The turn of the year 2014/2015 marked a
turning point in Afghanistan's modern history. The
country's own government and military then assumed
responsibility for security after Afghanistan for 13
years had been protected from mainly the Taliban by at
most over 140,000 foreign soldiers. With a handful of
years of perspective on the change of power, it is clear
that Afghanistan is far from standing on its own.
The Kabul government is almost paralyzed by internal
divisions and outside the provinces, Taliban and other
resistance groups have strengthened their positions.
Country facts and history of Afghanistan, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
The US and NATO led forces that have been in
Afghanistan since the beginning of the 2000s (see Modern
History) left the country in large part by the end of
2014. Only 9,800 US soldiers would remain in support of
the Afghans. Half of them would be taken home in 2015,
the rest in 2016. The NATO-led ISA force was replaced
with a smaller NATO (Operation Resolute Support)
mission, with the mission of training, training and
assisting Afghan soldiers.
Since 2015, the security situation has deteriorated
and the government has lost control of much of the
country to the Taliban. (Kabul is estimated to rule over
about two-thirds of the population). The army and police
forces suffer constant losses, and fighting and assaults
require many civilian casualties. According to a 2018
study at Brown University in the United States, nearly
39,000 civilians had been killed in direct combat since
the US invasion in 2001. In fact, the Afghan defense is
still dependent on US support.
Already in the fall of 2015, US President Barack
Obama realized that the Afghan defense was unable to
protect the country on its own. He therefore slowed the
American retreat. Donald Trump, who became US president
in January 2017, decided in August of the same year to
expand the US troops presence in Afghanistan by 3,000
men. A little over a year later, in December 2018,
however, Trump made a complete reversal and decided to
call home about half of the approximately 14,000 US
soldiers who remained in Afghanistan. It is still
unclear when - and whether - the retreat will begin.
Weak political results
During the last mandate period of 2014, the Kabul
government has been characterized by internal power
struggles and a lack of manpower. The 2014 presidential
election was characterized by systematic, gross
cheating. In the first round of elections in April,
Tajik Abdullah Abdullah, former Foreign Minister,
received the most votes but was forced into a second
round in June where he met the Pashtun Ashraf Ghani,
former finance minister. According to preliminary
results, Ghani then prevailed, which Abdullah refused to
Only in September did they agree to basically share
power. Ghani was appointed president and Abdullah was
given a newly created post corresponding to the prime
minister. No official vote figures were published, which
gave reason to believe that the result was based on a
political settlement under pressure from the US
Disagreement between Ghani and Abdullah, coupled with
opposition from Parliament, took almost six months to
set up a unifying government. Subsequently, the concrete
results have been few. A success for Ghani came in 2017
when the government succeeded in concluding a peace
agreement with a faction of the Islamist group Hezb-i
Islami, but all attempts to speak with the Taliban have
so far failed. The same year, Ghani acted against his
Vice President Dostum after it was revealed that his
militia had beaten a political opponent. Dostum was
forced to flee to Turkey.
The parliamentary elections that would have been held
by June 2015 could only be held in the fall of 2018.
Despite concerns about a number of shortcomings in the
preparations, as well as for the poor security
situation, the authorities maintained that the elections
would be held in October. The Taliban movement swore to
sabotage the electoral process, which they felt was only
used to trick Afghans into serving "malicious foreign
interests". Hundreds of people were killed in
election-related violence, including at least ten
candidates. At least three suicide attacks were carried
out with dozens of deaths as a result. In Kandahar, the
election was postponed a week after the provincial
police chief was murdered by one of the governor's
bodyguards, according to the Taliban on their behalf.
Even in Ghazni, a high level of violence led to the
postponement of the elections.
Election days were marked by widespread violence,
technical problems and administrative chaos. According
to the UN mission in Afghanistan (Unama), 56 people were
killed and 379 injured in the three days. Voting lengths
were in many cases incomplete, sometimes they were
completely missing. There were also major problems with
getting the biometric credentials (such as fingerprints)
to work. Almost 150 polling stations could not be kept
open at all due to security threats. Despite all the
problems and risks, just over four million Afghans out
of nearly nine million were eligible to vote, according
to the Election Commission.
