When it is compared with other countries that have undergone transition, Afghanistan is revealed to be stronger than many on economic performance but weaker than the norm for governance and rule of law. If its strengths are supported and weak areas are targeted for improvement, the country will improve its prospects for a successful transition, say the authors of this new report.


  • Afghanistan faces its upcoming security and political transition with both strengths and weaknesses following uneven progress since the downfall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
  • Among Afghanistan’s strengths is its economic performance—including high growth, relatively low inflation, and solid public financial management—and the priority is to maintain progress in these areas and protect gains.
  • Among Afghanistan’s weaknesses is its recent performance in the areas of governance and rule of law, which has been poor and shows no signs of improvement. Political consolidation and stability are crucial for Afghanistan’s transition to succeed.
  • Health and education have been improving from very low levels in 2001, but Afghanistan will continue to play catch-up for quite some time to come.
  • Aid dependence in Afghanistan has been uniquely high, and large declines during transition will have significant consequences.
  • This paper draws its conclusions from systematic comparisons of Afghanistan’s experience with those of other countries that have emerged from conflict. The paper’s “event study” approach brings out patterns and possible lessons that can inform thinking, analysis, and policy for Afghanistan’s current transition and beyond, bearing in mind that any recommendations must be grounded thoroughly in the context of Afghanistan’s history and current situation.
  • The analysis in this paper can be taken forward by updating it as information for more years becomes available, including more variables, performing sensitivity analyses, and applying the comparative methodology to other countries undergoing transitions from conflict.


There is far too little cross-country learning going into strategic thinking, analysis, and institutional and policy work regarding countries attempting to transition out of conflict, and Afghanistan is no exception. This report, which relates closely to the U.S. Institute of Peace’s broader analytical work on the current transition in Afghanistan, is intended to help remedy that deficiency. It draws on analysis and findings presented in their entirety in “Afghanistan in Transition: Looking Beyond 2014-Quantitative and Indicator-Wise International Comparisons,” a background paper for the World Bank study Afghanistan in Transition: Looking beyond 2014 (coauthored by Richard Hogg, Claudia Nassif, Camilo Gomez Osorio, William Byrd, and Andrew Beath; Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2013). Comments on an earlier version of this report by Richard Hogg are gratefully acknowledged, as well as comments on the current version by Scott Smith and Andrew Wilder. The views, findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this report are entirely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Institute of Peace or the World Bank, its affiliated organizations, its executive directors, or the governments they represent.


William A. Byrd is a senior expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Gary Milante is a senior economist in the Operations Policy and Country Services Group, The World Bank. Kenneth Anye is an operations officer, also with the Operations Policy and Country Services Group, The World Bank.

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