Afganistán

With Afghan peace talks underway, those seeking to undermine the process are targeting Afghan women in hopes of derailing it. The US embassy in Afghanistan warned last month that extremist organizations are planning attacks that take direct aim at women, including teachers, government workers, and human-rights activists. The threats underscore how central Afghan women’s rights are to the success of the Afghan peace process and to the country’s future.

The Afghan government and the Taliban are currently meeting for the first time since a United States-Taliban deal in February promised intra-Afghan negotiations and a gradual withdrawal of US forces. Many criticize the US government for failing to secure more from the Taliban in its initial deal — including any guarantees for Afghan women, despite years of bipartisan promises to protect Afghan women’s rights.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Taliban need to spell out their ideas about the role of Islam in society and governance. Credit Hussein Sayed/Associated Press

As the major warring parties in Afghanistan sit down for peace talks in Doha, Qatar, an old, unresolved debate is emerging as the central question: What should be the role of Islam in Afghanistan? A humid seaside resort on the Persian Gulf, where the delegates are gathered, has become the unlikely venue for a search for answers acceptable to most Afghans.

The Taliban, who fought for decades to establish an Islamic political system, struck a deal with the United States in February that calls for American troop withdrawals conditioned on the Taliban engaging in peace talks and promising not to allow the country to be used by transnational terrorists.…  Seguir leyendo »

The families of the slain Australian soldiers firmly oppose Hekmatullah’s release. © Dave Hunt / AAP

An Afghan soldier convicted of murdering three Australian soldiers is among six high-value prisoners who have been flown to Qatar ahead of the September peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government. Hekmatullah has spent seven years in jail after killing the three soldiers he worked with in 2012 — Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate.

For a long time, the Afghan government vowed not to free 600 prisoners it considered too dangerous, including murderers and foreign fighters. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called them a “danger” to the world. But last month, an assembly of Afghan elders, community leaders and politicians called a “loya jirga” approved the release of the last 400 Taliban captives and hundreds have been set free.…  Seguir leyendo »

What took so long?

The U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in Doha, Qatar on 29 February specified that peace talks among the Afghan parties to the conflict would begin on 10 March. After months of delay, these intra-Afghan talks are finally set to commence, also in Doha, on 12 September.

A number of factors contributed to the postponement, some arising immediately after the U.S.-Taliban agreement was signed. The Afghan government showed reluctance to implement a provision calling for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, for fear of losing domestic standing as well as its negotiating leverage, while the Taliban re-escalated violence across the country in hopes of maintaining theirs.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Trump declared a national emergency last Thursday — but it wasn’t about the covid-19 pandemic or police brutality or nationwide protests. Rather, the subject of the emergency declaration was the International Criminal Court, the body investigating the United States for suspected war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump announced that the ICC represents an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” The executive order pushes back by authorizing economic and diplomatic sanctions on ICC personnel working on the Afghanistan probe and anyone who helps them.

The Trump administration has consistently and directly opposed the ICC, in contrast to the more passive opposition or even ad hoc support from previous administrations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Abdullah Abdullah, left, and President Ashraf Ghani signing a power-sharing deal in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 17 May 2020. Screenshot of video recording by the Presidential Palace of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - ARG

Why was the Ghani-Abdullah agreement needed and what does it achieve?

President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, as well as their respective allies, had been locked in a dispute over the results of Afghanistan’s presidential election held on 28 September 2019. While preliminary numbers suggested that Ghani held a firm lead, official results were delayed for months as electoral bodies conducted recounts and, later, audits. Final results that gave Ghani just over 50 per cent, which would narrowly avoid a run-off against Abdullah, were abruptly announced in February, before the electoral complaints process was completed. Abdullah and his supporters declared the results invalid and announced their intent to establish a “parallel government”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghanistan’s «peace deal» has been blown up. The government has resumed fighting the Taliban after a horrifying attack by gunmen on a maternity ward run by Doctors Without Borders in Kabul. Mothers and nurses were the main victims in the first attack, with 16 killed. Two of the dead were newborns.

Although the Taliban denied being responsible for the attack, Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, stated on Twitter that «their attacks this spring against Afghans are comparable to the level of fighting in past fighting seasons …This is not peace, nor its beginnings,» and that there is «little point in continuing to engage Taliban in ‘peace talks.’ …  Seguir leyendo »

Men wearing facemasks queue up to receive free wheat from the government emergency committee in Kabul, 21 April 2020. AFP/Wakil Kohsar

In late March, Afghanistan’s minister of public health publicly shared estimates that up to 25 million Afghans could eventually be infected with the novel coronavirus. This is out of a population of about 36 million. The Afghan government has announced a wide range of measures to contain the virus, mirroring global practices of physical distancing. But the weaknesses of health care infrastructure in a country weighed down by poverty and four decades of conflict render Afghanistan especially challenged to manage any major outbreak. Reports of COVID-19-related deaths remain low, but hospitals are straining and are beginning to lose staff: staff are not only falling ill, with some even dying of the disease, but many are simply refusing to work under conditions they deem hazardous.…  Seguir leyendo »

Zalmay Khalilzad, left, an American negotiator, with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, deputy leader of the Taliban, during the signing ceremony of the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement on Saturday.Credit...EPA, via Shutterstock

Sometimes, foreign policy consists of trying to make lemonade out of lemons.

