Sixteen years after the start of the international intervention in Afghanistan, the country remains beset by a debilitating array of conflicts, undermined political stability, an economic and security decline since the withdrawal of a majority of international forces, and a divided government since the 2014 elections. As the US government, its partners, and NATO consider a revised military strategy for Afghanistan, it is essential to recognize that politics has been, and remains, at the center of that conflict. With an eye to Afghan stability, peaceful and sustainable governance, and economic growth, this report examines the potential political roadmap for the country through 2020.

Summary

  • Sixteen years after the start of the international intervention in Afghanistan, the country remains beset by a debilitating array of conflicts, undermined political stability, an economic and security decline since the withdrawal of a majority of international forces, and a divided government since the 2014 elections.
  • Afghanistan needs to reform and restructure its political institutions if it is to have stability, peaceful and sustainable governance, and economic growth. Four approaches, in combination, may have the potential to put Afghanistan on a more stable and sustainable path while improving prospects for reconciliation.
  • Between now and the 2019 presidential elections, President Ghani and CEO Abdullah need to continue and improve progress in implementing the executive power-sharing approach of the National Unity Government concerning appointments, key policy initiatives, and the coming elections.
  • At the same time, Afghan leaders need to reform key aspects of the electoral system to facilitate negotiation and compromise across voting blocs and political parties to allocate power based on popular support.
  • The government in Kabul needs to follow through on commitments to decentral-ize administrative power and authority within the current constitutional system, through, for example, strengthening municipal and district-level governance, democratic processes, and accountability.
  • Long-term political stability requires agreement on reforms to balance power across regions and between the central government and the provinces within the political system.
  • A political settlement with the Taliban will require an even more difficult balance of power, which makes it especially important that reforms include accommodating new political actors.

About the Report

This Special Report examines Afghanistan’s potential political roadmap through 2020, from the operation of the current National Unity Government agreement to parliamentary, district, and presidential elections and proposals for constitutional amendment. As the US government, its partners, and NATO consider a revised military strategy, it is essential to recognize that politics has been, and remains, at the center of the Afghan conflict.

About the Authors

Alex Thier is the executive director of the Overseas Development Institute, the leading independent think tank of international development and humanitarian issues, based in London. Its mission is to inspire and inform policy and practice, which leads to the reduction of global poverty and the achievement of sustainable livelihoods in developing countries. He was previously in senior leadership at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), including as chief of Policy, Planning, and Learning and as assistant to the administrator for Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs. Scott Worden is director of Afghanistan and Central Asia Programs at the US Institute of Peace, prior to which he served as director of the Lessons Learned Program at the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and as acting director of policy and senior policy adviser for the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs at USAID.

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