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  • 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: 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: Minna Jarvenpaa
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The proposition that a political settlement is needed to end the war in Afghanistan has gained increasing attention in recent months. Channels for preliminary talks with Taliban leaders have been sought and a High Peace Council created. However, despite upbeat military assessments, the insurgency has expanded its reach across the country and continues to enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan. Afghans increasingly resent the presence of foreign troops, and the Taliban draw strength from grievances by ordinary Afghans against their government. External money to supply military bases and pay for development projects often ends up fueling conflict rather than creating stability. For their part, President Karzai and many Afghan political elites lack genuine commitment to reform, calling into question the viability of a state-building international strategy and transition by 2014. Missing is a political strategy to end the conflict that goes beyond dealing with the Taliban; it must define the kind of state that Afghans are willing to live in and that regional neighbors can endorse. Knowing that such a settlement could take years to conclude does not diminish the urgency of initiating the process. Given doubts about Karzai's ability to manage the situation effectively, the international community needs to facilitate a peace process more pro-actively than it has. To be sustainable, the process will need to be inclusive; women's rights, human rights, and media freedoms cannot become casualties of negotiations. Afghanistan's international partners should commit to a peace process and lay the groundwork to appoint a mediator. This includes gauging the interests of parties, identifying actual participants in talks, and structuring an agenda. In the meantime, international military efforts must be realigned to avoid action that contradicts the ultimate aim of a peace settlement.
  • Topic: NATO, Treaties and Agreements, War, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Taliban
  • Author: Graciana del Castillo
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The longest war and one of the largest relief efforts in U.S. history- in Afghanistan and Haiti, respectively-are testing the cost-effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance in conflictravaged or disaster-torn countries. U.S.-led economic reconstruction in both countries is clearly off track and becoming increasingly costly and unpopular-both at home and in the respective countries. Reconstruction zones (RZs), consisting of two distinct but linked areas to ensure synergies between them-a local-production reconstruction zone (LRZ) producing for local consumption and an export-oriented reconstruction zone (ERZ) producing exclusively for export- could be used to replace the fragmented way aid is provided to these countries with an integrated strategy for economic reconstruction. With an appropriate legal and regulatory framework, ERZs-operating as free-trade zones- could create appropriate links to the national economy as well as positive externalities or spillovers. Such a framework would avoid the problems created by these zones operating as enclaves in Haiti in the past. By targeting aid to provide adequate infrastructure and services within the RZs at a manageable scale, countries could jump-start their productive sectors and create jobs and entrepreneurship in agriculture, light manufacturing, and services, both for domestic consumption and for exports. By creating dynamic and inclusive growth, RZs could help countries stand on their own feet, consolidate peace, and overcome the unsustainable aid dependency to which they have grown accustomed.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Humanitarian Aid, War, Natural Disasters, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Caribbean
  • Author: John K. Naland
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Embedded provincial reconstruction teams (ePRTs) were small State Department- led units inserted into U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from 2007 to 2010 to support military counterinsurgency efforts at the local level. During major combat operations in 2007 and into 2008, ePRTs provided important support to military counterinsurgency efforts. As U.S. combat units wound down these efforts and withdrew from towns and cities, ePRTs did useful-but harder to quantify-work in mentoring local officials. Combat brigades and ePRTs generally worked well together. However, some units were unsure of how best to employ civilians. The military and civilians also sometimes had differing views on issues of short-term versus long-term goals. Despite problems, ePRT veterans believe that they had a positive effect in both supporting military counterinsurgency efforts and helping local Iraqi officials prepare for self-reliance. Interviewees identified a variety of operational problems that detracted from ePRT mission accomplishment. The Iraq ePRTs are now history, but as the United States continues to use civil-military teams in Afghanistan, these observed lessons need to be learned and acted upon.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, War, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Arabia
  • Author: Graciana del Castillo