In the case of the recently signed U.S.-Taliban agreement on Afghanistan, President Trump provided the lemons, and the lead U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, and his team did the squeezing. Mr. Trump made clear that he intended to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan — with or without a “deal.” Then NATO partners pressured the United States not to reward the Taliban by conceding their long-held objective of forcing an American withdrawal for free. So, the president reportedly gave his negotiators a finite window to explore whether some deal was achievable.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week is a test for peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban have an historic opportunity to show that they have the will and the ability to reduce violence. This would pave the way for negotiations among Afghans for a comprehensive peace agreement.

NATO fully supports the efforts of the United States to find a peaceful solution. These efforts have brought us closer than ever before to an end to decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

Our engagement in Afghanistan is the direct consequence of 9/11, when we triggered our collective defense clause, Article 5, for the first time in history — in support of the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

A bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday wounded nine people, despite a truce in place.Credit...Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

Momentum is building toward peace in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, the United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement that will pave the way for talks between the Taliban and a team of negotiators led by the Afghan government in March. There is hope, at last, of respite from the long war.

The Afghan government deserves credit for planting the seeds of peace two years ago by offering unconditional talks to the Taliban and announcing a unilateral cease-fire that blossomed into a three-day pause in hostilities in June 2018.

Kabul continued to reach out to the Taliban and sent some officials in July to an informal peace dialogue in Doha that brought together the warring sides for the first time.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s midnight in Kabul as I write this. Afghans have gone to sleep, many of them in the hopes that a partial truce negotiated between the United States and Taliban will yield a reduction in violence. We — along with the rest of the world — learned of this development when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted about it on Friday evening.

But for millions of Afghans like me, a reduction in violence is not enough. According to President Ashraf Ghani, 20 terror groups are currently active in Afghanistan. If the Taliban come to control our country once more, it seems little will prevent any one of these groups from gaining strength and acting on their most evil impulses.…  Seguir leyendo »

Representatives led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (Front C) leave after a meeting chaired by Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, marking a century of diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Russia on May 30, 2019 in Moscow, Russia on the th Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency

What just happened in talks between the U.S. and the Taliban?

A critical milestone in efforts to end the Afghan conflict was reached on 21 February, when Taliban and U.S. representatives issued statements confirming that they had reached an agreement providing for gradual U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, in exchange for Taliban promises to sever ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and to enter intra-Afghan negotiations to resolve the world’s deadliest conflict. The statements explained that the U.S. and Taliban would sign the agreement on 29 February in Doha, Qatar – where negotiations have been conducted for over a year – contingent on the successful completion of a seven-day period of “reduction in violence”, which is meant to begin on 22 February.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man waving an Afghan flag during an Independence Day celebration in Kabul in 2019.Credit...Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press

When our representatives started negotiating with the United States in 2018, our confidence that the talks would yield results was close to zero. We did not trust American intentions after 18 years of war and several previous attempts at negotiation that had proved futile.

Nevertheless, we decided to try once more. The long war has exacted a terrible cost from everyone. We thought it unwise to dismiss any potential opportunity for peace no matter how meager the prospects of its success. For more than four decades, precious Afghan lives have been lost every day. Everyone has lost somebody they loved. Everyone is tired of war.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban militants laid down their arms in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, this month to join the peace process.Credit...Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA, via Shutterstock

The talks between the United States and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, which were abruptly canceled by President Trump in September, are back on track. After several months of diplomatic regrouping, American and Taliban negotiators are once again on the verge of sealing a deal.

The negotiators haven’t revised the basic transaction they set out last August — an American commitment to withdraw troops from Afghanistan for a Taliban promise not to allow the country to be used by transnational terrorists. Rather, they have added sweeteners to the bargain: As a Taliban concession, a seven-day “reduction in violence” before the United States will sign the deal, possibly followed by further steps to keep violence down, and the release of prisoners demanded by the insurgents.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghans during a protest to demand peace in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on Sunday. (Sayed Mustafa/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

On Saturday, a holiday commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, people here awaited the announcement of an agreement between the United States and the Taliban on the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Skepticism here about what comes next pales in comparison with the certainty that continued war will fail.

This agreement can start a process that is the best chance to end Afghanistan’s 40-year war. It meets the core demands of the original antagonists of that war’s latest stage: the withdrawal of U.S. troops for the Taliban and guarantees against harboring terrorists for the United States. Next would come negotiations between the supporters of the Afghan Islamic republic and the Taliban on conditions to end their war, even as the battle against global terrorists continues.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »