Since 2011, USIP has advocated that Afghanistan’s political transition, and the presidential election in particular, will be the most crucial factor in determining the country’s stability post-2014. USIP has conducted research, facilitated discussions, and raised awareness of this issue through publications, projects on the ground, events, and briefings for government officials on the importance of and need to support the political transition. Learn more on USIP’s Support for a Successful Afghan Political Transition.

First Impression of the Afghan Elections: Field Reports from Kabul, Analysis from Washington
April 9, 2014

Please join the U.S. Institute of Peace in one of the earliest opportunities for a public discussion with experts examining the first reports out of the April 5th elections in Afghanistan.

Q&A: Afghan Elections
Interview with Scott Smith
April 1, 2014

On April 5 Aghanistan will hold presidential and provincial council elections and they mark an important point in history for the country. USIP’s Scott Smith provides a background on the elections.

Afghanistan is Ready for 2014
Foreign Policy by Shahmahmood Miakhel
April 1, 2014

In a few days, Afghanistan will experience its first democratic transfer of power. Yet despite the historic nature of the 2014 presidential election, scheduled for April 5, voting day was the furthest thing from most Afghans' minds in late 2013. Though the Afghan parliament had passed several electoral laws in the fall of 2012 and current President Hamid Karzai had given numerous public assurances that he had no intention of delaying the vote or attempting to hold on to power, Afghans were, at worst, disbelieving and, at best, non-committal about the elections.

The Meaning of Afghanistan’s Elections: Part 2 The Surprises of Afghanistan’s Election Season
Olive Branch blog by Scott Smith
April 1, 2014

When we discuss elections in well-established democracies, the question is generally about who will win. For Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential and provincial balloting set for April 4, the question most people seem to be asking is: will the country survive this vote? In this continuation of a two-part series yesterday and today, USIP Director of Afghanistan and Central Asia Programs Scott Smith reflects on the long road toward this monumental transition and the scenarios that could emerge from the impending vote.

The Meaning of Afghanistan’s Elections: Part 1 Toward a Cliff of Uncertainty
Olive Branch blog by Scott Smith
March 31, 2014

When we discuss elections in well-established democracies, the question is generally about who will win. For Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential and provincial balloting set for April 5, the question most people seem to be asking is: will the country survive this vote? In a two-part series today and tomorrow, USIP Director of Afghanistan and Central Asia Programs Scott Smith reflects on the long road toward this monumental transition and the scenarios that could emerge from the impending vote.

Will Presidential Elections Bring Stability to Afghanistan?
Council on Foreign Relations, featuring Andrew Wilder
March 31, 2014

Afghanistan's upcoming presidential election is arguably the country's most significant political event since the Bonn Agreement established its post-Taliban order in December 2001. With President Hamid Karzai constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, a successful election would be Afghanistan's first peaceful and democratic transfer of executive power. It is also critical for the country's stability and economic viability.

Why Afghanistan's Provincial Council Elections Matter
Peace Brief by Noah Coburn and Anna Larson
March 26, 2014

With elections scheduled for April 5, Afghanistan’s Provincial Councils offer one of the best hopes for the future of local democracy in the country. The significance of Provincial Councils, including creating an opportunity for a new generation of young Afghans to begin political careers, has often been overlooked but has steadily increased.

Rappers and Roundtables: USIP’s Support for a Successful Afghan Election
Olive Branch blog by Emily Horin
March 26, 2014

Female Afghan rappers, a series of theater performances and a forum where more than 200 women challenged presidential candidates on their platforms have helped engage Afghanistan’s citizens in their country’s crucial electoral season this year as part of USIP’s Peaceful Elections Campaign.