  • Publication Date: 08-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The United States' longest war, in Afghanistan, and one of the largest relief efforts in U.S. history, in Haiti, are testing U.S. leadership in the world, as well as its determination to deal with fiscal imbalances, the debt burden, and economic malaise at home. U.S.-led reconstruction in both countries is lagging and becoming increasingly expensive, and it will not succeed without a major change in strategy. U.S. goals in both countries will be elusive unless the misguided policies and misplaced priorities under which reconstruction has been taking place change in fundamental ways. Each country is different and will need to develop its own strategy. Nevertheless, we have identified basic rules, lessons, and best practices that national policymakers and the international community should keep in mind to improve the provision of aid and technical assistance. During the immediate transition from war or chaos, reconstruction is not development as usual: The peace (or political) objective should prevail at all times over the development (or economic) objective. Without peace there cannot be development. Policymaking should be tailored to four major differences from development as usual. Emergency policies should be adopted without delay, aid to groups most affected by crises should be prioritized, corruption should be checked, and national ownership of reconstruction policies must be assured. For both Afghanistan and Haiti, a broad-based debate-including national leaders, U.S. government officials, members of Congress, military leaders, academics, think tanks, and aid practitioners in these countries-is urgently needed and should take place without delay, as it did at the time of the Marshall Plan.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Haiti
  • Author: Noah Coburn
  • Publication Date: 08-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: There are numerous sources of local conflict in Afghanistan today, but the majority cluster around a few issues: disputes over land and water rights; family disputes, particularly inheritance; and disputes over control of local positions of authority. Lack of capacity or resources in the formal justice systems has been blamed for the lack of effective dispute resolution. But the fact that disputes were resolved more regularly in Afghanistan before the war years, when the formal justice system had even fewer resources, indicates that other causes are involved. Lack of political and personal security of dispute-resolution practitioners and the increased power of local commanders, whose authority is not community-based, have undermined the traditional dispute-resolution system. At the same time, corruption and inefficiency have delegitimized the formal justice system in the eyes of many disputants. Afghans and foreign donors alike note that Afghanistan has both state (court-based) and nonstate (based upon a combination of customary and religious law) justice sectors, and it is often assumed that these systems solely compete with each other for dispute-resolution authority. USIP research shows that, contrary to assumptions, successfully resolved disputes rely on a combination of formal and informal actors. Indeed, it is common for disputes to move between formal and informal venues and to be considered by a series of local elders and, more rarely, government officials.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Seth G. Jones, C. Christine Fair
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: More than seven years after U.S. forces entered Afghanistan, important gains made in bringing stability and democracy to Afghanistan are imperiled. While there have been some positive developments in such areas as economic growth, the Taliban and other insurgent groups have gained some ground in the country and in neighboring Pakistan, the drug trade remains a significant problem, and corruption has worsened in the Afghan government. According to United Nations data, insurgent incidents have increased every year since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban regime. The situation in parts of Afghanistan's south and east is particularly concerning because of the twin menace of insurgent and criminal activity. Despite these challenges, the insurgency remains deeply fractured among a range of groups, and most have little support among the Afghan population. This presents an opportunity for Afghans and the international community to turn the situation around.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Development, Economics, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Central Asia
  • Author: Robert M. Perito
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In seven years, the Afghan National Police forces have grown to 68,000 personnel, with a target end strength of 86,000. The ANP includes the uniformed police force, which is responsible for general police duties, and specialized police forces, which deal with public order, counternarcotics, terrorism, and border control. Despite the impressive growth in numbers, the expenditure of $10 billion in international police assistance, and the involvement of the United States, the European Union, and multiple donors, the ANP is riddled with corruption and generally unable to protect Afghan citizens, control crime, or deal with the growing insurgency. The European Union has replaced Germany as the lead partner for police reform, but the United States has the largest police program, which is directed by the U.S. military. Putting soldiers in charge of police training has led to militarization of the ANP and its use as a counterinsurgency force. Using improperly trained, equipped, and supported ANP patrol men as “little soldiers” has resulted in the police suffering three times as many casualties as the Afghan National Army. Police are assigned in small numbers to isolated posts without backup and are targeted by the insurgents. Beyond funding the Taliban, the explosion in Afghan narcotics production fueled widespread corruption in the Afghan government and police. Drug abuse by police officers became increasingly common as did other forms of criminal behavior. Challenges facing the ANP were further compounded by a proliferation of bilateral police assistance programs that reflected the policing practices of donor countries. These efforts often were not coordinated with the larger U.S. and EU programs, creating confusion for the ANP. The Obama administration has acknowledged the importance of the police and announced its intentions to expand and improve the ANP as a key part of its plan for stabilizing Afghanistan. It should do this as part of a broader international community approach to police assistance that embraces a comprehensive program for security sector reform and rule of law.
  • Topic: Security, War, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Europe, Asia