When the Taliban took control of Kabul in August 2021, the quick collapse of the former government caught many by surprise — although the insurgent group had made significant gains across the country once it was clear that all U.S. troops would leave.
Afghanistan is now facing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The Afghan economy has no cash to pay salaries or buy food. Western aid has been suspended because the Taliban government includes designated terrorists. And millions of Afghans face acute malnutrition and starvation in the coming months. The Taliban lack capacity to manage these monumental challenges, but there is no clear alternative to their rule.
Afghanistan’s Crisis Requires a Coherent, Coordinated International Response
Over the past year, especially in recent months, the Taliban have made several missteps. The consequences are not a threat to their power in the short run but will damage their ability to govern as well as, potentially, their longer-term cohesion. Unfortunately, these missteps will harm the Afghan people much more, both directly and through their adverse impact on humanitarian aid.
U.N. Conference Highlights Global Unity but Limited Leverage Over the Taliban
Over a year and a half since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, not a single country has recognized its government. Yet, it has resulted in no change in Taliban behavior. The worst predictions of what Taliban rule could be like have come true, as the regime has implemented unprecedented restrictions on women amid a brutal humanitarian crisis. The situation is so bad that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres convened a special conference in Doha, Qatar this week — with no Taliban representation — to discuss Afghanistan’s international isolation. While there were no tangible outcomes — evidence of how limited the international community’s leverage really is — it did demonstrate remarkable consensus on the imperative to help the Afghan people.
Taking a Terrible Toll: The Taliban’s Education Ban
Last month, a year after the Taliban banned Afghan girls from receiving secondary education, another school year began in Afghanistan — the only country in the world where girls are prohibited from going to school beyond the primary level. Since the Taliban’s August 2021 takeover, the group has sought to marginalize women and girls and erase them from virtually every aspect of public life. After a March 2022 ban on high school education, the Taliban also barred women from attending university at the end of last year. In a series of interviews with USIP, Afghan mothers, female students, schoolteachers, and university lecturers spoke of the terrible toll the Taliban’s actions have taken on their mental health.
Youth Advisory Council
Built upon the belief that youth bring significant and unique insight to peacebuilding, the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) provides a mechanism through which USIP experts can benefit from youth perspectives and expertise. The YAC enables USIP staff to engage youth as partners, experts, and practioners while elevating youth voices and experience to the international level. The YAC contributes to USIP’s vision for an inclusive approach to peacebuilding. The Youth Advisory Council meets regularly to bring together youth thought leaders and peacebuilding experts committed to the Institute’s mission and activities.
Afghanistan Peace Efforts
Almost 20 years after the United States ousted the Taliban regime, the first direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government began in Doha, Qatar in September 2020. The Taliban, Afghan government, and international forces have fought to a deadly stalemate, with both battle deaths and civilian casualties near record highs in recent years.
Religious Women Negotiating on the Frontlines
In recent years, peace processes — such as the track 2 intra-Afghan negotiations — have shown that on both a moral and practical level, women’s inclusion is essential. Women’s involvement in peace processes increases their likelihood of success and longevity and can increase legitimacy. While more literature on women contributing to mediation and negotiation efforts is slowly being produced, little attention is currently being paid to the already existing work of women who employ their faith and mobilize religious resources for peacebuilding.