The first real attempt to reconcile the Taliban was the formation of the
Afghan High Peace Council in 2010.This was a group of politicians, civil
society activists and former Mujahideen, also including several women as
well as moderate Taliban figures. The idea was to open up communication
channels with the insurgents to talk peace.
To provide the Taliban with an address, the Qatari government agreed to
establish a political office for the insurgents which opened in Doha in
The United States and the Afghan Taliban have signed an agreement aimed at
securing an end to almost 20 years of violent conflict in Afghanistan. The
deal was done after a seven-day partial ceasefire, agreed as a trust
building exercise. The two sides came together at a signing ceremony in
Doha, led by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
The Taliban wanted a timetable for a US troop withdrawal, while the American
demanded the Taliban end all ties with international terrorist groups such
How much has the Afghanistan war cost the US?
According to the US Department of Defense, the total military expenditure in
Afghanistan (from October 2001 until September 2019) was $778bn.
How much territory do the Taliban control?
The study shows the Taliban are now in full control of 14 districts (that's
4% of the country) and have an active and open physical presence in a
further 263 (66%), significantly higher than previous estimates of Taliban
There have been several gaps and challenges in the current peace initiative
by QCG, which should be dealt carefully. The challenges are as follows:
Since Taliban is not a monolithic group, it has to be carefully charted out
as to which group(s) the Afghan government is targeting to engage. The
government should plan in advance what it would do if Taliban refuses to
- In case the Taliban agrees to participate, what would be the agenda of
- To what extent can the government develop a consensus with Taliban?
Another important challenge for Afghanistan would be to convince Taliban to
accept Afghan constitution, which seems a bit difficult as Taliban has
always strived for Shariah based law in the country.
- To what extend the Government of Afghanistan can trust Pakistan and
its role in the peace process?
- What role would China play to secure its national interests?
- Would it convince Pakistan to bring Taliban to the negotiating
table or would it rely on Pakistan’s strategy?
On 11 January 2016, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) consisting of
Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States met for the first time to
discuss the Afghan peace and reconciliation process in Islamabad. Parties
confirmed mutual efforts to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace
and reconciliation process to achieve lasting peace and stability in
Afghanistan and the region. Three further QCG meetings were held. On 21
September 2016 in New York, on the margins of the 71st UN General Assembly,
India, Afghanistan and the United Sates held a round of trilateral
consultations at which they reaffirmed shared interests in advancing peace
and security in the region, as well as countering terrorism.
On 22 September 2016, a peace agreement was signed between the Afghan
Government and Hizb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG). On 6 November 2016, the Afghan
government and the HIG Joint Executive Commission for the implementation of
the peace agreement officially started its work.
On 20 November 2016, a HIG delegation met with President Ghani to discuss
the release of HIG prisoners, refugee repatriation and land distribution.
Two days later, a HIG delegation visited Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul and
met HIG prisoners. All issues regarding the implementation of the peace
agreement continue to be addressed by the Joint Executive Commission.
There were four meetings convened by Pugwash in 2016 related to peace and
security in Afghanistan; 23-24 January 2016 in Doha, Qatar on Peace and
Security in Afghanistan
; 5 September 2016 in Kabul, Afghanistan on moving
towards peace in Afghanistan; 22 November 2016 in Islamabad, Pakistan on Pakistan-Afghan relations and; 13 December 2016 in Kabul, Afghanistan on peace in Afghanistan.
Peace Talks Sponsored By Russia
On April 14th 2017, Moscow invited 12 states to take part in consultations
devoted to the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan and the start
of direct talks between the country’s government and
the Taliban. In December, Moscow hosted consultations between diplomats from
Russia, Pakistan, and China to discuss the start of a national
reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The format was expanded in
mid-February to involve Afghanistan, Iran, and India.
However, it is important to note here that, U.S. administration refused to
take part in the conference, questioning Russian intentions and motives.
With support from the US and other NATO members, the conference in Moscow
could have been a major stride towards resolving the Afghan crisis. Despite
having conflicting views and interests, regional actors seemed to be inching
toward a single approach to stability in the war-torn country.
