The halt to U.S. peace talks with the Taliban, announced September 7 by President Trump, should be used as a starting point for new negotiations, according to U.S. and Afghan specialists. The United States and Afghans have a chance to shape a new phase of talks to maximize the possibilities for a peace accord that Afghans can accept, the experts said at USIP. Some urged resuming talks as quickly as possible. Others argued for focusing first on unifying non-Taliban Afghans following the planned September 28 elections, and on exploiting war fatigue among the Taliban.
While the negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban were recently thrown-off course, a peace agreement among Afghans remains an urgent priority. The U.S.-led negotiations over a phased drawdown of U.S. troops in exchange for a Taliban commitment to eschew terrorism and engage in intra-Afghan negotiations took nearly a year. Yet these talks excluded the Afghan government and other political elites and didn’t address the fundamental question of what it will take for Afghans to put a sustainable end to four decades of war: how will power be shared?
As the United States has pursued peace talks with the Taliban, international discussions continue on the economic aid that will be vital to stabilizing Afghanistan under any peace deal. Yet the Afghan government has been mostly absent from this dialogue, an exclusion exemplified this week by a meeting of the country’s main donors to strategize on aid—with Afghan officials left out. The government’s marginalization, in large part self-inflicted, is a danger to the stabilization and development of Afghanistan. In the interests of Afghans, stability in the region and U.S. hopes for a sustainable peace, this rift in the dialogue on aid needs to be repaired.
Most negotiated peace settlements since the 1990s have featured some aspect of power sharing, including those in Northern Ireland, Burundi, Bosnia, and Nepal. However, by freezing a sometimes unstable status quo, power sharing can create challenges to maintaining peace over the longer term as issues arise that rekindle enmity or create new suspicions among the parties. This report argues that power-sharing arrangements can be made more durable by providing robust forums, either permanent or ad hoc, that allow parties to resolve differences as they arise and to reaffirm their commitment to peace.
Eighteen years after 9/11, USIP President and CEO Nancy Lindborg reflects on the continued spread of violent extremism and points to the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States as a blueprint for a new, preventive approach, saying, “I think we’ve all realized this is not a problem we can bomb our way out of.”
President Trump’s weekend announcement of a halt to U.S. peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban—including a previously unannounced U.S. plan for a Camp David meeting to conclude that process—leaves the future of the Afghanistan peace process unclear. USIP’s Andrew Wilder, a longtime Afghanistan analyst, argues that, rather than declaring an end to the peace process, U.S. negotiators could use the setback as a moment to clarify the strategy, and then urgently get the peace process back on track before too much momentum is lost.
Images of this year’s grassroots movements for social and political change—such as the ouster of authoritarian rulers in Sudan and Algeria—reiterate that women worldwide are driving campaigns that can strengthen democracy and reduce violent conflicts. Yet 20 years after the United Nations proclaimed the need for women at the center of the world’s peacebuilding and stabilization efforts, they remain marginalized in those official processes. So when USIP and a program at the University of Denver organized a training initiative this summer for 14 women leading civic movements for social change, a message glared from the mountain of nominations received from experts and groups working on the world’s violent crises.
Iraqi leaders are concerned that efforts to improve governance and build durable institutions are being overwhelmed by rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran and the potential of a proxy war in the country. “This pressure has definitely undermined the Iraqi government,” says USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed.
Elections that are organized amid a peace process can either destabilize or pacify a conflict. The vote can put significant pressure on a peace accord, as Colombia is experiencing today, or it can integrate formerly warring parties into the political process, as in Nepal’s 2008 Constituent Assembly elections. The timing of elections in relation to peace processes, as well as the inclusivity of the process itself, are critical in determining whether peace or conflict prevails at the polls.
In April 2019, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive to capture Tripoli from the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord seated there. Four months later, the result has been a virtual stalemate that has claimed over 1,000 lives. And while fighting on the ground is at a standstill, multiple regional actors continue providing air support and direct aid to either side. USIP’s Thomas Hill breaks down the current situation in Libya and the possibility for peace amid this deadly standoff.