The vote counted out at the time. Only at the end of
April 2019 did most of the newly elected members take
their seats in parliament. The six-year delay helped to
postpone the presidential election scheduled for April
20, 2019, to September the same year.
The armed resistance
On paper, the state has about 312,000 soldiers and
police officers (2018; 9,000 fewer than the year
before), but neither the army nor the police capacity is
particularly high, mainly due to poor education, and
fighting morale is questioned. The losses are great and
many soldiers desert. There has also been evidence that
the security forces have been infiltrated by Taliban,
estimated to have around 60,000 militiamen. From the
turn of the year 2014/2015 until November 2018, around
30,000 Afghan soldiers and police, mainly Taliban
militia, were killed, according to the Kabul government.
During the same period, 58 American soldiers were
killed, according to the same source. Since 2001, 2,400
Americans have been killed in the conflict in
Afghanistan. According to Jane's Terrorism and
Insurgency Center (JTIC), the number of terrorist acts
in Afghanistan increased by one-third in 2018 compared
to the previous year,
In addition to the Taliban, the state is threatened
by the militant Islamist network Haqqani, which emerged
during the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
Haqqani is considered to have close ties to both the
Taliban and the al-Qaeda terrorist network. The Sunni
Extreme Islamic State (IS) has also been in the country
since 2015, mainly in the east, and has carried out
terrorist attacks in Kabul and elsewhere. IS initially
targeted its attacks against the Shiite minority
Hazarese, but is now also attacking government forces
and Taliban. In addition, Uzbek Islamists with ties to
the Taliban are active in the northern provinces.
The violence harms the lives of thousands of
civilians every year (around 3,500 annually since 2015)
and forces the Afghans to live in insecurity and
poverty. About a third of the population is in need of
humanitarian aid. Millions live as refugees,
domestically or abroad (see Population and Languages).
According to the UN, the armed conflict claimed 3,804
civilian casualties in 2018 and 7,199 civilians were
injured in the fighting that year. This was 11 percent
more than 2017 and a higher figure than any other year
since 2009 when comparable statistics began to be
entered. The rising numbers were partly due to the fact
that the resistance groups, mainly the Taliban and IS,
carried out more suicide attacks and other acts, and
partly that US and Afghan forces intensified their air
strikes against the resistance brackets. At least 65
suicides were carried out during the year, most of them
hit Kabul. Resistance groups killed more than 2,200
civilians in the country in 2018.
In 2019, the number of civil war victims dropped by 5
percent, according to the UN mission Unama. The number
of dead civilians was 3,404 and the number of injured
6,989. The decrease was considered to be due to the fact
that IS had been largely crushed in the eastern part of
the country, and the violence on their part decreased
Talk about peace
Try to talk if an end to the conflict is in progress.
The United States is holding talks with the Taliban,
which, however, require all foreign troops to leave the
country before regular peace talks can begin. The
Taliban refuse to talk to the Afghan government which
they regard as "illegitimate" and only want to speak
directly with the "occupying power", that is, the United
States. The three countries that recognized the Taliban
regime in 1996 are present at the discussions: Pakistan,
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (see Foreign
Policy and Defense).
In September 2019, the talks were a setback when US
President Donald Trump canceled a secret meeting that
would have taken place at Camp David in the US the
following day between himself and the Taliban's
representatives, as well as with President Ghani (really
two separate meetings). Trump reacted strongly to the
fact that the Taliban carried out a series of acts of
violence in Afghanistan with the aim of strengthening
their negotiating position in the peace talks and that
an American soldier was killed in one of the attacks. US
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the rounds of talks
were suspended until further notice. The United States
called the envoy Khalilzad, who for one year led the
talks between the United States and the Taliban. Trump
described the talks with the Taliban as "dead". In early
December 2019, talks between the US and the Taliban
Agreement between the United States and the Taliban
In February 2020, success was achieved when the US
and the Taliban signed a treaty in Qatar, which was to
lay the groundwork for regular peace talks. With
representatives from some 30 countries on site in Doha,
the two parties signed a complicated agreement, which
says roughly that the US and its allies should withdraw
their forces from the country within 14 months in
exchange for the Taliban launching negotiations with the
Afghan the government of Kabul, and guarantees never to
make Afghanistan a sanctuary for international terrorist
networks such as al-Qaeda or extreme Islamist groups
such as the Islamic State (IS) so that they can attack
Western interests from there. The Taliban also promise
not to "recruit, train and fund" such movements or
members of them.
