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.

Related Publications

Afghans Want the Right Peace Deal, Not Just an End to Violence

Afghans Want the Right Peace Deal, Not Just an End to Violence

Monday, August 19, 2019

By: Belquis Ahmadi

Afghans are hopeful that a peace deal between the Taliban and the U.S. will bring them a step closer to the end of the country’s four decades of conflict. This protracted state of war has resulted in the loss of countless lives; mass displacement; and the destruction of infrastructure and the education and justice systems. Afghans will feel the consequences for generations to come.

Peace Processes

Afghanistan Still Has a Chance to Improve This Election

Afghanistan Still Has a Chance to Improve This Election

Monday, August 5, 2019

By: Chelsea Dreher; Ezatullah Waqar

As the United States, the Afghan government and the Taliban maneuver toward a peace process for the country, the strength of the current Afghan government and political system will be affected by the credibility, in Afghans’ eyes, of the presidential election set for September 28. Yet the credibility of Afghan elections is weakened by unresolved allegations of criminal fraud—especially against the nation’s former top election officials—in last year’s parliamentary balloting. With just 53 days remaining before the presidential vote, time is now short—but Afghan authorities still can take steps to improve the prospects for an election that citizens might see as credible and legitimate.

Democracy & Governance; Justice, Security & Rule of Law

Taliban Talks and Violence Loom Over Afghan Presidential Elections

Taliban Talks and Violence Loom Over Afghan Presidential Elections

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

By: Scott Worden; USIP Staff

Campaign season for Afghanistan’s twice-delayed presidential elections opened in grisly fashion on Sunday. An insurgent attack on the Kabul office of President Ashraf Ghani’s top running mate, Amrullah Saleh, killed more than 20 and wounded at least 50. As the attack demonstrates, security will be a top concern during the elections. But, the ongoing U.S.-Taliban talks and nascent intra-Afghan negotiations further complicate matters. And on top of all that, Afghanistan’s post-2001 elections have been characterized by deep challenges, many of which remain unaddressed with little time to fix. USIP’s Scott Worden surveys the scene two months ahead of the vote.

Democracy & Governance

View All Publications