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  • Author: Javed Noorani
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Afghanistan is rich in mineral resources, the value of which has been roughly estimated at as much as $1 trillion. The country may, however, be following a “paradox of plenty” path in tendering its mining sector to private investors. The risk is not insignificant. An unfortunate legacy of decades of internal conflict is the entrenchment and perpetuation of powerful political elites both in Kabul and in the provinces, which extends to the mining sector. The mining sector in Afghanistan today is characterized by irregularities and lack of transparency in the tender process, influence peddling, beneficial ownership of mining contracts by politically connected interests, unfulfilled legal and contractual requirements, and sub-stantial loss of government revenue. Despite provisions in the Mineral Law of 2010 and its 2014 revision, responsible government entities have largely failed to effectively regulate and monitor the mining sector. Companies have not been paying their financial dues for years and generally do not meet contractual provisions for either funding local development or responding to complaints and grievances from local communities, yet continue to operate with an absurd level of impunity. What is needed—in sum—is to develop a strategic long-term vision, including knowledge driven development of the mining sector, more mineral processing within Afghanistan, integration with other sectors of the economy, revised and expanded legislation, a recentralized licensing system, transparency in the tender process, due diligence, a mechanism for revenue and tax collection, NEPA review, and an involved and educated civil society.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Sean Kane
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Insisting that the Taliban accept the Afghan constitution is understandable insofar as the risks that peace talks could pose to Afghanistan's post-2001 achievements. Nonetheless, a periodic assessment of this condition is healthy, especially given the human toll of the ongoing insurgency and acknowledged shortcomings in the charter. To help Afghans make an informed choice on this dilemma, lessons can be drawn from other countries currently in talks to end decades-long insurgencies. Understanding the Taliban's possible constitutional demands as well as the Afghan constitution's amendment rules is also necessary. A comparison of the Afghan constitution and the Taliban's 2005 Order of the Islamic Emirate provides clues on what changes the movement might seek. The Taliban also have an over-arching “ownership problem” with the constitution because of their exile from Afghan political life at the time it was drafted. Key divergences between the Taliban order and the constitution relate to the sources of legitimacy for government and laws and marked differences on women's and minority rights. The two documents also contain more overlap than might be assumed. The Afghan constitution requires public input on proposed amendments through the convening of a popular assembly, or loya jirga. The constitution further designates fundamental aspects of the political system and Afghans' rights as unamendable. These rules could be strategically applied to constrain Taliban efforts to use negotiations to completely remake the current constitutional order. Debate over peace talks with the Taliban has tended to be framed in terms of potential risks. Negotiations could also present an opportunity to challenge the Taliban to justify some of its more unpopular constitutional positions to other Afghans and, in the best case, to help the Afghan government seize the political high ground.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Aarya Nijat, Jennifer Murtazashvili
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In the days after September 11, the international community’s desire to “rescue” Afghan women from their social, political, and economic fate was key to mobilizing global support to topple the Taliban regime. Since then, the Afghan government and the international community have invested vast resources seeking to improve the status of women in the country, primarily through programs to support women leaders in politics, business, and civil society. Drawn on interviews and focus group discussions with more than two hundred people, this report seeks to understand factors that contribute to the emergence of women leaders by identifying and assessing the past decade and a half’s efforts to promote women’s leadership.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Politics, Governance, Social Movement
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • 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: Michelle Hughes
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Afghan National Police (ANP) has made remarkable progress, but the challenges are urgent, and critical capabilities remain underdeveloped. Within the framework of the minister of interior's own Strategic Vision, opportunities will arise to close some of the capacity gaps in the coming years. Helping the ANP shift from a wartime footing to a contextually appropriate community policing model, and advancing professionalism within the ministry and the operating forces, is critical to sustainability. If a national police force is going to succeed, the linkage between policing and governance must be recognized and strengthened. Managing the expanding array of ANP donors and their activities poses a unique challenge that has yet to be addressed. It is an executive challenge for the Ministry of Interior and a coordination challenge for the international community. For both, it will require a long-term approach. To facilitate effective evidence-based operations (EvBO) and strengthen the relationship between the ANP and the communities it serves, U.S.-funded activities that build capacity for justice and governance need to be more closely aligned with ANP development.
