances on the battlefield. Then came the abrupt cutoff of civilian and security aid (more than $8 billion per year, equivalent to 40% of Afghanistan’s GDP) immediately after the Taliban takeover. No country in the world could have absorbed such an enormous economic shock — exacerbated by sanctions, the freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves and foreign banks’ reluctance to do business with the country.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceEconomics

Philippines: Seizing the Opportunity Offered by the Bangsamoro Transition Extension

Philippines: Seizing the Opportunity Offered by the Bangsamoro Transition Extension

Friday, August 5, 2022

By: Mary Ann M. Arnado

On October 28, 2021, Rodrigo Duterte, then president of the Philippines, signed into law a three-year extension of the transition period of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The region’s first parliamentary elections are now scheduled for May 2025, alongside the national elections. In 2021, the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) actively campaigned for the extension of the transition period to provide more time for the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and the Philippine government to fully implement and deliver the commitments they made in the 2014 peace agreement between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The agreement grants greater political autonomy to the southern Mindanao region.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

How Should the U.S. Respond to China’s ‘Global Security Initiative?’

How Should the U.S. Respond to China’s ‘Global Security Initiative?’

Thursday, August 4, 2022

By: Carla Freeman, Ph.D.;  Alex Stephenson

After Russia invaded Ukraine, some hoped that China would use its “no limits” partnership with Moscow and multifaceted relationship with Kyiv to help prevent the conflict from escalating. The European Union’s foreign policy chief pointed to China as the obvious mediator and some among China’s policy elite also called publicly on their government to play a proactive role in helping to resolve the war. One prominent American intellectual urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to seize his “Teddy Roosevelt Moment,” referring to Roosevelt’s Nobel Peace Prize winning mediation of the 1905 Russia-Japan war. For its part, Beijing indicated it was prepared to help mediate but it would do so “in its own way.”

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

Diálogos de Seguridad Ciudadana en Colombia

Diálogos de Seguridad Ciudadana en Colombia

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

La firma del Acuerdo de Paz del 2016 entre el gobierno colombiano y las FARC-EP abrió nuevas ventanas de oportunidad para transformar paradigmas de seguridad que respondan mejor a las necesidades y prioridades de la ciudadanía. Sin embargo, la implementación equitativa del Acuerdo en zonas rurales del territorio sigue siendo un desafío.

Type: Fact Sheet

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

View All Publications