The agreement between the US and the Taliban also
provides for a prisoner exchange: 5,000 Taliban and
1,000 on the Afghan government side are to be released
by March 10. The government of Kabul is not a party to
the agreement, but has representatives in place in Doha.
The agreement stipulates that talks between the Taliban
and all "Afghan parties" will begin on March 10. An
armistice will be discussed in the forthcoming
negotiations. The United States also promises to
"review" the sanctions targeted at Taliban leaders and
members. The goal is for these sanctions to be lifted by
27 August 2020.
The outside world is supportive
The outside world continues to support Afghanistan.
In 2015, the Afghan conflict was said to have cost the
United States more money than the entire Marshall Plan
for the reconstruction of Western Europe after World War
II. At a donor conference in October 2016, the outside
world pledged a total of $ 15.2 billion for the
country's reconstruction by 2020. But tough demands were
placed on the Afghan authorities to implement reforms
that have not yet been implemented. Donor countries want
to see a tougher fight against corruption and less waste
of money, new political reforms and stronger respect for
President Ghani is re-elected
At the end of September, presidential elections were
held, despite the electoral movement being characterized
by a wave of violence from the Taliban in order to
sabotage the process. According to Unama, 85 people were
killed and 373 injured during the election period
between June 8 and September 30. More than every third
victim was a child. The attacks mainly used rockets,
grenades and home-made explosive charges against polling
stations, including school buildings. The figures were
an improvement over the 2018 parliamentary elections,
when 226 people were killed and 781 injured.
Even on Election Day on September 28, a number of
attacks were carried out (the sources varied between
about 70 and around 400) with 28 civilian casualties and
249 injured as a result.
The electoral authority estimated that turnout was
low, perhaps around 25 percent. Among the candidates,
Ghani and Abdullah emerged as clear favorites.
On December 22, 2019, the electoral authority
reported a preliminary result of the presidential
election. This happened almost three months after the
election was held and just over two months later than
promised. The result gave President Ghani over 50
percent of the vote, which would mean he is re-elected
already in the first round of elections if the result
stands. However, he received less than 12,000 votes, and
several of the opposing candidates rejected the result,
on the grounds that the electoral authority did not take
into account their complaints about the voting and the
The electoral authority then ordered that over
200,000 votes be examined and that recalculation would
take place in 600 polling stations. Only in February
2020 did the Electoral Authority announce the final
result. It confirmed that President Ghani was re-elected
for a second term, with 50.64 percent of the vote.
Abdullah, who got 39.52 percent, immediately questioned
the election results and said he would form his own
government. He called the election result a "coup
against democracy". The Taliban movement also rejected
Ghani's election victory, calling it "illegal".
Double presidential ceremonies
On March 9, 2020, Ashraf Ghani swore the presidency
for a second term at a ceremony in Kabul. On the same
day, Abdullah Abdullah was installed as president at
another ceremony in the capital. Abdullah still refused
to admit being defeated, saying he would form a shadow
government alongside Ghana's ministry.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not
congratulate Ghani on the election victory, but he
stressed that the United States strongly opposed
Abdullah's parallel ceremony. Abdullah said he would
send his own delegation to talks with the Taliban.
Grim numbers over the 2010s
More than 100,000 civilian Afghans were killed or
injured in the 2010 armed conflict, according to the UN.
At the start of 2020, fierce fighting was going on in
the country while negotiations between the US and the
Taliban continued, but with no visible results.
In 2019, US fighter aircraft released more bombs
(7,423 individual bombs) across Afghanistan than any
other year in the 2010s, according to the US Air Force.
That's a significantly higher number than the amount of
bombs dropped across the country during President Barack
Obama's "surge" in 2009, when 4,147 bombs were dropped.
Aerial bombings have increased since Donald Trump became
US President in 2016. During the first half of 2019, 717
civilians were killed by the government side, including
US aviation, according to the UN. This is an increase of
31 percent compared to the same period in 2018. Most
were killed by American or Afghan aircraft that
supported Afghan ground troops.
