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)


  • 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

Afghan Peace Process Tests Women Activists

Afghan Peace Process Tests Women Activists

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

By: Belquis Ahmadi; Matthew Parkes

More than a month after Afghan peace talks formally began, the effort to end the war in Afghanistan is stalled, and no one faces higher stakes than Afghan women. The attempt at negotiations has snagged on preliminary issues, the Taliban have escalated their attacks, and all sides are watching the evolution of the U.S. military role in the country. Afghan women’s rights advocates say the moment, and the need for international support, is critical. U.S. officials have noted how U.S assistance can be vital in supporting women’s rights, a principle that can be advanced at a global donors’ conference next month.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

Four Lessons for Security Sector Reform in Afghanistan

Four Lessons for Security Sector Reform in Afghanistan

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

By: Jason Criss Howk; Andrew Hyde; Annie Pforzheimer

As Afghan peace talks in Doha move forward, a vital component to the success of any peace deal will be how Afghanistan’s security sector can reform to sustain peace after more than 40 years of violence, and how the international community can best assist. This effort would benefit from recalling the lessons of another time when there was need for a comprehensive reconsideration of Afghanistan’s security sector: the two years immediately following the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban regime. Despite the many important changes, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have undergone and a dramatically different context, key lessons from 2002-03 remain relevant to guide thinking ahead of and after a peace agreement.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

What do Afghans think about peace? Just ask their artists.

What do Afghans think about peace? Just ask their artists.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

By: Johnny Walsh

Historic peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government began in early September, opening a window for peace after four decades of conflict. Afghans, overwhelmingly weary of war and craving an end to violence, are watching closely. This urge for peace is the most important force motivating the talks, and Afghanistan’s burgeoning community of artists articulate it especially powerfully.

Type: Blog

Peace Processes

Afghanistan Donor Conference 2020: Pitfalls and Possibilities

Afghanistan Donor Conference 2020: Pitfalls and Possibilities

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

By: William Byrd

When Afghan officials and international donors meet next month to consider future aid commitments to Afghanistan, they will face a changed situation from their last gathering four years ago. Then, the focus was on tying financial assistance to government reform in the midst of ongoing war with the Taliban; peace was barely on the agenda. Now, peace talks between the Taliban and the government have begun, and a new Afghan administration is still taking shape with an agreement that resolved the disputed 2019 presidential election. Meanwhile, fighting and casualties remain at unsustainable levels and the country is reckoning with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

View All Publications