This report, sponsored by the Center for Conflict Management at the U.S. Institute of Peace, draws on comparative research literature on peace processes to identify lessons applicable to Afghanistan and makes recommendations to the international community, the Afghan government, and Afghan civil society for ensuring a more comprehensive, successful, and sustainable peace process.

peaceworks

Summary

  • Current negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan fail to build on lessons learned from peace processes in other countries. Exclusion of key stakeholders, especially diverse sectors of civil society, and exclusion of key issues underlying the current conflict create a recipe for failure. In addition, the exclusive focus on either top-down negotiation between armed groups or bottom-up reintegration based on financial incentives is insufficient.
  • Half of all peace agreements fail in part because too few people support them. History shows a peace process is more likely to succeed if it includes a wide spectrum of armed and unarmed actors. Building a national consensus to transition from war to peace in Afghanistan requires participation by diverse stakeholders.
  • Current negotiations focus on a narrow agenda on conditions for the Taliban to lay down their arms and for the United States to leave Afghanistan. This agenda does not address significant root causes of the current conflict, such as government corruption and ethnic tensions.
  • A comprehensive Afghan peace process would orchestrate work in three areas: developing a politically negotiated settlement, increasing legitimacy for the Afghan government, and building a national public consensus on the future relations between diverse groups.
  • An Afghan peace process requires creating, coordinating, and sequencing a set of structured mechanisms, forums, and negotiation tables for participatory deliberation and decision making involving diverse stakeholders, regional countries, and all levels of Afghan society. A successful peace process combines high-level negotiation with “vertical” processes that link high-level negotiations with public dialogue processes in a way that is transparent, impartial, and inclusive.
  • A comprehensive peace process in Afghanistan requires a much more deliberate design than currently exists. The hope of a quick and tight negotiation process is as illusory as the fantasy that firepower will achieve victory for either side in Afghanistan.

About the Report

This report, sponsored by the Center for Conflict Management at the U.S. Institute of Peace, draws on comparative research literature on peace processes to identify lessons applicable to Afghanistan and makes recommendations to the international community, the Afghan government, and Afghan civil society for ensuring a more comprehensive, successful, and sustainable peace process. 
 
Research for this paper was undertaken during five trips to Kabul, Afghanistan, and one trip to Pakistan between 2009 and 2011. Funding for the research in the report came from the Ploughshares Fund and Afghanistan: Pathways to Peace, a project of Peacebuild: The Canadian Peacebuilding Network.

 

Related Publications

Central Asia Prepares for Taliban Takeover

Central Asia Prepares for Taliban Takeover

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.; Barmak Pazhwak

Last week’s conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan was originally supposed to focus on regional connectivity in South and Central Asia. But the Taliban’s surge in recent weeks consumed the regional conference and has many in the region wary of what’s next. As U.S. and NATO forces draw down their military presence in Afghanistan, the country’s northern neighbors have witnessed Taliban fighters swiftly overrun most of the rural parts of northern Afghanistan, establishing control over nearly all of the 1,500-mile border between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. By all indications, Central Asian states are preparing for a new reality in Afghanistan, one where the Taliban control most, if not all, of the country.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Policy

U.S., Pakistan at ‘Convergence’ on Afghanistan, Says Pakistani Envoy

U.S., Pakistan at ‘Convergence’ on Afghanistan, Says Pakistani Envoy

Thursday, July 8, 2021

By: Adam Gallagher

For the last two decades, U.S.-Pakistan relations have been defined by the war in Afghanistan and counterterrorism concerns. With the United States military withdrawal almost complete, the relationship should broaden to focus on other issues important to both countries and the broader South Asia region. The Afghan peace process, however, will continue to be an important component of U.S.-Pakistan relations, said Pakistan’s envoy to the United States on Wednesday. “Afghanistan, for some time, did become [a point of] contention in our relationship. But today, clearly, Afghanistan is a [point of] convergence between Pakistan and United States” as both want to see peace and stability, said Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Democracy in Afghanistan: Amid and Beyond Conflict

Democracy in Afghanistan: Amid and Beyond Conflict

Thursday, July 8, 2021

By: Anna Larson

Stable democracy may be an elusive prospect in Afghanistan, but that in itself is no reason to stop talking about it. Although many Afghans might well prioritize security from violence over elections in the short term, voting rights are still widely valued across Afghanistan. This report examines the country’s recent history with elections, democracy, and democratic institutions, and argues that because democracy has a past in Afghanistan, there is good reason to continue to support it.

Type: Special Report

Democracy & Governance

As U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan, Can Aid Help in Pursuing Peace?

As U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan, Can Aid Help in Pursuing Peace?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

By: William Byrd

As American troops leave Afghanistan, U.S. policymakers are trying to find other tools to advance peace between the Taliban and the Afghan government. One possible instrument is financial aid, which poured into Afghanistan during the 20-year international military presence in the country. There is, however, no guarantee that aid can help shape events. Certainly, a sudden cutoff of security and civilian support would trigger state collapse. Otherwise, though, expectations should be modest: Experience — in Afghanistan and elsewhere — shows aid has limited impacts, especially amid heavy fighting. The best course for now is to keep assistance at least at its current level, particularly for the Afghan budget, retain flexibility and keep funding available to facilitate moves toward peace and address humanitarian emergencies.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Peace Processes

View All Publications