But the Trump team, in spite of America’s dismal failure to enforce a
semblance of security in a country dubbed as the graveyard of empires,
remains cynical of regional peace bids. The US, which is yet to unveil its
game plan, chose to play the spoiler by boycotting the negotiations.
Increase In Death Toll
Parties to the conflict in Afghanistan killed and injured more than 10,000
civilians in 2019, according to a new United Nations report that describes
continuing record-high levels of civilian harm in the ongoing conflict.
The new report documents 3,403 civilians killed and 6,989 injured, with the
majority of the civilian casualties inflicted by anti-government elements.
It is the sixth year in a row that the number of civilian casualties has
In addition to continuing record-high levels of harm to civilians, civilian
casualty figures for 2019 surpassed a grim milestone. After more than a
decade of systematically documenting the impact of the war on civilians, the
UN found that in 2019 the number of civilian casualties had surpassed
Almost no civilian in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in
some way by the ongoing violence, said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the
Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the
UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). It is absolutely imperative
for all parties to seize the moment to stop the fighting, as peace is long
overdue; civilian lives must be protected and efforts for peace are
The figures outlined in the new report – released jointly by UNAMA and the
UN Human Rights Office – represent a five per cent decrease over the
previous year, mainly due to a decrease in civilian casualties caused by
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP). Civilian
casualties caused by the other parties increased, particularly by the
Taliban (21 per cent increase) and the international military forces (18 per
cent increase), mainly due to an increase in improvised explosive device
attacks and airstrikes.
In addition to outlining the civilian casualties documented with a rigorous
methodology throughout the course of 2019, the report sets out several
recommendations and reminds the parties that attacks deliberately targeting
civilians or civilian objects are serious violations of international
humanitarian law that amount to war crimes.
All parties to the conflict must comply with the key principles of
distinction, proportionality and precaution to prevent civilian casualties,
said Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Belligerents must take the necessary measures to prevent women, men, boys
and girls from being killed by bombs, shells, rockets and improvised mines;
to do otherwise is nacceptable.
The report calls on all parties to the conflict to conduct prompt, effective
and transparent investigations into all allegations of violations of
international human rights law and international humanitarian law, with a
view to ensuring accountability.
In 2019, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) attributed 6,447
civilian casualties (1,668 killed and 4,779 injured) to Anti Government
Elements, an eight per cent decrease compared with 2018.30 After reduced
Taliban and ISIL-KP activity during the first six months of the year,
civilian casualties attributed to Anti-Government Elements peaked in the
third quarter, mainly due to Taliban attacks. UNAMA attributed 4,904
civilian casualties (1,301 killed and 3,603 injured) to the Taliban, a 21
per cent increase compared with 2018, comprising 47 per cent of all civilian
UNAMA attributed 1,223 civilian casualties (309 killed and 914
injured) to ISIL-KP, a decrease of 44 per cent compared to 2018, comprising
12 per cent of all civilian casualties.32 UNAMA attributed 320 civilian
casualties (58 killed and 262 injured) to undetermined Anti-Government
Elements. In contrast to 2018, civilian casualties from nonsuicide IEDs
surpassed civilian casualties from suicide attacks in 2019, and was the
leading cause of civilian casualties by Anti-Government Elements for the
Non-suicide IEDs caused 2,258 civilian casualties (507 killed and
1,751 injured), a 24 per cent increase from 2018. Suicide attacks were the
second leading cause of civilian casualties attributed to Anti-Government
Elements, resulting in 2,078 civilian casualties (378 killed and 1,700
injured). This represented a 26 per cent decrease from 2018, mainly driven
by a 76 per cent decline of civilian casualties attributed to ISIL-KP
suicide attacks, while civilian casualties from Taliban suicide attacks
increased by 133 per cent. UNAMA documented a 11 per cent decrease in
civilian casualties from ground engagement attributed to Anti-Government
Elements, causing 1,229 civilian casualties (261 killed and 968 injured).
