Afghanistan report: Why conflict will most likely continue
The recent fall of the government of President Ashraf Ghani and the second rise of the Taliban to power was stunning in its rapidity, but not surprising in its outcomes.
Many of the underlying causes and drivers of instability and conflict in Afghanistan have existed for a long time and have been well recorded in IEP indices and registers, and these causes and drivers had shown exacerbation recently, making instability and conflict more likely. There is a long history of resource degradation leading to conflict and conflict further degrading the resources – a vicious cycle.
Our analysis is that these underlying causes and drivers of instability are likely to continue to frustrate efforts for peace and federalised governance in Afghanistan into the future with the Taliban likely to struggle with its own challenges to peace.
For the United States and its coalition partners, recent events in Afghanistan may be the closing of a chapter, but for the people of Afghanistan this is part of a continuum of conflict and crisis that will likely continue.
On August 15, 2021 Taliban fighters entered the Afghan capital, Kabul and assumed control of the city and country.
It was the culmination of a Taliban military offensive that started in May 2021 and resulted in that force taking control of most of Afghanistan, including every major city.
For the last two decades an international effort has been made to fight the Taliban, a religious-based group who ruled the country from the mid-nineties until late 2001, and support a federal Afghan government, first headed by Hamid Karzai and then Ashraf Ghani.
Brown University’s Costs of War study says United States federal expenditure on the war in Afghanistan, including past costs and future costs including interest and veterans care is roughly $2.261 trillion.
This cost does not include international expenditure, with many partner countries contributing multi-billion dollar investments. These counties include Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Denmark, Poland, Australia, Germany and Spain.
This total expenditure means the international community has spent more than $300 million a day on the war since 2001, or $50,000 for each Afghan citizen currently living in the country.
This is more than 100 times the average Afghan’s yearly income.
This massive expenditure has not resulted in stability nor security in Afghanistan.
At time of writing no governments had yet recognised the Taliban regime as the legitimate administrators of Afghanistan.
Security and Violence:
The security situation in Afghanistan has been degrading steadily for a number of years.
According to the Global Peace Index 2021 Afghanistan is the world’s least peaceful country, with the scope and intensity of the internal conflict in Afghanistan steadily increasing since at least 2014.
For the last ten years Afghanistan has been ranked as one of the three least peaceful nations on earth according to the GPI, and has been the least peaceful for the last four years.
Since the start of the GPI in 2008, Afghanistan has seen a degradation in eighteen of the Global Peace Index’s indicators, with many being in the ‘Safety and Security’ category. This includes a 66.6% rise in violent crime, and a 33.7% rise in violent demonstration. Also notable is an 80.6% rise in the number of internal conflicts fought.
Only two indicators have shown an improvement since 2008: the number of deaths from external conflict and one relating to UN peacekeeper funding.
The start of 2021 was a particularly violent period in Afghanistan.
Attacks against US forces have dropped significantly since the United States signed a peace agreement with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar in February 2020, but attacks against Afghan security forces have been rising, with US estimates saying that since the Doha agreement, Afghan forces were losing at least 30-50 men each day (General Kenneth McKenzie, CENTCOM).
Civilian deaths have also been rising. A UN Report found that more women and children were killed and wounded in the first six months of 2021 than in any first six months of any year since the US started tracking such data in 2009.
The report also found that in the first six months of 2021, 32% of all civilian casualties were children.
The GPI 2021 reported that Afghanistan had the highest total number of deaths due to internal conflict of any nation. The index also reported that Afghanistan suffered one of the largest proportional economic costs due of violence in the world. It found that the economic cost of violence in Afghanistan was 40.3 percent of the total national GDP.
This made Afghanistan the third most affected country, with only Syria and South Sudan having a higher relative impact.
The Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll, incorporated in the GPI 2021, found that 71% of people in Afghanistan saw violence as the greatest risk they face in their lives. This was the highest proportion of respondents from any nation.
The poll also found that 77% of people in Afghanistan feel they are less safe than they had been five years ago, with only Hong Kong and Lebanon reporting a larger proportion.
Over 52% per cent of poll respondents from Afghanistan said they or someone they knew personally had suffered serious harm from violent crime in the last 12 months. This was more than double the regional average, and made Afghanistan the only authoritarian country in the world with an experience of violence greater than 50%.
Pakistan had the next highest level of experience of violence in the region at 31%. Afgahnistan's northern neighbour Turkmenistan has the lowest reported rate of experience of violence in the world at 1%.