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  • Author: Peyton Cooke, Casey Johnson, Reza Fazli
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Youth recruitment into extremist groups in Afghanistan continues to be a major source of group building. In field studies and interviews conducted in three provinces to elicit views on extremist groups, both violent and nonviolent, and factors thought to induce youth to join such groups, violent extremist groups emerged as unpopular and mistrusted, being perceived as un-Islamic and controlled by foreign powers. Nonetheless, the activities and ideologies of such groups have not been effectively countered by the government of Afghanistan, civil society, or the international community. Programs to counter extreme violence should emphasize the Islamic basis of Afghan civil law, accommodate local differences, and be conducted in partnership with moderate voices and youth, with international organizations remaining in the background
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil Society, Terrorism, International Affairs, Youth Culture
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Paul Fishstein , Murtaza Edries Amiryar
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The general expectation among Afghans after the fall of the Taliban was that the state, equipped with financial resources and technical assistance from the international community, would once again take the lead in the economic sphere. Instead, Kabul adopted a market economy. The move remains controversial in some quarters. This report, derived from interviews conducted in 2015 and 2010, takes stock of the competing ideologies in Afghanistan today with respect to the economy.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The al-Qaeda presence in the Pech valley is greater now than when U.S. forces arrived in 2002, and counterterrorism efforts in the region continue. This report looks at U.S. military involvement in the Pech valley and the lessons it offers both the Afghan National Security Forces and the U.S. military. It is derived from interviews with some three hundred Americans and Afghans, including general officers, unit commanders, members of parliament, district and provincial governors, Afghan interpreters and U.S. and Afghan combat veterans.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Author: Noah Coburn, Anna Larson
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: As Afghanistan prepares for presidential elections in 2014, many young people are vocal about how the system appears to limit their meaningful participation in politics. Historically, young people in Afghanistan have challenged the status quo. However, it is possible to detect a declining trend from the early twentieth century to the present in the extent to which these challenges have been able to effect change in the political system. This trend has continued despite the technology and social media available to youth today, as the older generation of political leaders continues to monopolize the available political space and act as gatekeepers to that space.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Development, Youth Culture, Reform
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Author: Patricia A. Gossman
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In Afghanistan, the social upheaval resulting from thirty-five years of war has created widely differing narratives of the conflict as various communities and political factions have reconstructed events through the lens of their experiences. Extensive dislocation of large segments of the population and poor communication throughout the war years meant that Afghans often had no way of knowing what was happening in different parts of the country. Although the war had several phases, earlier transitions—such as the collapse of the Najibullah government in 1992—failed to provide an opportunity for investigations into past human rights abuses because the conflict was ongoing. As a consequence, documentation remains thin. Conditions have made it difficult for human rights groups to function; additionally, many records have been either lost or destroyed. Since 2001, a number of initiatives were launched to investigate and document war crimes and human rights abuses. The relative openness of this period provided increased opportunities to document ongoing abuses occurring in the context of the Taliban insurgency and counterinsurgency effort. The most ambitious components of transitional justice, as envisioned by Afghan organizations and their international partners, however, appear to be indefinitely stalled given the failure of electoral vetting and the silencing of an Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission report that would have mapped all abuses in the three decades of conflict. No single report or archive can provide a definitive truth about the past. Such an archive, however, can serve, however imperfectly, as vital evidence in the effort to understand the complex array of factors that have played a part in conflict. Better documentation and access to other narratives could provide a counterweight to narrow or politically motivated interpretations of past events that could seed future conflict.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, Islam, Terrorism, War, Armed Struggle, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Sadaf Lakhani
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: While Afghanistan's economy has experienced strong growth in the past decade, declining levels of overseas development assistance beginning in 2014 are expected to substantially reduce the country's economic growth rate, with attendant political implications.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, Economics, Natural Resources, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Scott Worden, Nina Sudhakar