  • Topic: Security, International Cooperation, Bilateral Relations, Governance
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia
  • Author: Anastasiya Hozyainova
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: A major priority for international donors since 2002 has been to promote and protect women's rights in Afghanistan. Substantial progress has been made, including much stronger formal protections for women in law. However, in practice, these legal protections are uncertain to survive the coming transition as these laws are neither universally accepted within Afghanistan nor evenly applied.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Human Rights, Religion, Social Movement, Reform
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Frances Z. Brown
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The conclusion of the U.S.-led "surge" of 2009 onward and the closure of provincial recon¬struction teams and other local civil-military installations have affected how aid is delivered in Afghanistan's more remote and contested areas. The time is ripe for a recalibration of donor approaches to local governance and development in areas previously targeted by the surge. Specifically, foreign stakeholders should reexamine three central principles of their previous subnational governance strategy. First, donors should revise their conception of assisting service delivery from the previous approach, which often emphasized providing maximal inputs in a fragmented way, to a more restrained vision that stresses predictability and reliability and acknowledges the interlinked nature of politics, justice, and sectoral services in the eyes of the local population. Second, donors should reframe their goal of establishing linkages between the Afghan govern¬ment and population by acknowledging that the main obstacles to improving center-periph¬ery communication and execution are often political and structural rather than technical. Third, donors should revise the way they define, discuss, and measure local governance prog¬ress in contested areas, away from favoring snapshots of inputs and perceptions and toward capturing longer-term changes on the ground in processes, structures, and incentives. The coming political and development aid transition provides an overdue opportunity for Afghan governance priorities to come to the fore. At the same time, the ever growing chasm between Kabul's deliberations on the one hand and local governance as experienced in more remote, insurgency-wracked areas on the other presents renewed risks. In the short term, donors let the air out of the aid bubble carefully. In the long term, resolving Afghanistan's local governance challenges continues to demand sustained commitment and systematic execution.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States
  • Author: Robert Perito, Tariq Parvez
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Terrorism, secessionist insurgency, sectarian conflict, and ethnic turf wars have convulsed both Pakistan's major cities and tribal areas along the Afghanistan border. The escalation in mega-urban centers in particular has increased the importance of the police in controlling the endemic violence. The police station retains both its historic role as the symbol of government authority and its position as the basic law enforcement institution responsible for public order, law enforcement, and police services. Yet police stations and personnel are ill prepared and poorly equipped to meet the challenges of the country's complex, urbanized, and increasingly violent society. Pakistani police have found themselves on the front lines, and a growing number have given their lives to protect others in the struggle against terrorist and criminal groups. The need is now urgent to empower the police through a program of positive reform that would begin with modernizing police stations and reorienting and retraining their personnel. An effective program for police station reform would begin with assigning primacy to the police for controlling terrorism. It would include developing new organizational struc¬tures, positions, and standard operating procedures to ensure that local police understand their enhanced role and mission. It would also include improving police-public relations and networking police stations into a national information-sharing network with anti-terrorist agencies. Creating high-profile specialized units appears to offer a quick fix to a complex and increas¬ingly pervasive problem. The real solution, however, lies in empowering Pakistan's police stations to protect their communities from criminal and extremist violence through modern¬ization and reform.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan
  • 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: Zekria Barakzai
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The constitution of Afghanistan, though formally enshrining the internationally recognized standards of a “free, universal, secret, and direct vote” for elected institutions, is a flawed document with respect to many aspects of the electoral process. Deficiencies in the electoral legislation have been addressed. For the first time, the legislation governing the polls has been adopted by parliament rather than issued by decree. In addition, the commissioners for both the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) are appointed through a consultative process involving the legislature and judiciary, and not simply by presidential appointment as was the case previously.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Development, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Author: Kathleen Kuehnast, Hodei Sultan, Manal Omar, Steven E. Steiner
