I took command of the United States Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment two months before the Sept. 11 attacks. Not long after, the regiment deployed to Afghanistan as part of the American effort to destroy Al Qaeda and remove the Taliban from power.

In the 18 years since, soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment, a Special Operations light-infantry unit, have always been deployed to Afghanistan. And as others did, I returned many times thereafter. During his Thanksgiving visit to American troops in Afghanistan, President Trump declared that he had reopened peace talks with the Taliban. The president’s announcement is a rare chance to end our longest war.…  Seguir leyendo »

Negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban collapsed in September, but there have been signs that they could soon resume, paving the way for crucial intra-Afghan talks. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 – Third Update for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage the resumption of these talks and to establish a regular channel to the Taliban.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2019 – Third Update.

The war in Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest in 2018, and it has stayed that way. Battle deaths thus far in 2019 nearly outnumber the combined toll in Syria and Yemen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan police inspect the site of a suicide attack in northern Parwan province, Afghanistan, on Sept. 17 in which a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle targeted presidential guards at a campaign rally. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Late last month, Afghan and U.S. forces targeted Asim Umar, chief of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), at a Taliban compound in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. While the fate of Umar is unknown, several militants were reportedly killed during the operation, including the Taliban’s local explosives expert and Umar’s courier, who transported messages to al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

This development raises serious questions about the Taliban’s promises, made during the now-frozen U.S.-Taliban talks, to break ties with its longtime partner al-Qaeda. It suggests that the American hope of detaching the Taliban from its al-Qaeda allies, before making a deal with the Taliban, is nowhere near to being fulfilled.…  Seguir leyendo »

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images An Afghan security officer on duty outside the Karte Sakhi mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 20, 2019

After forty years of war, it can be hard to remember who all your enemies were and why. Fawzia Koofi, a former deputy speaker of the Afghan parliament who has struggled through the tides of rising and falling regimes, recalled the day when her father’s body was brought back to her village. Her father, Abdul Rahman, had also been a member of parliament, and after Afghanistan’s first Communist coup in 1978, led a delegation from his village into the mountains to meet with leaders of the budding armed resistance, the Mujahideen.

Instead of opening a dialogue, Rahman was kidnapped and murdered by the rebels as an alleged agent of the new regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

Children running in a graveyard in Logar, Afghanistan.CreditCreditJalil Jan Kochai

In Deh Naw — my parents’ home village in Logar Province of Afghanistan — makeshift graves and markers for the dead lay scattered amid orchards, in between fields, or atop hills, a testament to the decades of war. Sometimes, the graves are marked by small slabs of stone with a name or a prayer carved onto it, but just as often, the names of the dead went unrecorded, their lives only traded in whispers. Open secrets permeate these graveyards. Buried atrocities from the Soviet occupation, the Afghan civil wars, and the seemingly unending American occupation.

In the past nine months, Afghan and American-led international forces have killed more civilians than all antigovernment forces combined.…  Seguir leyendo »

A pesar de las negociaciones de paz en curso entre Estados Unidos y los talibanes, el sangriento conflicto en Afganistán sigue cobrándose muchísimas vidas entre la población del país. El reciente ataque suicida perpetrado por la rama Khorasan de Estado Islámico (IS-K) en una boda en Kabul, qua arrojó más de 60 muertos y cerca de 200 heridos, es un recordatorio claro de la mala situación de seguridad que rige en Afganistán. También muestra que los talibanes no son la única oposición armada que alimenta el conflicto. Por ende, es poco probable que un pacto de paz entre Estados Unidos y los talibanes traiga algún respiro.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women shopping at a market in Herat, Afghanistan. Photograph: Jalil Rezayee/EPA

My life story might be summed up like this: I’ve travelled from one of the worst countries in the world for women to one of the best countries. I am an Afghan refugee in Norway. Adaptation is a process, and comparing these two countries would be totally unfair but I would like to share my insights into what it feels like to be an independent woman in both countries.

As I write, I find myself on the shores of the Skagerrak strait in southern Norway. I’m on a typical cabin holiday, sitting by the water and feeling the fresh breeze playing with my curly, crazy hair at six in the morning.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the military headquarters here where commanders oversee America’s longest war, an official explains in one sentence the U.S.-led coalition’s bottom-line objective: “Peace is a situation where we can leave, and we don’t have to come back.”

