The departure of international combat troops in 2014 left Afghanistan with a struggling economy and a fragile security environment. Today, bad governance, corruption, and insurgent havens in Pakistan fuel a continuing conflict. The U.S. Institute of Peace works with the Afghan government and civil society organizations to address underlying causes of instability by strengthening the rule of law, countering violent extremism, expanding peace education, and promoting better governance and anti-corruption efforts. USIP also supports policy-relevant research on current causes of conflict in Afghanistan.
Afghan peace negotiations began in mid-September, bringing together the Afghan government and Taliban for the first time to negotiate an end to four decades of war. But, since then, the talks have been mired in squabbles over basic procedures. Last week the sides made a breakthrough and agreed on the rules that will govern future talks, opening the door to the more substantive issue of the agenda for talks—including how and when to talk about a reduction in violence and future political arrangements. Senior U.S. officials praised the agreement and urged the parties to move quickly to a discussion about ways to reduce record-high violence levels.
With news of a breakthrough in Afghan peace talks, USIP’s Scott Smith warns that future troop withdrawal should “switch from a time-based deadline approach to a conditions-based approach” because if the Taliban believe withdrawal is inevitable, “they have no incentive to compromise.”
The quadrennial international donor conference for Afghanistan, held virtually late last month from Geneva, was largely shaped by the pitfalls and roadblocks forecast months ago when the event was publicly announced. Delays in the peace process, worsening violence, and unveiling of plans for further U.S. troop reductions left the meeting’s potential unmet. Yet amid the unsatisfying results, some hopeful rays broke through. In particular, the size and duration of aid pledges provided at least something to build on.
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.
The congressionally mandated Afghanistan Peace Process Study Group (ASG) has been charged with identifying policy recommendations that “consider the implications of a peace settlement, or the failure to reach a settlement, on U.S. policy, resources, and commitments in Afghanistan.” The ASG will submit a document containing forward-looking recommendations to Congress, the administration, and the public in early 2021.
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.