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

Will a Prisoner Swap with the Taliban Push the Afghan Peace Process Forward?

Will a Prisoner Swap with the Taliban Push the Afghan Peace Process Forward?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

By: Scott Worden

It’s been over two months since President Trump announced a halt to U.S.-Taliban peace talks. In a move that could revive the moribund peace process, the Afghan government and Taliban completed a prisoner exchange that had been announced last week but then delayed. An American and Australian professor held by the Taliban were freed in return for three senior Taliban figures. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s September 28 presidential election remains undecided, further complicating peace efforts. USIP’s Scott Worden looks at what impact the prisoner exchange could have on the peace process, how regional actors have sought to fill the vacuum in the absence of the U.S.-led talks and the connection between negotiations and the election.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Insurgent Bureaucracy: How the Taliban Makes Policy

Insurgent Bureaucracy: How the Taliban Makes Policy

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

By: Ashley Jackson; Rahmatullah Amiri

The system of shadow Taliban governance and the experiences of civilians subject to it are well documented. The policies that guide this governance and the factors that contribute to them, however, are not. This report examines how the Taliban make and implement policy. Based on more than a hundred interviews and previously unreleased Taliban documents, this report offers rare insight into Taliban decision-making processes and the factors that influence them.

Type: Peaceworks

Global Policy

First Lady Rula Ghani on Afghan Women’s Consensus

First Lady Rula Ghani on Afghan Women’s Consensus

Friday, November 15, 2019

By: USIP Staff

As Afghans, the United States and the international community seek an end to the war in Afghanistan, the country’s first lady, Rula Ghani, says thousands of Afghan women nationwide have expressed a clear consensus on two points. They insist that the war needs to end, and that the peace to follow must continue to build opportunities for women. The single greatest step to advance Afghan women’s cause is education and training to build their professional capacities, Ghani told an audience at USIP.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

Scott Smith on What’s Next in the Afghan Peace Process

Scott Smith on What’s Next in the Afghan Peace Process

Thursday, November 14, 2019

By: Scott Smith

The Afghan government and Taliban announced an agreement on a prisoner exchange this week, but it remains unclear what comes next. With the presidential election still undecided, “The question is if this is the beginning of a new peace strategy on the part of President Ghani, will he be the president a few months from now to carry that strategy forward?” asks USIP’s Scott Smith.

Type: Podcast

Peace Processes

View All Publications