The peace process is stalled
Shortly after the agreement was signed in Doha, Ghani
announced that he was awaiting the exchange of prisoners
until talks with the Taliban began. The Taliban pointed
out that the Doha Agreement stipulates that prisoner
exchanges should take place before the talks begin. In
this situation, the Taliban interrupted the partial
ceasefire. US troop retreat was canceled at the end of
March due to corona pandemic. When the talks between
Kabul and the Taliban had not yet begun at the end of
the month, the United States chose to withdraw $ 1
billion in aid to Afghanistan.
In April, May and June a new wave of violence swept
across Afghanistan. It replaced a calmer period that
began after the Doha agreement between the United States
and the Taliban. The escalation of violence occurred at
the same time as Afghanistan was increasingly hit by the
corona pandemic. According to the Doha agreement, the
exchange of catches between the Taliban and the Kabul
government would now be fully implemented and
negotiations on a ceasefire would have begun. None of
this had been realized. The Taliban attacked Afghan
military bases and police posts with hundreds of dead as
a result. They had previously expressed strong
dissatisfaction that their fighters were still being
attacked by both US and Afghan forces, and that all
5,000 Taliban prisoners had not yet been released.
Power sharing agreement
Under strong pressure from the United States,
President Ghani and his political rival Abdullah signed
a power-sharing agreement in May 2020 after several
months of fighting. Through the settlement, Abdullah
became head of the High Council for National
Reconciliation, whose task is to lead future peace talks
with the Taliban. Abdullah may appoint the other members
of the Council, who, together with Abdullah, will take
office in the government of Ghana. That means Abdullah
will appoint half of the prime ministers.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
Read more about the conflict in Afghanistan here.
READING TIP - read more about
Afghanistan in UI's web magazine Foreign
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Afghanistan and the Taliban: Peace at
What Price? (# 5 2019)
FACTS - POLITICS
Da Afghanistan islami jomhoriyat (pashto) / Jamhoriye
eslami-ye Afghanistan (dari) / Islamic Republic of
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Ashraf Ghani (2014–)
Head of government
negotiations on the post are ongoing
Most important parties with mandates in the
Political parties are of little importance and must
not stand in elections
Main parties with mandates in the second most
Political parties are of little importance and must
not stand in elections
38% in the June 2014 presidential election, 32% in
the April 2014 presidential election; According to the
Afghan Election Commission, almost half of the voters
participated in the 2018 parliamentary elections
presidential and parliamentary elections 2025
Isaf takes control
The UN Security Council approves of Isaf extending its operations across the
country. The situation is not at all under control.
NATO takes over
The Western military alliance NATO takes command of the international force
Isaf, whose mission is to create security in the country.
"The battles over"
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explains the fighting largely over:
"Afghanistan is entering a period of stability".
Karzai is elected president
A traditional council meeting, Loya Jirga, appoints Hamid Karzai as
provisional president for two years.
The former king comes home
Ex-King Zahir returns after 29 years of country escape.
The schools are opened
Thousands of schools reopened and received about 1.8 million children.
New army is created
Training begins by soldiers for a new Afghan army.
International strength arrives
The first Isaf soldiers come to Kabul.
Karzai provisional leader
At a UN-led conference in Bonn, Pashtun Hamid Karzai is elected leader of a
transitional regime. Two weeks later, the UN Security Council approves the
establishment of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), an
international force of approximately 4,500 men.
The Taliban are giving up
The Taliban withdraw from their unofficial capital, Kandahar, and disappear
among the mountains and the desert.
The Taliban are retiring
The Taliban are starting to push back. On November 9, Mazar-i-Sharif falls
and three days later the Taliban leave Kabul.
US-led alliance starts war
A US-led alliance is starting to bomb targets in Afghanistan with a view to
overthrowing the Taliban regime. Soldiers from the UK and Canada, among others,
participate in the operation. The US intelligence service CIA starts a
collaboration with the Northern Alliance.
The resistance leader is killed
Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud is murdered by two Arab men who
are likely to belong to al-Qaeda. Two days later, al-Qaeda attacks in New York
and Washington. The UN Security Council approves military efforts against the
Buddha statues are destroyed
The Taliban destroy the 1,500-year-old Buddha statues in Bamiyan; it is a
protest against "idolatry" but also a protest against the West's isolation of