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  • Author: Ann Proctor
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Afghanistan’s media have evolved at warp speed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, yet being a journalist remains an extremely dangerous occupation, as many have been killed and still more threatened with violence if they persist in their work. The growth of Afghanistan’s democracy depends on a functioning media. This report examines the situation and offers paths forward to making Afghanistan safer for journalism.
  • Topic: Democratization, Human Rights, Communications, Mass Media
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • 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: Casey Garret Johnson, William A. Byrd, Sanaullah Tasal
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The still unsigned Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the United States provides the legal basis for continuing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. In addition to its substantive importance, the BSA is also a confidence-building mechanism. The delay in putting it in place is compounding uncertainty and further diminishing economic confidence during Afghanistan's already challenging and uncertain transition. Afghans' responses include, among others, hedging behavior (legal and illegal), personal decisions on whether to come back to or stay in Afghanistan, delays in investments, incipient job losses, declining demand for goods and services and real estate prices, and farmers planting more opium poppy.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Democratization, Development, Treaties and Agreements, Insurgency, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Asia
  • Author: Michael Semple
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Afghan Taliban Movement has publicly rejected the legitimacy of the April 2014 elections. The Taliban's military leadership has issued instructions to officials and commanders to disrupt the elections but has left field commanders with wide discretion on how to go about doing so. Many in the Taliban follow the electoral contest closely and comment on developments in terms very similar to how they are described by the political and educated class in Kabul. However, the anti-election sentiment in the Taliban leaves no scope for any faction to cooperate with the process. The Taliban will likely be able to intensify violence approaching the election, but not sufficiently to derail the overall process.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Development, Islam, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency, Governance
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia
  • Author: Noah Coburn, Anna Larson
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Afghanistan's Provincial Councils (PCs) represent one of the best hopes for the future of local democracy in Afghanistan. Yet since their shaky formation in 2005, they continue to be overlooked by international actors preferring to interact with parliamentarians, ministers and appointed governors. The significance assigned by Afghans to winning PC seats has steadily increased over the last decade. Indeed, for many, the April 5 PC elections will do more than the presidential poll to determine whether democratic practices continue to take root in local politics. PC elections offer a chance to build local, personal ties and accountability mechanisms connecting to increasingly centralized government resources, and, in particular, an opportunity for a new generation of young, motivated Afghans to begin their political careers. As the locally-visible manifestation of the Afghan political system, PCs are the immediate face of democracy—or a lack thereof—for many Afghans. In 2009, with most news stories covering the widespread fraud in the presidential contest, the uproar over the fraud and delay throughout the PC polling process rarely received coverage on newspaper front pages. Yet those problems contributed significantly to people's sense of alienation and disillusionment with their country's political actors and electoral institutions. In spite of these experiences, Afghans are once again preparing to go to the polls. Voters, candidates, parties and local organizations are putting greater emphasis than ever on the process of provincial council polling—expressing concern about the prospects for fraud, mobilizing around their candidates and campaigning in earnest. If due attention to the process is not paid by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and by international agencies, popular participation in future elections could drop. Prospects for Afghan democratization will depend much on how these and future provincial-level elections are conducted.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Demographics, Development, Islam, Politics, Youth Culture
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Scott S. Smith
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Afghanistan's democratic development has taken place within the tight embrace of international support and the conception of "free and fair" elections that comes with it, but Afghan and inter-national views on what to expect from elections have diverged in the past, leading to a deepening of distrust between the Karzai-led Afghan government and the international community. The run-up to the 2014 presidential elections has been shaped by this distrust. Nonetheless, with the breakdown of the reconciliation effort with the Taliban and uncertainty about the result of the transition process due to President Hamid Karzai's unexpected refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), the April 5 election is the only remaining opportunity for a political resolution of the continuing crisis in Afghanistan. A more complete understanding of the 2009 elections—how they were and were not a disaster—can help to narrow the gap between Afghan and international expectations; and an understanding of some of the changes that have occurred in Afghan society since 2009 can offer reason for optimism that the election will at the least create space for political elites to address the root causes of the crisis.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Corruption, Democratization, Political Economy, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Antonio Giustozzi, Casey Garret Johnson
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Taliban have more resources and are better organized to disrupt Afghanistan's 2014 national elections than was the case in any of the country's last four elections. Still, there are disagreements between insurgent leaders about carrying out a campaign of violence and intimidation. One group, led by Akhtar Mansur and tied to the Quetta Shura, favored, at least for some time, a more conciliatory approach and in the spring met informally with Afghan government officials to discuss allowing the polls to go forward. Another Group, led by Taliban military commander Zakir and the Peshawar Shura, favors disrupting the election. These upper-level divisions may have little consequence on the ground since rank-and-file fighters are either vowing to carry out attacks regardless or, as has happened in the past, may strike local deals with political entities to look the other way and allow voting to take place.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Democratization, Islam, War, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Taliban
  • 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: 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: 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
  • Author: Scott Worden, Sylvana Q. Sinha
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The recent controversy in Afghanistan over the outcome of the 2010 parliamentary elections ultimately resolved the question of who sits in Parliament, but left a more fundamental question unanswered: "Who has the power to interpret the Afghan Constitution?" Ambiguities in the language of the Constitution make it difficult to determine who has the legal authority to interpret it. The Supreme Court maintains that the Constitution gives it the power of judicial review, but the Constitution also calls for the Independent Commission on the Supervision of Implementation of the Constitution (ICSIC), which the Parliament has mandated to decide constitutional issues instead. Without political and legal consensus over who has final authority to decide different types of constitutional claims, Afghanistan cannot achieve a rule of law where government activities are subject to consistent and transparent rules. Afghanistan must establish clear and unambiguous rules for constitutional interpretation to avoid damaging crises about political leadership and the separation of powers as the security transition and Presidential election approach in 2014.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Islam, War, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Scott Worden
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The presidential and provincial council elections held in Afghanistan in August 2009 were marred by irregularities and fraud, leading voters and candidates to question the fairness and utility of the democratic process there. The Afghan government announced in late January that it will delay Parliamentary elections until September 2010—several months beyond the deadline set by Afghanistan's constitution. The extra time is needed to make adequate logistical preparations, but little has been done so far to reform electoral institutions or policies to prevent a repeat of the problems of the 2009 elections. Without signi_cant changes in the personnel and policies of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)—the constitutional body responsible for overseeing all electoral processes— the 2010 election is likely to fall below international standards and risks undermining government (and international) legitimacy at a critical period for the counterinsurgency strategy. In addition, signi_ cant long-term reforms, including a wholesale revision of the voter registry, must be initiated now to ensure that the district council and other future Afghan elections are credible and acceptable.
