The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan

The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. U.S. Institute of Peace. Casey Garret Johnson. November 3, 2016

This report details the structure, composition, and growth of the Islamic State’s so-called Khorasan province, particularly in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, and outlines considerations for international policymakers. More than sixty interviews carried out by The Liaison Office with residents of Nangarhar and provincial and national Afghan security officials informed this report. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 16 pages, 409.17 KB].

Number of Refugees to Europe Surges to Record 1.3 Million in 2015

Number of Refugees to Europe Surges to Record 1.3 Million in 2015. Pew Research Center. Phillip Connor. August 2, 2016.

A record 1.3 million migrants applied for asylum in the 28 member states of the European Union, Norway and Switzerland in 2015, nearly double the previous high water mark of roughly 700,000 that was set in 1992 after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, Eastern European countries like Kosovo and Albania still contribute to the overall flow of asylum seekers into the EU, Norway and Switzerland, but about half of refugees in 2015 trace their origins to just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 36 pages, 1 MB].

Profiling the Islamic State

Profiling the Islamic State. Brookings Institution. Charles Lister. November 2014.

Intense turmoil in Syria and Iraq has created socio-political vacuums in which jihadi groups have been able to thrive. The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) had proven to be the strongest and most dynamic of these groups, seizing large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. Shortly after routing Iraqi forces and conquering Mosul in June 2014, ISIS boldly announced the establishment of a caliphate and renamed itself the Islamic State (IS). How did IS become such a powerful force? What are its goals and characteristics? What are the best options for containing and defeating the group?

In a new Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper, Charles Lister traces IS’s roots from Jordan to Afghanistan, and finally to Iraq and Syria. He describes its evolution from a small terrorist group into a bureaucratic organization that currently controls thousands of square miles and is attempting to govern millions of people. Lister assesses the group’s capabilities, explains its various tactics, and identifies its likely trajectory.

According to Lister, the key to undermining IS’s long-term sustainability is to address the socio-political failures of Syria and Iraq. Accordingly, he warns that effectively countering IS will be a long process that must be led by local actors. Specifically, Lister argues that local actors, regional states, and the international community should work to counter IS’s financial strength, neutralize its military mobility, target its leadership, and restrict its use of social media for recruitment and information operations.[Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 52 pages, 1.23 MB].

Conflict Management and Peacebuilding: Pillars of a New American Grand Strategy

Conflict Management and Peacebuilding: Pillars of a New American Grand Strategy. Strategic Studies Institute. Volker C. Franke and Robert H. Dorff, eds. October 16, 2013.

The authors examine the utility of the U.S. Government’s whole-of-government (WoG) approach for responding to the challenging security demands of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They specifically discuss the strategic objectives of interagency cooperation particularly in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict management.

[HTML format with a link to the PDF file, 426 pages]. Executive Summary [PDF format, 2 pages, 624.56 KB].

Lessons From Negotiating With the Taliban

Lessons From Negotiating With the Taliban. YaleGlobal. Marc Grossman. October 8, 2013.

Pakistan released the Afghan Taliban’s second in command to catalyze a peace process. It’s not the first effort. In trying to end fighting in Afghanistan and secure a sustainable representative government for Afghans, from mid-2011 to March 2012, the United States tried encouraging Taliban members to work with the Afghan government. Those talks failed, explains Marc Grossman. Grossman offers three lessons for others who have little choice but to negotiate with stubborn insurgents: set moral guidelines on end goals for the negotiating team, recognize that it’s challenging for both sides to negotiate and fight simultaneously; and apply force to back diplomacy and vice versa. Fragmentation among opponents is frustrating when commitments are not met, but can lead to breakthroughs. For most it’s puzzling why a few ideologues prefer endless pursuit of power, at any cost, over peace and stability. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[HTML format, various paging].

US and Iranian Strategic Competition: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Central Asia

US and Iranian Strategic Competition: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Central Asia. Center fro Strategic & International Studies. Anthony H. Cordesman et al. June 11, 2013.

U.S. and Iranian competition in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Pakistan has taken on renewed significance amid recent elections in Pakistan, and the upcoming Transition in Afghanistan. According to the report, rising anxiety over the withdrawal of U.S. forces, ongoing regional instability, and continued tension over Iran’s nuclear program contribute to escalating competition between the US-Iranian competition in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Pakistan. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 73 pages, 1.79 MB].

Avoiding Creeping Defeat in Afghanistan: The Need for Realistic Assumptions, Strategy, and Plans

Avoiding Creeping Defeat in Afghanistan: The Need for Realistic Assumptions, Strategy, and Plans. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Anthony H. Cordesman. August 28, 2012.

The U.S. is not losing the war in Afghanistan in the classic military sense. The U.S., its allies, and Afghan forces still win virtually every direct military encounter. The problem is that this is a political war where the political impact of combat, politics, governance, and economics are far more important than tactical success in directly defeating the enemy. At this level, the insurgents still seem to have significant momentum and are certainly not being decisively defeated. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 17 pages, 542.49 KB].