Uncertainty In Afghan Leadership Clouding Path Forward On Permanent Peace

(New York, N.Y.) – Last Friday, the Trump Administration and the Taliban reached an agreement to reduce violence in Afghanistan. However, one major obstacle the current peace process faces is the confirmation of Ashraf Ghani’s second term win as president of Afhganistan. The Afghan government remains locked in a political crisis as opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah declared himself the winner of the recent disputed Afghan election, despite President Ghani’s apparent victory.

The Taliban have been vocal in their rejection of Ghani’s win and have consistently announced their rejection of any Afghan government supported by the United States. For example, In 2018, militants launched several attacks on campaign rallies and voter registration drives ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections that October. The Taliban had denounced the elections as an “American-led process” that legitimizes foreign occupation. The Taliban specifically warned people to stay away from schools used as voting centers. Security forces recorded 120 hand grenade or improvised explosives attacks in the days prior to the October 20, 2018, parliamentary elections.

Despite the frequency of Taliban-sponsored attacks, peace negotiations between the United States and the Taliban have reached their highest level yet. Beginning in April 2019, Doha hosted a series of talks between U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and top Taliban official Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar that have centered on withdrawing thousands of U.S. troops in exchange for the Taliban’s agreement to a ceasefire and their participation in negotiating a larger peace deal directly with the Afghan government.

The talks originally aimed to reach a peace deal with the Taliban by September 1—ahead of the Afghan polls on September 28, 2019.  However, on September 7, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump canceled a secret meeting at Camp David with Taliban leaders and the president of Afghanistan, effectively ending the months-long U.S.-Taliban peace negotiations. The decision followed a Taliban-sponsored attack a few days prior in which one U.S. soldier and 11 others were killed.

To read CEP’s Afghanistan resource, please click here.

To read CEP’s Taliban resource, please click here.

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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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