Afghan People’s Dialogue on Peace
Afghans in Kabul by and large identified what they perceived to be local
peace-building initiatives, including strengthening and reforming local
government institutions; the implementation of economic and social
development projects, particularly infrastructure projects; the
strengthening of Afghan national security forces; the strengthening of rule
of law; and the implementation of comprehensive peace programmes with
meaningful participation by ordinary people, including men, women and youth.
People believed that Afghan authorities must implement the foregoing
initiatives, with a particular focus on addressing the root causes of
conflict and with an aim to bringing durable peace and security to the
Cooperation with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission UNAMA
coordinates and cooperates with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights
Commission (AIHRC), particularly with its Special Investigations Team, in
conducting fact-finding on incidents and in analysing overall trends and
patterns. Joint missions between UNAMA and AIHRC are conducted from
time-to-time, particularly on high-profile incidents. In 2019, UNAMA and
AIHRC conducted a joint mission to a Taliban-controlled area to conduct
fact-finding on civilian casualties resulting from airstrikes by
international military force.
UNAMA undertaken a range of activities aimed at minimizing the impact of the
armed conflict on civilians including: independent and impartial monitoring
of incidents involving loss of life or injury to civilians; advocacy to
strengthen protection of civilians affected by the armed conflict; and
initiatives to promote compliance among all parties to the conflict to
support their efforts to protect civilians, prevent civilian casualties, and
uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and
international human rights law recommended the followings:
- Cease the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of all IEDs particularly
in populated areas.
- Cease the use of indirect fire (mortars, rockets and grenades) in
- Immediately cease the deliberate targeting of civilians, including
members of the civilian government administration, human rights
defenders, judges, journalists, prosecutors, schoolteachers, first
responders and aid workers.
- Cease all attacks and threats against healthcare facilities and
healthcare workers, including polio vaccinators and campaigners; cease
all attacks and threats against schools and education personnel, and
ensure that children’s access to education is not impeded by military
- Immediately cease imposing cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment on individuals.
Government of Afghanistan
- Immediately disband and disarm all pro Government armed groups,
including the Khost Protection Force and Shaheen Forces, or formally incorporate
members into the Afghan national security forces following a robust vetting
procedure; increase transparency and accountability concerning operations of
National Directorate of Security Special Forces, which appear to fall
outside of the official Governmental chain of command and to be coordinated
with international actors; and investigate all allegations of violations of
international human rights law and international humanitarian law with a
view to ensuring accountability for violations and abuses they commit,
including summary executions.
- Cease the use of indirect fire (mortars, rockets and grenades) and
other explosives with wide area effects in populated areas; continue to
develop and improve tactical directives, rules of engagement and other
procedures in relation to the use of armed aircraft. • Increase efforts
to protect religious leaders, as well as the Shi’a Muslim religious minority population
from sectarian-motivated attacks, including enhancement of existing
protection and security measures, strengthening preventative mechanisms, and
ensuring better coordination and communication with affected
- Continue to strengthen the capacity of the Afghan national security
forces to effectively conduct counter-IED operations, including IED
exploitation, and ensure that the Government dedicates all necessary
resources to ensure the full implementation of the national counter-IED
Afghan national security forces:
Afghan national security forces caused 1,682 civilian casualties (680
killed and 1,002 injured) in 2019, which is a slight increase in comparison
to 2018.129 An overall decrease in civilian casualties from airstrikes by
the Afghan Air Force was offset by a jump in civilian casualties from ground
engagements. UNAMA is concerned by the reverse in progress on reducing
civilian casualties from ground engagements, particularly as a result of
increased use of indirect fire in civilian populated areas.
Legal Responsibilities of Parties to the Armed Conflict
UNAMA takes the position that the armed conflict in Afghanistan is
characterized by a number of non international armed conflicts between the
Afghan national security forces and international military forces supporting
the Government of Afghanistan and various non-State armed opposition groups,
as well as between non-State armed opposition groups.
The combined forces of
the Government of Afghanistan (including international military forces) are
referred to in this report and within Afghanistan as Pro-Government
, while non-State armed opposition groups are referred to in this
report and within Afghanistan as Anti-Government Elements
. (See Glossary
for definition of Pro Government Forces and Anti-Government Elements).
