In this timely and thorough volume, Michael Semple analyzes the rationale and effectiveness post-2001 attempts at reconciliation in Afghanistan. He explains the poor performance of these attempts and argues that rethinking is necessary if reconciliation is to help revive prospects for peace and stability in Afghanistan. 

"As the Obama administration develops and implements its revised strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, a principle topic of debate is “reconciliation”—how to deal politically with Taliban and other insurgents who are not pursuing al-Qaeda’s global objectives in search of a political solution. Michael Semple brings to bear a wealth of practical experience on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has spoken in-depth with more insurgent commanders than virtually any international official, and his long service in the region has equipped him with the knowledge, language skills, and personal networks to analyze such contacts in depth. The result is the most detailed and knowledgeable road map to date for how to pursue dialogue and negotiation with Taliban and other Islamist guerrillas in the area that are today sheltering the leadership of al-Qaeda."
—Barnett R. Rubin, Director of Studies and Senior Fellow, Center on International Cooperation, New York University

 “This invaluable book offers a perspective on reconciliation that is available nowhere else in the literature on the subject. The author's comprehensive, balanced, and objective review of reconciliation initiatives and their effectiveness indicate a familiarity with his subject that is unmatched. Semple goes well beyond merely examining approaches to reconciliation, in providing the context necessary to understand why various strategies may have greater or lesser success.”
—Marvin Weinbaum, Middle East Institute

Following the collapse of the Taliban regime in December 2001, Afghan leaders met in Bonn, Germany, determined to restore governance to Afghanistan and to create a durable peace. Although the Bonn Accords called for the inclusion of estranged factions into the new political system, the Afghan government and its international partners lacked the strategic commitment to pursue reconciliation, sparking renewed insurgency in 2003.
 

In this timely and thorough volume, Michael Semple analyzes the rationale and effectiveness post-2001 attempts at reconciliation in Afghanistan. He explains the poor performance of these attempts and argues that rethinking is necessary if reconciliation is to help revive prospects for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Semple’s findings reveal that the key parties to the insurgency are Afghan political actors driven by objectives related to their roles and status inside Afghanistan. Further, the majority of senior Taliban figures who have reconciled have done so through a process best described as political sponsorship, in which they have secured acceptance into the present system through political or tribal links. Although official reconciliation programs have failed and formal institutions are widely considered to be inaccessible, corrupt, and unreliable, reconciliation is indeed possible in Afghanistan, particularly through informal networks and traditional Afghan reconciliation practices.

Semple contends that progress lies in an incremental peace, one in which identifiable networks hitherto estranged from the current political reality and engaged in insurgent violence reach an accommodation with the government that addresses their network-specific grievances and interests. He concludes with specific and numerous recommendations for the Government of Afghanistan as well as for the international community.

Michael Semple served as deputy to the European Union special representative to Afghanistan in 2004-2007.

 

Latest Publications

As Protests Continue in the Street, Iraq Reaches a Crossroads

As Protests Continue in the Street, Iraq Reaches a Crossroads

Friday, November 8, 2019

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been protesting in Baghdad and southern provinces against the failure of the Iraqi government and the political class in delivering basic services, providing jobs, fighting corruption, and more. Iraqi security forces and armed groups reportedly linked to Iran have used lethal force in response to the protests, leaving over 260 dead and over 10,000 injured. As the protests have progressed, demands have expanded to include calls for regime change, the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, early elections, pushing back against Iranian influence, and accountability for killing peaceful protesters.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Fragility & Resilience

A Month After U.S. Withdrawal, What is the State of Play in Syria?

A Month After U.S. Withdrawal, What is the State of Play in Syria?

Thursday, November 7, 2019

By: Mona Yacoubian

In the month since President Trump’s October 6 phone call with Turkish President Erdogan and the announced U.S. withdrawal from northeast Syria, the picture on the ground has changed immensely. Moscow has emerged as the key power broker in Syria. The Kurds, looking for protection from Turkish forces, are in Russian-brokered talks with the Assad government. These discussions could pave the way for an expanded Syrian government presence in the northeast for the first time in years. Successive agreements with Turkey negotiated first by the United States (October 17) and then by Russia (October 22) to halt Ankara’s fighting with the Kurds have been marred by violations.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

What Has the U.S. Got Against Peace Talks?

What Has the U.S. Got Against Peace Talks?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

By: Johnny Walsh

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Afghan peace process, closing off for the time being a rare opening to resolve a long, stagnant, and unpopular war. Whatever one thinks of the specifics of the deal that the U.S. representative at the talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, had nearly finalized with the Taliban, the episode was a perfect demonstration of the conflicted, often self-defeating view of peace agreements that mires U.S. foreign policy.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Peace Processes

Can Policy Catch up to the Golden Age of Terrorism Research?

Can Policy Catch up to the Golden Age of Terrorism Research?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

By: Leanne Erdberg ; Fouad Pervez

Meanwhile, researchers are increasingly understanding the dynamics that drive people to join terrorist groups—unpacking the numerous, complex reasons, and shining light on the local sociopolitical dynamics, something the media is covering more regularly. This new wave of research has a multiplicity of focus areas and employs rigorous methods to offer workable insights on violent extremism. It’s time for policy to catch up to the research.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism

View All Publications