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Afghan women made small but significant gains in participation in Afghanistan's September 2010 parliamentary elections. But their status in Afghanistan's electoral system is precarious, and significant effort is needed to preserve gains during the next election cycle in 2013–15. In the 2010 parliamentary elections, seventy-eight more female candidates ran than in the 2005 elections, a 24 percent increase. One additional woman was elected to Parliament over the sixty-eight-person quota stated in the constitution, and in four provinces, a woman received the highest number of votes out of all candidates. Women continued to face significant obstacles to campaigning, however, with female candidates and their campaign workers receiving a disproportionate number of threats or attacks reported during the elections. In less secure areas, cultural restrictions on women's access to public spaces increased, leaving many female candidates unable to effectively communicate with voters. Women made up 40 percent of the electorate in 2010, but women's access to the electoral process as voters often depends on having women hired as election workers by the electoral administration, candidates, and observer groups. Without female counterparts working at the polls, many women will stay home due to cultural concerns over interacting with men in public places. A significant finding from the 2010 candidate statistics is that women face less competition for seats than men do, making it attractive for political parties or coalitions to recruit powerful women to run on their platforms.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Gender Issues, Politics, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Nadia Gerspacher
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: As part of their efforts to support the rebuilding and reform of postconflict and transitional states, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the United Nations, and other members of the international community are sending international advisers to work alongside high-level officials in national institutions. Advisers are recruited for their strong professional expertise in fields such as logistics and human resources. However, they have had little preparation in transferring that knowledge to others, especially in a transitional or postconflict environment. If they are to contribute to sustainable reforms, advisers need to be taught how to transfer knowledge in a complex and alien environment, how to operate without formal authority, and how to cultivate local ownership. Launched in 2010, a U.S. Department of Defense program to train advisers for institution-building activities in Afghanistan—Ministry of Defense Advisors, or MoDA—has incorporated lessons learned by former advisers and emphasized four principles originally developed for a USIP training course: supporting local ownership; designing for sustainability; doing no harm; and demonstrating respect, humility, and empathy. As of March 2012, five MoDA cohorts have been deployed and have performed effectively. The MoDA experience, together with insights gained from teaching courses at USIP and other venues, suggests that a good curriculum for training high-level advisers in any sector of government should include four parts: lessons on about how to be an effective adviser, including techniques for building relationships and communicating across cultures; briefings on the situation in the country; substantive information about the sector in which the adviser will work; and preparation through practice.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Defense Policy, NATO, Peace Studies, United Nations, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: William Byrd
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Afghanistan's history provides important insights and lessons for the 2011 to 2014 transition and beyond, but differences with the past must be taken into account. As the 1933 to 1973 decades demonstrate, the country can be stable and effectively governed, but that stability was anchored in the two pillars of traditional local governance and a centralized though weak state, both of which were gravely damaged after 1978. Given the country's history of chronic succession problems and associated conflict, the next presidential election, if successful, would be the first peaceful transfer of leadership since 1933 and only the fourth since 1747. Expectations about the pace of progress must be modest and the dangers of overly ambitious reforms leading to violent reactions recognized. Regional countries could derail peace prospects, and planning around such spoilers may be needed. The difficulties of reaching a peaceful solution during a military withdrawal, and the adverse consequences when such efforts fail, were demonstrated during the period from 1986 to 1992. The period after the Soviet withdrawal shows the potential and limitations of Afghan security forces: holding onto Kabul and other cities is probably the most that can be hoped for in the current transition. The option of arming and paying militias is dangerous because it opens the door to instability and predatory behavior. The Afghan economy is in much better shape than it was during and after the Soviet period, and a deep economic contraction in coming years needs to be avoided. Afghanistan will depend heavily on outside financial support for many years, and such support must not be abruptly cut back or stopped. Effective national leadership is critical during transitions. It is important not to overlearn from history, for example, Afghanistan's problematic experience over the past half-century with political parties, which are essential to successful democratic systems.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, Islam, War, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia
  • Author: Kathleen Kuehnast, Hodei Sultan, Manal Omar, Steven E. Steiner
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In transitioning countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, women are increasingly finding their rights limited by state and religious leaders. Cultural and national stereotypes can be quickly overcome by the shared backgrounds, accomplishments, obstacles, and aspirations of women in transitioning countries. Women living in countries in transition value opportunities to network with women from other countries in similar situations. Women leaders from Afghanistan and Iraq have genuine concerns about the challenges facing women in the Arab Spring. Their valuable opinions are based on their own experiences of overcoming those challenges. It is essential that women work together and with men to further women's rights. Women must plan for a transition before it happens and have a strategy of work going into the transition process. Laws empowering and protecting women do not work if they are not enforced. International donors need a long-term view of women's programming, as much of the required work will take time. Donors should consider nonurban areas when working with women, and when possible nonelite partners, as these leaders understand the limitations of local conditions. It is possible for women's groups to find common ground with religious leaders.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Development, Gender Issues, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia