Our key findings from 2017 are reproduced below. A new forthcoming report in May 2021 will update our analysis to reflect the last two years of United States’ interventions, as well as the US-Taliban agreement and the new realities it has created.
Key findings (overview)
Afghanistan is currently experiencing not just one war, but many: any attempt to promote peace will need to recognise and address these wars as discrete but interconnected components of a conflict system (Larson, 2017).
In the short-term, Afghan peace processes should focus on reducing violence. This includes the need to start locally and reduce violence from the ground up, developing realistic options for Taliban groups to de-escalate violence without having to take stands which might compromise their status among their Taliban peers, and ensuring top-down and bottom-up elements of the incremental peace strategy work in sync (Larson and Ramsbotham, 2018).
In the long-term, steps should be taken to ensure inclusivity in the peace process in order to negotiate a broadly inclusive social contract representative of all Afghanistan (Larson and Ramsbotham, 2018).
Unpicking Afghan understandings of inclusion and power-sharing and how these relate to stability and conflict transformation may help to avoid getting stuck in patterns of horizontal elite inclusion at the expense of progress towards vertical forms of societal inclusion (Larson, 2017)
Afghan and international parties and actors need to identify appropriate models or entry points for peace talks and initiatives, and to anticipate the political and material demands, compromises and risks that such processes require (Larson, 2017).
A more precise knowledge of the Taliban’s internal dynamics, and its various priorities for peace and for governance, is important for achieving progress towards a viable political solution to the conflict (Larson, 2017)
A nuanced analysis of regional and international interests and roles in both the conflict and peace is important in order to anticipate spoilers and identify supporters (Larson, 2017).
A central lesson from Bonn is that prioritising Afghan over external interests is key to a peaceful and sustainable future (Suhrke, 2018).
Tackling conflict today requires both strengthening existing governance structures and creating a political system that can incorporate insurgents peacefully (Barfield, 2018).
This report is intended to contribute to the rethinking of approaches to peace-making in Afghanistan, in the light of the high-profile peace initiative which took place between 2018 and 2021 and in the wake of the April 2021 US decision to conduct an unconditional troop withdrawal.
Larson, A. Processing peace in Afghanistan (PSRP Report, Accord), 2017
The report summarises discussions from a workshop to explore priorities for peace in Afghanistan. It looks at six key themes: peacemaking in perspective; terminology; inclusion – distributing power, considering costs; understanding divisions; re-centring the regional stage; and processing peace.
Larson, A., & Ramsbotham, A. Incremental peace in Afghanistan (PSRP Report, Accord), 2018
In this Accord, contributors including Afghan and international men and women from academia, the military, government, armed opposition and civil society, examine the prospects for peace in the country, and how this could be achieved.