But how will the United States move toward this endgame, as U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad nears conclusion of his secret peace negotiations with the Taliban jihadists that America has been fighting for 18 years? Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is said to have complained late last week that a draft of Khalilzad’s agreement contains “mere promises”from the Taliban and major concessions by the United States, according to a knowledgeable Afghan source who talked recently with Ghani.…  Seguir leyendo »

On July 7 — just hours after the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, declared an imminent peace settlement with the insurgent group that could be finalized as early as Sept. 1 — the Taliban launched an attack in Ghazni, Afghanistan, resulting in at least 12 deaths. The blast was yet another reminder of the gaps in the ongoing U.S.-driven peace process. The top-down political negotiations might be a relief for the United States, whose troops have languished there for nearly two decades. But to achieve a sustainable resolution for Afghans, the peace process will need to include a far more elusive negotiation — a social settlement that fosters reconciliation and trust between the population and the government.…  Seguir leyendo »

En la reciente Copa Mundial de críquet en Inglaterra, la animosa selección afgana (compuesta mayoritariamente por exrefugiados) sorprendió a todos con su excelente desempeño en los partidos, incluidos encuentros contra sus vecinos (la India y Pakistán). Por desgracia, no puede decirse lo mismo de otros dos conjuntos afganos (el de los talibanes y el del gobierno) que se reunieron este mes en Doha (Qatar) para acordar una “hoja de ruta para la paz”.

Los funcionarios del gobierno afgano que participaron en las conversaciones de Doha ni siquiera podían presentarse como tales, porque sus interlocutores (una banda de fanáticos asesinos) no reconocen al gobierno afgano.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban officials led by the movement's chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (C, front) attend peace talks between senior Afghan politicians and Taliban negotiators in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

What happened in Afghan peace talks in Doha?

Negotiations to end the Afghanistan war took a step forward on 7 and 8 July as more than 60 delegates, including Taliban and Afghan government officials as well as pro-government civil society representatives, gathered in the Qatari capital, Doha, for a peace dialogue. All participants joined the discussion in their personal capacities, which allowed the Taliban to continue refusing direct talks with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, as the Afghan government is formally known. The format also circumvented longstanding concerns in Kabul about giving recognition to the Taliban’s preferred name for themselves: the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban meet Afghan politicians in Moscow for peace

Last year, when President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead for negotiations to start between the US and the Taliban, nobody expected his patience to last very long. He could sabotage the American negotiating team at any time, many observers feared, by ordering an arbitrary pullout of US forces from Afghanistan, leaving the Afghan government vulnerable to a Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Nor was there much hope that, having decimated the State Department, Trump would ever play by normal diplomatic rules and depend on institutions like the intelligence community that does the leg-work in such negotiations, rather than his own Fox News-driven instincts.…  Seguir leyendo »

La historia geopolítica reciente de Afganistán puede dividirse en cinco fases. Ahora está al borde de otra transición, y las características que definirán la nueva fase todavía están por verse.

Durante la primera fase, entre 1974 y 1979, Pakistán empezó a dar refugio y entrenamiento a islamistas, para usarlos contra el gobierno de Mohammed Daoud Khan. Después, entre 1979 y 1989, Pakistán, Estados Unidos y Arabia Saudita financiaron, entrenaron y equiparon a los muyahidines que combatieron a las tropas soviéticas. De 1989 a 1996, Afganistán estuvo en transición, mientras señores de la guerra regionales fueron obteniendo poder, cercaron Kabul y derrocaron al presidente Mohammad Najibullah.…  Seguir leyendo »

A sign on a car in Kabul last week showed a Taliban member beating a woman and read, “Afghanistan will not go back."CreditCreditWakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Trump’s announcement of an impending withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s declaration that the Americans and the Taliban have “in principle” agreed to a framework for a deal have been described by both sides as a leap toward ending the war in Afghanistan.

But a hasty American withdrawal will jeopardize for Afghans the future of hard-won gains such as constitutional rights, freedoms of citizens and democratic institutions. The United States must recognize that the absence of war — the focus of current talks — alone will not translate to peace in Afghanistan.