All parties to the armed conflict:
Afghan armed forces, international military
forces and non-State armed groups – have clear obligations under
international law to protect civilians. Resolution 1325 (2000) of the
Security Council underlines that it is critical for all States to fully
apply the relevant norms of international humanitarian law and international
human rights law to women and girls, and to take special measures to protect
them from gender-based violence during armed conflict.
Obligations under International Humanitarian Law
In a non-international armed conflict, article 3 common to the Geneva
Conventions establishes minimum standards that parties to a conflict,
including State and non-State actors, shall respect. Additionally, where
applicable, the provisions of Additional Protocol II of 1977, to which
Afghanistan is a party, also form part of the governing legal framework. 215 All States contributing to the international military forces in Afghanistan
are signatories to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.
While not all
troop-contributing States are signatories of Additional Protocol II of 1977,
they are all bound by the relevant rules of customary international
humanitarian law applicable in non-international armed conflicts.216 The
customary rules regulating armed conflicts between states and armed
opposition groups are applicable to all parties to the conflict, whether a
state or an armed opposition group.
Common Article 3 explicitly prohibits violence to life and person, including
murder,217 mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, taking hostages, as well
as outrages against personal dignity and extrajudicial executions,218 at any
time and in any place with respect to persons taking no active part in
hostilities, including civilians. Under international humanitarian law,
parties to a conflict are obligated to respect the following key principles,
including when planning military operations.
Obligations under International Human Rights Law
International human rights law applies both in peace and during armed
conflict, together with international humanitarian law, in a complementary
and mutually reinforcing manner. As such, States must respect their
obligations under international human rights law with respect to individuals
within their territory or subject to their jurisdiction. In addition,
non-state actors that have effective control of a territory and exercise
government-like functions must respect human rights norms.
Government of Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a party to numerous international human rights treaties,223
including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which
obligates the Government to provide basic human rights protections to all
persons within the territory or jurisdiction of the State. Under
international human rights law, States must investigate the use of lethal
force by their agents,224 particularly those involved in law enforcement.
This duty, together with potential liability for failure to comply, flows
from the obligation to protect the right to life.225 For State
investigations to be effective, they must be prompt, exhaustive, impartial,
independent226 and open to public scrutiny.
A State’s duty to investigate applies to all law enforcement contexts,
including those arising during armed conflict.
Finally, the armed conflict in Afghanistan continued to take a heavy toll on
the civilian population in 2019, particularly on women and children. Years
of ongoing conflict have caused extensive internal displacement,
life-altering traumatic injuries, economic instability for widow-headed
households, increased mental health needs for those who have suffered
repeated loss, and lack of access to essential services.
Sayed Qudrat Hashimy -
- The US should have attended the latest peace talks, Available
- Peace initiatives offered by participants in Kabul generally fell
under the following three interrelated
- UNAMA documented the fifth year in a row of sustained increases in
civilian casualties from airstrikes, leading to record high civilian
casualty levels page 151
- In 2019, UNAMA documented 2,226 boy casualties and 910 girl
casualties. It was unable to verify the gender of 13 child casualties.
- See the A/74/582-S/2019/935 (10 December 2019); also see https://media.defense.gov/2019/
- See section IV.b.ii on Search operations of this report.
- ICRC Customary International Humanitarian Law Study, Rule 6. For
more information on the legal analysis concerning this topic, please
read UNAMA Special Report
- In 2018, Afghan national security forces caused 1,629 civilian
casualties (640 killed and 989 injured).
-  See, section IV(b)(i) on Airstrikes for more information of
- Ibid. pp. 33-35.
- UNAMA Protection of Civilians Annual Reports 2013, p. 32; 2014, p.
74; 2015, p. 54; 2016, p. 78; 2017, pp. 6 and 56 (referring to all
Anti-Government Elements); and 2018, p. 28.
- accessible at: https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/ customary-ihl/eng/docs/v1.
Department of Studies in Law,
University of Mysore, Karnataka, India
Email: Sayedqudrathashimy[at]gmail.com, Ph no: +91 900 881 3333