The first direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government began in Doha, Qatar, in September 2020. The United States agreed with the Taliban to remove combat forces in exchange for Taliban guarantees on counterterrorism and starting negotiations with the Afghan government on a political settlement and a cease-fire. Now U.S. forces will leave by September 11, 2021 — although without a cease-fire or a framework for a political settlement. The peace process remains a stalled but necessary process to achieve lasting stability in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Taliban, Afghan government and international forces continue to battle for control of the countryside, with both battle deaths and civilian casualties near record highs in recent years.
Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on The Current Situation in Afghanistan.
It has become fashionable to characterize recent events in Afghanistan as a loss for the United States and a win for China. This zero-sum interpretation framed in the narrow context of U.S.-China relations is too simplistic and off the mark. The reality is far more complex and nuanced. The end of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the collapse of that country’s pro-Western government do not automatically translate into significant Chinese gains, nor do they trigger a swift Beijing swoop to fill the vacuum in Kabul left by Washington.
Last month’s bombing outside the Kabul airport was a devastating sign of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province’s (IS-K) recent resurgence. The group had already launched 77 attacks in the first four months of 2021 — an increase from 21 in the same period last year. This renewed capacity for mass-casualty attacks could further destabilize Afghanistan’s already precarious security situation, leaving both the new Taliban government and the United States with a vested interest in mounting an effective campaign to undercut IS-K’s presence in the region.
The Taliban’s lightning conquest of Afghanistan caught many people by surprise, perhaps including the Taliban themselves. However, it is not the country’s first episode of an unexpectedly quick military victory and consequent rapid change in regime. Historical examples may provide relevant lessons for the victorious Taliban as they begin to govern the country, including pitfalls to be avoided in their own and the nation’s interest.
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.
The congressionally mandated Afghanistan Study Group (ASG) was 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.” After ten months of extensive deliberations and consultations, the ASG submitted its report containing forward-looking recommendations to Congress, the Biden administration, and the public.
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.