Mr. Khalilzad’s talks with the Taliban and the signs of an American withdrawal have bypassed numerous Afghan voices and increased fears among the most vulnerable of them — women, ethnic minorities and civil society — about the loss of security and freedoms that Afghanistan’s young and flawed democracy afforded them.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hunt took this photo of a street scene in Afghanistan during a visit in 1998, while the country was under Taliban rule.

After September 11, the United States justified deep engagement in Afghanistan in part due to the Taliban’s harsh repression of women. Now, after sustaining 2,351 deaths and more than 20,000 injuries, and spending north of a trillion dollars, the United States is negotiating peace with the draconian regime it once abhorred.

Like ISIS in the Middle East and al-Shabaab in Africa, the Taliban often uses ultra-conservative interpretations of the Quran to force women into cruel marriages with huge age differences where wives may be abused. Worse yet, women are barred from working outside the home, learning to read, or appearing in public without head-to-toe coverings.…  Seguir leyendo »

A convoy of Soviet armored personal vehicles crossed a bridge in Termez, during the withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan in 1988.CreditCreditVitaly Armand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Feb. 15, 1989, a column of Soviet armored vehicles crossed the Friendship Bridge from Afghanistan into the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan. In a theatrical gesture, Lt. Gen. Boris Gromov, who was overseeing the withdrawal, dismounted and walked the final few feet to Soviet soil. There was not a single Soviet soldier left in Afghanistan, General Gromov told waiting journalists.

Since the first troops crossed into Afghanistan in December 1979, the Soviet Union had tried to help the socialist government in Kabul fight off a constellation of insurgents, the most impressive of whom received aid from the United States and Saudi Arabia, working through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian Peace Efforts in Afghanistan

Despite the direct talks between Taliban and the US, the Russian peace efforts are establishing “new channels” of communication, which in turn will help setting the framework of a regional solution to Afghan problem. Taliban’s reaffirmation to continue to commit for a peaceful solution is very clearly attached to several conditions including direct talks with the Afghan government and withdrawal of all foreign forces. The ensuing analysis of this idea also suggests that a firm commitment from present Afghan government is crucial to materialize any mechanism for peace.

However, it is still unclear as to how and when US is going to withdraw its troops.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai headed a Taliban delegation at meetings with Afghan opposition leaders in Moscow this week.CreditCreditMaxim Shemetov/Reuters

The United States and the Taliban made progress in peace talks in late January after coming to a basic understanding about withdrawing American troops in return for Taliban commitments to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for transnational terrorists. An agreement between the United States and the Taliban has been long overdue — as part of a broader settlement also involving the Taliban’s Afghan opponents — and is the way out of a war without victory.

The fear of Afghanistan-based terrorists attacking the United States has been the key reason for keeping American troops in the country and keeping the Taliban out of power, but it is rooted more in perception than in reality.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, second from right, in Moscow on Wednesday. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

The Taliban and the United States are negotiating over the future of Afghanistan. You might expect me, as a woman, to say that’s wrong. But these talks are a positive development — as long as they ultimately clear the way for a truly “Afghan-owned” peace process. Let me explain what I mean.

Over the past 40 years, no era has been entirely safe for Afghanistan’s people, let alone for its women. Having left the country for the United States in 1989, I gradually began to travel back to my homeland, until I returned for good in 2008. I visited during the civil war, during the years of Taliban rule, and during the era that began with the presidency of Hamid Karzai in 2002, when 140,000 foreign troops enabled the Afghan people to experience a glimpse of freedom.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani (C) talks with US special representative for Afghan Peace and reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad (top L) during a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul. Handout / Afghan Presidential Palace / AFP

How significant were the U.S.-Taliban talks?

Last week’s six-day talks between the U.S. and Taliban were the clearest sign yet that the U.S. is intent on withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan, and that the Taliban and its regional allies perceive that intent as an opportunity. It is early to draw conclusions but the signals from Doha inspire optimism about ending America’s longest war. A U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal has long been the Taliban’s top demand and the driving rationale for the insurgency. The Doha talks also were the first time that the U.S. has publicly acceded to the Taliban’s insistence that bilateral negotiations on terms for a troop withdrawal precede any peace negotiations involving other Afghans.…  Seguir leyendo »