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: As Afghanistan and Iraq enter a difficult transition period, women in these countries are increasingly vulnerable to having their rights and opportunities set back at least a generation. Deteriorating security in both countries also places women on the front lines again. In Iraq, the women's rights movement has stagnated, quotas protecting women's political inclusion risk being eliminated, and efforts have stalled to revise Article 41 of the Iraqi Constitution, the problematic article that relates to personal status laws. In Afghanistan, women continue to be largely excluded from the peace process, and reconciliation efforts with the Taliban could undermine the significant gains women have achieved since 2001. Advancing women's empowerment is an essential priority for the transition in each country as it can contribute directly to sustainable stability. The current transition period represents a critical time to assess lessons learned from U.S. engagement in both countries, particularly regarding women's programming. Undertaking such an assessment is timely and important given serious budget constraints facing the foreign affairs community, potential donor fatigue, and limited resources. By identifying common challenges and best practices, these lessons can carry over into future programming for women in conflict and postconflict zones, thus making such projects more effective. The lessons learned and best practices that emerge from this project will inform implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Human Rights, Health Care Policy
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq
  • Author: Robert M. Perito
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In 2006, a day of deadly riots in Kabul dramatized the need for an Afghan constabulary force capable of controlling outbreaks of urban violence. In response, the U.S. military and Afghan authorities created an elite gendarmerie, the Afghanistan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP). Although ANCOP was conceived of as a riot control force, it was assigned to the Focused District Development Program to replace district-level Afghan Uniformed Police who were away for training. The high demand and constant transfers required by this duty resulted in rates of attrition among ANCOP units of 75 to 80 percent. In 2010, ANCOP's superior training, firepower, and mobility were recognized in its assignment, along with a “surge” of U.S. military forces, to reverse the Taliban's hold on key areas in southern Afghanistan. In heavy fighting in Marja, Helmand province, ANCOP was demonstrably unprepared to serve as a counterinsurgency force, particularly in areas that had not been cleared by coalition and Afghan military forces. Subsequent improvements in training and partnering with U.S. forces improved ANCOP's performance in Kandahar, where ANCOP was used to hold areas that had been cleared by the military. By 2011, ANCOP had firmly established its place as an elite rapid reaction and counterinsurgency force with a positive reputation among coalition troops and Afghan citizens.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Law Enforcement
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Taliban
  • 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: Frances Z. Brown
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The U.S. military and civilian surge into Afghanistan starting in late 2009 aimed to stabilize the country through interconnected security, governance, and development initiatives. Despite policymakers’ claims that their goals for Afghan governance were “modest,” the surge’s stated objectives amounted to a transformation of the subnational governance landscape. Three years later, the surge has attained localized progress, but it has not achieved the strategic, sustainable “game change” in Afghan subnational governance it sought. The surge has not met these objectives because its success depended upon three initial U.S. assumptions that proved unrealistic. First, surge policy assumed that governance progress would accrue as quickly as security progress, with more governance-focused resources compensating for less time. Second, surge policy assumed that “bottom-up” progress in local governance would be reinforced by “top-down” Afghan government structures and reforms. Third, surge policy assumed that “absence of governance” was a key universal driver for the insurgency, whereas in some areas, presence of government became a fueling factor. Once the surge was in motion, other miscalculations emerged: the confusion of discrete successes with replicable progress, the mistaking of individuals’ improvements with institution building, the confusion of “local” with “simple,” and the overreliance on technological solutions to address problems that were fundamentally political in nature. As the surge draws down, the U.S-Afghan Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement represents a promising opportunity for longer-term strategic planning. As the international community moves to transition, it should exert its remaining leverage to impact select systemic issues—such as by resolving district council makeup, improving line ministries’ recurring services, and bolstering provincial administrations—rather than tactical-level ones. The international community should also prioritize a few key, attainable efforts, such as providing training that is consistent with current Afghan government functions, while avoiding creating additional structures. Finally, all the usual Afghan local governance recommendations still apply: resolving Afghanistan’s subnational challenges requires long-term commitment and systematic execution.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Insurgency, Governance
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Asia
  • 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