Why the Afghan Election Might Succeed
Foreign Policy by Scott Smith & Hamid Arsalan
March 26, 2014

The White House's release of the readout from President Barack Obama's recent phone call with Afghan President Hamid Karzai signifies a shift in the U.S. approach to Karzai's government. While stressing the importance of holding a "fair, credible, timely and Afghan-led" election, President Obama made clear that the ball is in Karzai's court when it comes to signing the Bilateral Security Agreement or BSA, which would allow for a small U.S. military contingent to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to train and support Afghan forces.

Last Chance: The International Community and the 2014 Afghan Elections
Peace Brief by Scott Smith
March 14, 2014

Afghanistan's April 5 election could create space for political elites to address root causes of the country's continuing crisis, despite the past divergence between Afghan and international views on what elections can accomplish. With more realistic expectations, informed in part by a better understanding of the 2009 elections, the Afghans may be more determined to take this possibly final opportunity to rescue themselves from a political implosion.

Reintegrating Armed Groups in Afghanistan: Lessons from the Past
Peace Brief by Deedee Derksen
March 7, 2014

Four programs for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of armed groups in Afghanistan have been undertaken since 2001, but they have reflected a piecemeal approach and produced limited results. A comprehensive DDR effort in the future is unlikely to work unless a settlement includes all armed groups, and the reintegration of commanders and fighters might better precede disarmament. In this Peace Brief, author Deedee Derksen examines those past programs and provides useful lessons for how DDR should proceed in the future.

Getting Beyond 2014 in Afghanistan
Event February 28, 2014

The U.S. Institute of Peace, Voice of America, and Alliance in Support of the Afghan People hosted a two panel public event that examined the U.S.-Afghan relationship, both its history and its future potential. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador James Dobbins delivered the keynote address.

The event was discussed in the article, Election Prospects Give Afghanistan a Shot at Future Beyond 2014.

How will the Taliban Respond to Afghanistan's Elections?
Olive Branch blog post – Peace Brief Summary by Tom Omestad
February 18, 2014

As Afghanistan moves toward April 5 elections for president and provincial councils, key questions loom: Among them, just what will the Taliban do to disrupt or distort that nation's exercise in democratically selecting its leadership, and what might those efforts accomplish?

Afghan Women Challenge Presidential Candidates in Forum
Olive Branch blog post by Nicoletta Barbera
February 6, 2014

"It should not only be in words that we say women comprise 50 percent of the society," said Muhammad Yosuf Nooristani, chairman of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission. The country must "really give them the chance to participate." Nooristani made these comments at a USIP-sponsored national conference in Kabul this week that gathered more than 220 women leaders in civil society to discuss the upcoming presidential and provincial elections scheduled for April 5.

Afghan Women Can Wield Powerful Force at Ballot Box
Olive Branch blog post by Scott Smith
February 5, 2014

Scott Smith, USIP's director of Afghanistan and Central Asia programs, gave opening remarks to a two-day conference in Kabul this week, encouraging Afghan women to use the constructive force of their vote to help ensure a successful presidential and provincial election this year. The national dialogue was organized by the nongovernmental organization Equality for Peace and Democracy (EPD), with support from USIP.

The Taliban's View of the 2014 Elections
Peace Brief by Michael Semple
January 30, 2014

In this Peace Brief, author Michael Semple analyzes Taliban attitudes and intentions toward the 2014 elections and their ability to disrupt them based on the Taliban's public statements, recent actions, and interviews with past and present members.

Getting it Right in Afghanistan
January 16, 2014

The United States Institute of Peace hosted a panel discussion to launch its latest book, Getting it Right in Afghanistan, on what needs to be done in 2014 in Afghanistan. Panelists included Ghost Wars author Steve Coll, former Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad, and USIP's Moeed Yusuf. The panel discussion was preceded by an introduction by Andrew Wilder, and a brief presentation of the book by Scott Smith.

The event was discussed in the article, Narrow Window for 'Getting It Right’ in Afghanistan.

