In mid-August 2021, Taliban militants swept into Kabul, completing their takeover of Afghanistan and marking a new phase in what has been the world’s most lethal conflict in recent years. The U.S.-backed government in place since 2001 is gone, as are almost all U.S. and NATO troops. As the new dispensation takes shape, Crisis Group remains focused on promoting a deep understanding of events on the ground and helping the various stakeholders inside and outside the country comprehend their counterparts' motives and political constraints. We also aim to advance policies that improve security and promote inclusive governance.
The Taliban have barred women from universities and many workplaces, compelling several aid organisations to pause operations in Afghanistan and donors to contemplate cuts to assistance. Yet the principled response remains to mitigate the harm these harsh rulings are doing to the most vulnerable Afghans.
Islamic State killed senior Taliban official in north, satellite imagery revealed dramatic reduction in opium production, and UN slashed aid budget amid Taliban’s draconian restrictions on women.
Islamic State’s local branch conducted deadly attacks on Taliban in north. While violence countrywide remained at historic lows, Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) continued to menace Taliban. After two-month hiatus in attacks, ISKP 6 June carried out vehicle-borne IED strike in Badakhshan province (north), killing provincial deputy governor; ISKP suicide attack 8 June struck funeral procession of deputy governor, killing another senior Taliban member. Attacks in Badakhshan indicate ISKP may have capitalised on ethnic grievances and Taliban’s crackdown on Islamists to build network in province. Taliban 3 June reportedly killed senior ISKP commander in unspecified eastern province.
Signs emerged of Taliban’s crackdown on opium production. Private satellite imagery and analysis published 6 June indicated 99% reduction in poppy crops in main opium cultivation areas of country, such as Helmand province (south), leading to projections of 80% decline in national production of drug. If confirmed, it would mark most significant reduction of poppy cultivation in world history. Switch to alternative water-intensive crops, however, could contribute to water shortages and exacerbate disputes with neighbouring countries, while economic status of tens of thousands of labourers who previously relied on poppy cultivation remains unclear.
UN cut aid budget for country and UN rapporteur accused Taliban of “gender apartheid”. UN and humanitarian agencies 5 June revised Afghanistan’s aid plan for 2023 from $4.6bn down to $3.2bn, citing “changing operating context” following Taliban restrictions on female aid workers. UN special rapporteur for Afghanistan mid-June published report accusing Taliban government of “widespread and systematic discrimination” against women and alleging Taliban “may be responsible for gender apartheid”. In annual report, World Bank same day ranked Afghanistan among bottom 11 economies based on laws that affect women’s economic opportunity.
Tensions cooled with Iran. Following water dispute and border escalation in May, Iranian envoy 17 June stated Taliban permitted Iranian experts to visit Kajaki dam, signalling renewed dialogue.
The flood of outrage from the West will strengthen the resolve of the Taliban leadership [in Afghanistan], which defines itself as a bulwark against the outside world.
The Taliban seem determined to isolate the country from the world, which can only lead to greater misery for Afghans. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023, Crisis Group explains how the EU and its member states can help address the challenges Afghanistan faces.
Like It or Not, Donors Must Work With The Taliban on Economic Recovery.
Technical negotiations may succeed where political ones have failed, says the policy expert.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood speaks with Crisis Group’s Asia Director Laurel Miller about U.S. policy in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s foreign relations and what the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in the Afghan capital Kabul says about the threat from transnational militants in Afghanistan a year into Taliban rule.
This Twitter Space examines the situation in Afghanistan exactly one year after the Taliban seized power on 15 August 2021. This discussion was hosted by Laurel Miller, our Asia Program Director, Graeme Smith, our Senior Consultant on Afghanistan, and Ibraheem Bahiss, our Afghanistan Analyst.
One year after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, fighting has decreased considerably. Yet serious security problems remain, not least the foreign militants still in the country. External actors should press the new authorities to fulfil their commitments and avoid any steps that could reignite large-scale violence.
The U.S. has claimed a drone strike killing al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a Kabul house. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Jerome Drevon explores what this event may mean for the movement and its affiliates.
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