Strategic Reversal in Afghanistan?


Dozens of people have been killed in clashes between Islamic State militants and Afghan forces as the extremist movement renewed efforts to seize parts of eastern Afghanistan, according to reports:

Fighters pledging allegiance to the movement, also known as Daesh, attacked police checkpoints in the Kot area of Nangarhar province. As many as 36 attackers were reported to have been killed in the assaults, with at least another dozen police and civilians also dead from the fighting. The assault comes just three months after the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, said the militant movement had been wiped out in Afghanistan.

Sediq Ansari, the head of Afghanistan’s civil society federation, blamed local leaders for failing to tackle the threat from Islamic State.

He told the Reuters news agency: “They should be accountable for every drop of blood that has been shed in Nangarhar so it becomes a lesson to other officials.”

Afghan civil society continues to play an important role, particularly in urban areas, where thousands of cultural, welfare, and sports associations operate with little interference from the authorities, Freedom House notes. Approximately 274 international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) remained active in Afghanistan in 2015, in addition to nearly 1,800 local NGOs. However, threats and violence by the Taliban and other actors have curbed the activities of many NGOs and hampered recruitment of foreign aid workers.

Since 2001, the United States and its international partners have expended substantial resources to secure, stabilize, and rebuild Afghanistan. Recent developments, however, indicate that progress toward these strategic goals is slipping, argues Seth G. Jones, Director of the RAND Corporation’s International Security and Defense Policy Center:

The Taliban has seized swaths of rural Afghanistan in such provinces as Helmand, Uruzgan, Nangarhar, and Kunduz. Over the past year, Taliban forces have also conducted several offensives against district and provincial capitals. In September 2015, for example, the northern city of Kunduz temporarily fell to the Taliban before being retaken by government forces. Meanwhile, the effectiveness of the National Unity Government continues to be undermined by poor governance and internal friction between President Ashraf Ghani (above), Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Abdullah, and their supporters. A significant worsening of the political and security situations in Afghanistan over the next twelve to eighteen months is therefore plausible. More specifically, there is a growing risk that the current National Unity Government in Kabul could collapse because of a defection by Abdullah, a severe economic crisis, the establishment of a parallel government, or a coup d’état. There is also a growing possibility that the Taliban could gain substantial territory in one or more cities. RTWT

President Barack Obama had expressed the hope that the Taliban would ‘seize the opportunity’ of [Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad] Mansur’s death [in a May drone strike] ‘to pursue the only real path for ending this long conflict—joining the Afghan government in a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability,’ Barnett Rubin writes for the New Yorker.

“So far,” he adds, “the Taliban do not seem to have interpreted the assassination of their leader as an outstretched hand for peace. Like other fighters, including ours, the Taliban respond to blows that fail to destroy them with determination to make their enemy pay the consequences.”

After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the status of women shifted dramatically, bringing about a shift in their status. Afghan women found themselves empowered in ways they had not been under the Taliban’s rule. Despite these gains, however, women continue to confront significant challenges in obtaining equal rights, as Afghanistan’s future remains uncertain due to ongoing violence throughout the country.

In a forthcoming presentation at the National Endowment for Democracy, Fatema Jafari will evaluate the gains Afghan women have made and identify the social, economic, and political barriers to equality that they continue to face. Drawing on her own experience as an elected Afghan politician, Ms. Jafari will offer recommendations for Afghan women, the Afghan government, and the international community on steps they can take to foster gender equality in Afghanistan.


Fatema Jafari

Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

moderated by

Richard Kraemer

National Endowment for Democracy


July 12, 2016
03:00 pm – 04:30 pm


Print Friendly, PDF & Email