Youth Mobilization and Political Constraints in Afghanistan: The Y Factor
Special Report by Anna Larson and Noah Coburn
January 13, 2014

As Afghanistan's youth population grows, so do youth aspirations for political reform and access to economic resources. Yet old-guard leadership marginalizes new groups and challenges to the status quo. This study of youth in two districts and at Kabul University finds that increased political activism by youth is not translating to more effectiveness in reforming the patronage networks that dominate the Afghan political system. Youth organizations that appear apolitical, such as sports clubs, may be the forums where youth mobilize more effectively.

Afghan Activities on April Presidential Election: 'We Have to Go Forward'
Olive Branch blog post by Casey Garret Johnson and Sanaullah Tassal
December 30, 2013

The USIP-funded Salah Dialogues brought together civil society activists from throughout Afghanistan in November and December to develop community action plans aimed at ensuring peaceful, credible elections in April in which voters will select a successor to President Hamid Karzai. At the final conference in Kabul on Dec 9, USIP asked 12 participants what they considered the most fundamental factors for ensuring a successful election.

Getting it Right in Afghanistan
USIP Book by Moeed Yusuf, Scott Smith, and Colin Cookman, editors
December 2013

As the United States and NATO prepare to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan in 2014, the question remains as to what sort of political settlement the Afghanistan government and the Taliban can reach in order to achieve sustainable peace. If all parties are willing to strike a deal, how might the negotiations be structured, and what might the shape of that deal be? Getting It Right in Afghanistan addresses the real drivers of the insurgency and how Afghanistan's neighbors can contribute to peace in the region.

Electoral Offensive: Taliban Planning for Afghanistan's 2014 National Elections
Peace Brief by Antonio Giustozzi & Casey Garret Johnson
November 22, 2013

Based on more than 50 interviews with Taliban figures, the authors of this Peace Brief find that the Taliban have more resources and are better organized to disrupt Afghanistan's 2014 national elections than was the case in the country's last four elections.

2014 Presidential and Provincial Council Elections in Afghanistan
Special Report by Zekria Barakzai
October 30, 2013

Success of the upcoming elections in Afghanistan hinges on the independence and effectiveness of electoral institutions, wide voter participation, and a strong antifraud strategy. Recent changes in electoral law pave the way for a legitimate process, but much depends on how well Afghanistan's electoral commissions can carry out their roles.

Afghan Parliament Steps Up; Where is the Opposition?
Olive Branch blog post by Scott Smith
July 19, 2013

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's signing of a law on two pivotal electoral commissions this week was an important concession to parliament and removed a major obstacle to holding next year's presidential election on time.

Conundrum on Afghanistan: Karzai Has Little to Gain by Going Back to Doha
Olive Branch blog post by Scott Smith
July 1, 2013

The visit to Kabul of British Prime Minister David Cameron over the weekend provided an opportunity to again raise the issue of the stalled peace talks with the Taliban in Doha. Karzai did not provide clarity on when or whether he would rejoin the talks.

Afghanistan: The Next Generation
June 28, 2013

A new generation is emerging in Afghanistan that is more educated, more connected with the world, and more hopeful about the future than previous generations. The U.S. Institute of Peace hosted a public event on the opportunities and challenges youth face today, and their perspectives on the country's future.

The event was discussed further in the Olive Branch blog, Afghanistan’s Next Generation Mobilizes.

Prospects for Afghanistan's 2014 Elections
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Committee Hearing Meeting testimony by Andrew Wilder
May 21, 2013

Afghan Elections: One Year to Go
April 5, 2013

April 5 marks the start of the one-year countdown to Afghanistan's presidential election. This will be the first post-9/11 election in which President Hamid Karzai is not on the presidential ballot. A panel of experts joined USIP to discuss the critically important technical and political issues that need to be addressed during the next 365 days in order for the elections to produce a credible and legitimate outcome.

Afghan Women's Voices Urgently Needed for Country's Transition, Activists Say
Olive Branch blog post by Viola Gienger
March 18, 2013

To the backdrop of stunning photographs illustrating the achievements and remaining hurdles for women in Afghanistan, a USIP expert and the recipient of a U.S. award for courage joined other advocates in an urgent call for more Afghan women to be consulted in major decisions of the transition.

Justifying the Means: Afghan Perceptions of Electoral Processes
Special Report by Noah Coburn and Anna Larson
February 27, 2013

Despite problems with past elections, upcoming elections in Afghanistan can facilitate its political transition, conclude the authors of a new study of Afghan public opinion. But to be helpful, the 2014 elections must include participation of as many key leaders and groups as possible, be tied to broader processes of political change, and symbolize a break with the pre-2001 past.

Perceptions of Politically Engaged, Influential Afghans on the Way Forward
Special Report by Omar Samad
February 27, 2013

A survey of influential Afghan citizens finds most believe that continued international engagement and a transparent 2014 election process are critical to their country's stability. Most want to end the two-decade war through a negotiated political process that includes reconciliation with the Taliban, though they are divided on how much to give in exchange for a peaceful settlement.

Afghans Need Elections They Can Trust, Says Afghan Parliamentarian
Olive Branch blog post by Viola Gienger
February 20, 2013

"Trustable" presidential elections will be the linchpin for Afghanistan's transition in the next two years, according to Fawzia Koofi, a member of Parliament and chairman of women's affairs in the chamber. She told a USIP audience that Afghans feel burned by the lingering questions about the legitimacy of the last presidential elections in 2009.

Political and Economic Transition Challenges in Afghanistan
January 25, 2013

In the aftermath of the summit meeting between presidents Obama and Karzai on January 11th, many questions still remain regarding the upcoming security, political and economic transitions in Afghanistan, and the impact these various transitions will have on future peace and stability in Afghanistan. On January 25th, USIP hosted a two-panel event with leading experts on Afghanistan and Pakistan to discuss some of the major challenges and opportunities for peace and political stability in Afghanistan.

What Kabul Elites, Washington Officials Are Looking for in Meeting of Presidents Karzai, Obama
Olive Branch blog post by Viola Gienger
January 10, 2013

With the unseasonably warm weather in Washington this week, you'd think the tulips were out, considering how officialdom is tiptoeing around the subject of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to confer with President Barack Obama on Jan. 11. Such meetings have been tension-filled before. This one is particularly critical because decisions about future relations between the two countries are still "very much in flux," Andrew Wilder, USIP's director of Afghanistan and Pakistan programs, told National Public Radio. The visit also is being watched closely in Kabul, where Wilder learned on a recent visit that Afghan elites are anxious about the outcome of the meeting.

New Year's Likely Push on Plans for Afghanistan Prompts Historical Parallels
Olive Branch blog post by Viola Gienger
January 10, 2013

The New Year may bring renewed attention in Washington to the Afghanistan drawdown, especially with the scheduled visit of President Hamid Karzai next week. Most U.S. and other NATO troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and the country's future stability may rest on negotiations in and around both capitals over how many forces to leave behind and how to support Afghanistan's transition. USIP has been stressing that the political transition is as important as the military shifts.

Elections, Reconciliation, and the Final Two Years of Afghanistan's Transition: Perspectives from the International Community
December 11, 2012

The main elements of the political transition in Afghanistan are the 2014 presidential elections and the attempt to forge a political reconciliation with the Taliban. These issues are interrelated. Some say that there can be no effective elections unless a reconciliation process can first ensure adequate security conditions. Others say that reconciliation is impossible until there is a newly elected government in Kabul. USIP hosted experts from across the international community for two panel discussions examining the uncertainties and complexities of the Afghan election and reconciliation processes.

Complex Afghan Political Consultations
Olive Branch blog post by Omar Samad
December 4, 2012

Hamid Karzai took an unprecedented step last week when he hosted several factional leaders and representatives of most of Afghanistan's loyal political opposition groupings at the presidential palace for a three hour-long Afghan style heart-to-heart. All sides left the luncheon feeling cautiously optimistic that the country's political elites – minus the armed opposition – can transcend real and imaginary hostility, and push for a fair and credible electoral process that would pave the way for a peaceful and legitimate transfer of power in 2014.

Peacebuilding Efforts of Women from Afghanistan and Iraq: Lessons in Transition
Special Report by Kathleen Kuehnast, Manal Omar, Steven E. Steiner, and Hodei Sultan
November 16, 2012

Afghan and Iraqi women leaders met earlier this year to discuss how women in North African transition countries can play a role in reshaping their societies. Based on their own experiences with transition, these leaders offered advice on what to do and what pitfalls to avoid.

Credible and Legitimate Elections Are a Must
Olive Branch blog post by Omar Samad
November 1, 2012

By announcing April 5, 2014, as the official date to hold the much-anticipated Afghan presidential elections, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) set in motion the critical process of political transfer of power from Hamid Karzai to the next elected president. However, this announcement comes at a time when the country is rife with Taliban–infested violence, is in doubt about the future of reconciliation overtures, is anxious about the end-of-NATO-mission in 2014 and is uncertain about several key transitions - all happening within a short time-frame.

Afghan Elections: The Dating game
Olive Branch blog post by Scott Smith
November 1, 2012

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission has announced April 5 as the date in which the 2014 presidential election will take place. My colleague Omar Samad has a good analysis of what this means for the future. At the same time, one might ask why this essentially bland bureaucratic announcement has been met with so much attention. One might also ask why the Commission needed to announce an electoral date a year and a half before the election. Part of the answer lies in the significant mistrust between Afghan opposition figures and President Karzai, which dates to past controversies about the election date.

USIP President on the Afghan Election
Olive Branch blog by Jim Marshall
October 2, 2012

In The New York Times, USIP President Jim Marshall outlines the strategic importance of ensuring a legitimate election in Afghanistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's great opportunity to strengthen his country's democracy.

Lessons from Afghanistan's History for the Current Transition and Beyond
Special Report by William Byrd
September 12, 2012

Contrary to some views, Afghanistan has been and can be governed effectively and be politically stable. But history indicates that overly ambitious and rushed modernization efforts are likely to face sharp domestic reactions that can set development back, sometimes for decades.

Providing Space for Positive Youth Engagement
Peace Brief by Tim Luccarro
September 17, 2012

Tim Luccaro, USIP's program officer in Kabul, discusses USIP's work with Afghan youth volunteers to build greater community awareness of civic and legal rights, highlighting the need for greater recognition of Afghan youth's role and participation in political and peace processes in Afghanistan.

Learning from Women's Success in the 2010 Afghan Elections
Special Report by Scott Word and Nina Sudhakar
June 18, 2012

This report, sponsored by the Center for Gender and Peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace, is based on data culled from the 2010 parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. Using these numbers, the authors assess how female candidates and voters fared in the last election and provide recommendations for improving women's participation in future Afghan elections.

Mulling for President?
Olive Branch blog by Scott Smith
June 15, 2012

Recent reports that Abdul Qayum Karzai, a brother of President Karzai, was planning to run for president in 2014 have caused a stir.Analysts of Afghanistan have been waiting in suspense to see whether President Karzai would select someone from his family to succeed him. A closer reading of how this story came about suggests that Karzai has probably not made a decision. The announcement is at best a trial balloon, and Karzai may not have been involved in it at all. But it may be a harbinger of the kinds of politics we'll be seeing unfold in Afghanistan.

Taking the Next Steps in Afghanistan
Olive Branch
May 8, 2012

The signing of the strategic partnership agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan May 1 clarifies some essential questions on the security transition between the two countries in 2014. But with a presidential election expected the same year, the signing of the agreement points up the critical need to begin planning for the political transition as well.

Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan
April 10, 2012

On April 10, USIP hosted a conversation on "Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan," moderated by former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, currently senior adviser for International Affairs at USIP. Key individuals involved in the peace process and independent experts on Afghanistan discussed opportunities and obstacles to peace, what a credible election and an inclusive peace process would look like, and the policy priorities required to increase the prospects for durable peace in Afghanistan.

Myths and Misconceptions in the Afghan Transition
Peace Brief by Shahmahmood Miakhel and Noah Coburn
April 9, 2012

This report is based upon observations by the two authors, field visits to the south, east, southeast, west and center of the country, discussions with government officials, local leaders and members of the international community.

Beyond Power-sharing: Institutional Options for an Afghan Peace Process
Peace Works by Hamish Nixon and Caroline Hartzell
December 9, 2011

Much of the debate about a peace settlement with insurgents in Afghanistan focuses only on political or territorial power sharing. But a successful peace process will require a broader array of measures that allow conflicting parties to share influence and balance that influence with more roles for noncombatants, civilian political actors, and vulnerable groups.

Designing an Afghan Peace Process in Comparative Perspective
November 29, 2011

On November 29, the authors of two recent USIP Peaceworks on the Afghan peace process shared their report findings on the challenges presented by the Afghan conflict, and lessons for overcoming them and achieving durable peace gleaned from comparative international experience.

Can Less be More in Afghanistan? State-building Lessons from the Past to Guide the Future
November 17, 2011

How did the state-building project in Afghanistan, once at the forefront of international engagement in the country, lose focus and support? As the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan marks 10 years, USIP hosted a discussion on this question with political and development experts.

Constitutional Interpretation and the Continuing Crisis in Afghanistan
Peace Brief by Scott Worden and Sylvanna Q. Sinha
November 9, 2011

This Peace Brief reports on controversies surrounding interpretation of the 2004 Afghanistan Constitution, which have created a crisis of confidence in the rule of law that the authors argue must be resolved for national reconciliation to occur.

Designing a Comprehensive Peace Process for Afghanistan
Peace Works by Lisa Schirch
September 19, 2011

This report draws on comparative research literature on peace processes to identify lessons applicable to Afghanistan and makes recommendations to the international community, the Afghan government, and Afghan civil society for ensuring a more comprehensive, successful, and sustainable peace process.

Impact or Illusion? Reintegration under the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program
Peace Brief by Deedee Derksen
September 28, 2011

The Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) aims to reintegrate insurgents in return for security, jobs and other incentives, but has seen limited results.

Political Transition in Afghanistan
April 14, 2011

On April 14, 2011, USIP hosted Dr. Abdullah Abdullah for a discussion on the security and political transitions in Afghanistan.

Making Peace in Afghanistan
Special Report by Minna Jarvenpaa
February 9, 2011

This report draws on a series of workshops entitled "Anticipating a Political Process in Afghanistan: How Should the International Community Respond?" These workshops brought together some thirty analysts, both Afghans and foreigners, who have spent many years in Kabul, Kandahar, and other parts of Afghanistan. Participants considered a range of possible scenarios for Afghanistan over the next five years and the drivers of events in Afghanistan, then developed scenarios based on a five-year perspective and constructed along two main axes: the degree of political inclusion and the degree of state capacity and control.

Catching or Committing Fraud? Analyzing Afghanistan's Parliamentary Elections Results
November 15, 2010

Nearly two months since the Afghan Parliamentary elections in September, the final election results have yet to be certified. USIP hosted a discussion of the unfolding election controversy, and what it means for the future legitimacy of the Afghan Parliament and the electoral process.

Transparency is the Key to Legitimate Afghan Parliamentary Elections
Peace Brief by Scott Worden
October 18, 2010

Scott Worden is a senior  rule of law adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace and observed the 2010 elections from Kabul, Afghanistan  as a senior expert with the National Democratic Institute's observation mission. Worden was one of three U.N.-appointed commissioners on the 2009 Electoral Complaints Commission in Afghanistan.

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