  • Topic: Democratization, Sovereignty, Governance
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia
  • Author: Scott Worden
  • Publication Date: 10-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: On September 18, Afghanistan held its second parliamentary elections since the fall of the Taliban. Like last year's vote, these elections were marked by high levels of violence, low turnout and widespread reports of fraud.Despite the challenges, however, Afghans across the country defied Taliban threats and overcame problems with the electoral administration to signal their support for the democratic process. Participation appeared higher among the youth demographic, which is a promising sign for the future of democratic processes in Afghanistan. It is still too early to tell whether the quality of the elections was better than the flawed 2009 process, but the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has improved its procedures and transparency both before and after the elections, and has so far helped to restore the credibility of the institution as a neutral administrator of the electoral process. Meanwhile, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) is again under-resourced, has had little time to establish and train the Provincial Electoral Complaints Commissions (PECCs) that will be adjudicating the 4,200 election day complaints, and has yet to make public its decisions regarding the campaign or polling complaints.The ultimate success of the 2010 elections depends less on the level of fraud that was committed on election day-which was bound to be high-and more on the way in which the fraud is handled by the IEC and ECC. If they are transparent and honest about the problems, and take responsible corrective action, then the elections can be considered a partial success despite its flaws.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Author: Yll Bajraktari, Christina Parajon
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The development of media in post-Taliban Afghanistan has been relatively successful (compared with both the Taliban regime and other countries subject to international intervention) in establishing free and responsible expression despite the lack of electricity, harsh terrain, absence of viable media outlets during the Taliban regime, and a conservative religious society that subordinates women. However, Afghanistan's media development remains incomplete. Since it still faces many challenges, the international community must continue to assist and support it.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Education
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia, Taliban
  • Author: Beth Cole, Catherine Morris
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Taliban fighters have re-emerged in full force in Afghanistan and insurgency-related violence has increased to record levels, resulting in 2,732 fatalities between September 1, 2006, and February 25, 2007. According to the United Nations, the 35,460-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), along with the 8,000 troops deployed under the United States-led coalition command, has begun its own offensive against the insurgency in the south, targeting opium growing regions and Taliban safe zones. From safe havens in the Pakistan border areas, the Taliban are now pursuing a long-term strategy of exploiting their control of remote villages to gain control of districts and then regions. Thus, a conflict that had been pushed down on the U.S. and international agendas is now reemerging. As the Taliban regroups and continues its insurgency, the international community is faced with the need to re-evaluate and strengthen its own plan of action.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Asia, Taliban
  • Author: Emily Hsu, Beth DeGrasse
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Since they reorganized their forces in Pakistan in 2003, Taliban and other anti-government militia have sought to disrupt democratization efforts and sow a climate of fear in Afghanistan. As a result, violence has crept back onto the international radar screen in the last couple of years, a brutal reminder the insurgency is far from defeated. This rise in bloodshed is particularly problematic today, as U.S. forces begin this summer to transfer control of insurgent-heavy regions of the country to NATO. The U.S. Institute of Peace held a recent special session of its Afghanistan Working Group dedicated to this topic, with counterinsurgency experts Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation and Colonel David Lamm of National Defense University. Beth DeGrasse, coordinator of USIP's Afghanistan Working Group
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Asia
  • Author: Emily Hsu, Beth DeGrasse
  • Publication Date: 10-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: With the September 18 parliamentary elections, Afghanistan completes its internationally mandated blueprint for democracy and enters a new phase of state building in uncharted waters. This transition occurs against the backdrop of rising threats to security and an economy dominated largely by illicit production and export of opium. On October 12, 2005, the U.S. Institute of Peace convened a meeting of the Afghanistan Working Group to review the recent parliamentary elections. The presenters at the meeting included Robert Varsalone, resident country director for Afghanistan for the International Republican Institute; Sam Zia-Zarifi, research director for the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch; Larry M. Sampler, former chief of staff for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan; and Barnett R. Rubin, chairman of the Afghanistan Working Group. The following USIPeace Briefing summarizes views expressed at the meeting. The views expressed here do not reflect those of the Institute, which does not take positions on policy issues.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Politics
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Asia