Notably absent from the debate around peace in Afghanistan are the voices of those living in parts of the country that have borne the brunt of the fighting since 2001—particularly those living in areas under Taliban control or influence. This report provides insight into how Afghan men and women in Taliban-influenced areas view the prospects for peace, what requirements would have to be met for local Taliban fighters to lay down their arms, and how views on a political settlement and a future government differ between Taliban fighters and civilians.

Members of the Helmand Peace Convoy rest in Kabul after marching more than three hundred miles from Lashkar Gah to protest the war. (Photo by Massoud Hossaini/ AP/ Shutterstock)
Members of the Helmand Peace Convoy rest in Kabul after marching more than three hundred miles from Lashkar Gah to protest the war. (Massoud Hossaini/ AP/ Shutterstock)

Summary

  • For noncombatants living in areas of Afghanistan under Taliban control or influence, the greatest desire is for an end to violence. Although many Taliban fighters also are tired of the conflict, they express little desire to lay down arms until their goals are achieved.
  • Taliban members consistently articulated two objectives—withdrawal of US forces and establishment of a “truly” Islamic government. However, few had concrete ideas on how such a government would differ from the current Islamic republic beyond strict implementation of sharia.
  • Taliban members were broadly resistant to the idea of peace talks with the current Afghan government, which they view as un-Islamic and illegitimate, and objected to the idea of a power-sharing deal with the government.
  • Both noncombatants and Taliban members alike assume that under any peace deal, the Taliban would retain control in its strongholds and seek to consolidate power in currently contested areas.
  • The majority of women in Taliban-controlled areas, including those married or otherwise related to Taliban fighters, strongly objected to the Taliban’s restrictions on their lives, particularly on their movement and access to health care and education.
  • There was a strong sense that the legacy of the conflict must be addressed as part of any peace process. Justice was seen as a mix of punishment for the most egregious offenses and forgiveness. At the local level, a structured, legitimate process of acknowledgment, atonement, and forgiveness will need to be created.

About the Report

This paper examines perspectives on peace and reconciliation among people living in areas of Afghanistan where the Taliban have significant influence or control. Based on interviews with noncombatants, local Taliban members, and senior Taliban leadership, this study offers insights into their views on peace talks and the prospects for postwar reconciliation and justice. This research was funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and facilitated by the Conflict, Security and Development Research Group at King’s College London.

About the Author

Ashley Jackson is an associate researcher at the Conflict, Security and Development Research Group at King’s College London. Her work focuses on mediation with insurgencies, and she has published extensively on Afghanistan, where she served as a political affairs officer with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan and as head of policy for Oxfam.

Related Publications

Even After Withdrawal, U.S. Retains Leverage Over Taliban

Even After Withdrawal, U.S. Retains Leverage Over Taliban

Thursday, April 29, 2021

By: Karen Decker

President Biden’s announcement that U.S. troops would withdraw by September 11 has many Afghans and observers warning of a quick collapse of the Afghan state and a new phase in the country’s civil war. Without minimizing the challenges ahead, the United States should avoid any self-fulfilling prophecy of imminent collapse by insisting that the only future for Afghanistan is one that advances the gains of the past 20 years. As troops begin to depart, it is an opportune time to examine three forms of leverage the United States has to promote a political settlement.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Democracy Is the Afghan Government’s Best Defense Against the Taliban

Democracy Is the Afghan Government’s Best Defense Against the Taliban

Thursday, April 22, 2021

By: Scott Worden; Belquis Ahmadi

The Biden administration’s announcement last week that U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by September 11 came as a blow to the current peace talks and many Afghan citizens who appreciate the rights and freedoms that international forces have helped to defend against the Taliban. Still, President Biden made clear that the United States continues to support the Afghan government and democratic system, and, to that end, the administration has indicated it would request $300 million from Congress in additional civilian aid. But Biden explicitly de-linked U.S. troops from that equation — stating that they would not be “a bargaining chip between warring parties.”

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes; Gender; Democracy & Governance

U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan: End to an Endless War?

U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan: End to an Endless War?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

By: Scott Worden; Johnny Walsh; Belquis Ahmadi; Ambassador Richard Olson

President Joe Biden formally announced on Wednesday that the United States will withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaida attacks that led to the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban. The decision comes a month after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken looked to jump-start the moribund intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha, Qatar with a sweeping set of proposals. Although the withdrawal would mean an end to America’s longest war, the implications for Afghanistan’s hard-won progress are immense and many fear the possibility of a rejuvenated civil war after U.S. troops leave.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

Thursday, March 25, 2021

In February 2020 the U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement that paved the way for the first direct talks between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan republic since 2001. This nascent peace process has sparked hope for a political settlement to the four-decade-long conflict, although slow progress and increasing levels of violence threaten to derail the process before it gains momentum.

Type: Fact Sheet

View All Publications