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.
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 immediately exacerbated the country’s precarious humanitarian situation, leaving millions in need of food assistance and other support. Two years later, the situation remains dire, with Afghan women and girls acutely affected by the Taliban’s draconian restrictions on their daily lives. The international community continues to struggle to find a balance between providing desperately needed aid while also pressuring the regime in Kabul to moderate its hardline policies. While Afghans need emergency assistance, the country will continue to deal with cycles of crises until its deep-seated economic challenges are addressed.
Two years after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the human rights situation in the country is abysmal, with women and girls experiencing the worst of the regime’s policies. There is growing evidence that the Taliban are committing the crime against humanity of gender persecution of women and girls, an assertion Human Rights Watch made in a new report. This summer, the World Economic Forum slated Afghanistan last of the 146 countries it ranked in a study on gender gaps. The scope of the Taliban’s women’s rights restrictions is truly unprecedented.
Two years into Taliban rule, the question of whether Afghanistan would once again become a safe haven for international terrorism remains alive. Longstanding fears were affirmed a little over a year ago, when the U.S. government located al-Qaeda leader Aimen al-Zawahiri in Kabul, Afghanistan, before killing him in a drone strike. The fact that the Taliban would bring Zawahiri back to Kabul, despite repeated assurances to U.S. negotiators both before and after the Doha agreement that they had distanced themselves from al-Qaeda, significantly elevated concerns.
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.
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.
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.