This brief outlines key findings from the first phase of research on Afghan stakeholder views on the conflict. The author worked in Afghanistan for the World Bank and the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit from 2005-2010, and has researched governance and peace processes in Southeast Asia, Central America and Afghanistan.

Peace Brief: Afghan Perspectives on Achieving Durable Peace

Summary

  • Afghans across different groups see the United States as a key party to the conflict whose direct participation in a peace process is crucial to its success, and therefore question the effectiveness of U.S. emphasis on an “Afghan-led” reconciliation strategy.
  • The U.S. must engage directly in negotiating a settlement because of its control over the issue of withdrawal of NATO forces. The Taliban demand for full withdrawal prior to talks appears to be an opening position. A challenge will be linking a structure for drawdown to necessary steps by insurgents to allow a cessation of violence and prevent Afghanistan’s use for terrorism.
  • A settlement process will entail discussion of the composition and future of the Afghan National Security Forces, and the current “transition” strategy of a large army and expanding local defense initiatives will almost certainly need re-examining during such a process.
  • The conflict is not only a struggle for power and resources; it is also a legitimacy crisis stemming from a system of power and patronage that feeds conflict. From this perspective, a settlement should address the concentration of powers in the presidency through incremental reform to appointments, elections, or farther-reaching changes to the structure of government over time.
  • There is a tension between reform and using political appointments to accommodate power-sharing demands. A durable settlement will need to involve political and social agreements among Afghans taking into account the views of a range of stakeholders. To manage this tension, the intra-Afghan peace process should be oriented toward broad inclusion of non-combatants while balancing the secrecy required to make progress.

About this Brief

Hamish Nixon coordinates a joint project of the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), on durable peace in Afghanistan.

This brief outlines key findings from the first phase of research on Afghan stakeholder views on the conflict. The author worked in Afghanistan for the World Bank and the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit from 2005-2010, and has researched governance and peace processes in Southeast Asia, Central America and Afghanistan.

Related Publications

Scott Worden on Afghan Elections and the Peace Process

Scott Worden on Afghan Elections and the Peace Process

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

By: Scott Worden

A week and a half after Afghan presidential polls, the results remain unclear. But, we do know that turnout was historically low, largely due to dire security conditions. Meanwhile, with the peace process stalled, USIP’s Scott Worden says the upsurge in U.S. military operations against the Taliban is a “pressure tactic, not a victory strategy.”

Electoral Violence; Democracy & Governance; Peace Processes

Loya Jirgas and Political Crisis Management in Afghanistan: Drawing on the Bank of Tradition

Loya Jirgas and Political Crisis Management in Afghanistan: Drawing on the Bank of Tradition

Monday, September 30, 2019

Many times over the past century, Afghan political elites have utilized a loya jirga, or grand national assembly, when they have needed to demonstrate national consensus. Based on traditional village jirgas convened to resolve local disputes, loya jirgas have been used to debate and ratify constitutions, endorse the country's position and alliances in times of war, and discuss how and when to engage the Taliban in peace talks. In light of the growing political uncertainty in Afghanistan, this report examines the strengths and weaknesses of the loya jirga as an institution for resolving national crises.

Type: Special Report

Democracy & Governance

How to push Taliban for compromise? Ask the women doing it.

How to push Taliban for compromise? Ask the women doing it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

The halt in the U.S.-Taliban dialogue, plus Afghanistan’s September election, has forced a hiatus in formal peace efforts in the Afghan war—and that creates an opening to strengthen them. A year of preliminary talks has not yet laid a solid foundation for the broad political settlement that can end the bloodshed. While talks so far have mainly excluded Afghan women, youth and civil society, the sudden pause in formal peacemaking offers a chance to forge a more inclusive, and thus reliable, process. Even better, a little-noted encounter in Qatar between women and Taliban leaders signals that a broader process is doable.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

What to Watch for in Afghanistan’s Presidential Election

What to Watch for in Afghanistan’s Presidential Election

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

By: Scott Worden; Colin Cookman

After several delays, Afghans will finally head to the polls on Saturday to elect their next president. The election comes amid an indefinite stall in the year-long U.S.-Taliban negotiations following the cancellation of a high-level summit earlier in the month. There has been a debate over the sequencing of elections and the peace process for months, but the vote will move ahead this weekend. As with all post-2001 Afghan elections, security risks and the potential for fraud and abuse loom over these polls. USIP’s Scott Worden and Colin Cookman look at how insecurity will impact the legitimacy of the vote and what measures have been taken to combat electoral mismanagement and fraud.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Electoral Violence; Democracy & Governance

View All Publications