Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Regional Relations

This priority area covers AAN’s reporting on Afghanistan’s relations within its neighbourhood, with reporting so far focused mainly on Iran, Pakistan and the Central Asian republics.

The Gates of Friendship: How Afghans cross the Afghan-Pakistani border

Ali Mohammad Sabawoon

There are three official crossings on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a boundary also known as the Durand Line. Two of these crossings are well-known: Torkham in the east and Spin Boldak in the south of Afghanistan. The gates that separate the two countries in the south read “the Gates of Friendship” in Pashto: […]

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Fatemiyun fighters’ graves in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in southern Tehran. Three of the ten women interviewed had lost men in the war in Syria. Casualties among the Fatemiyun have been heavy. Photo: Mohsen Hamidi, April 2019

The Two Faces of the Fatemiyun (II): The women behind the fighters

Mohsen Hamidi

Existing studies on the Fatemiyun have focused on the Afghan men fighting for the Iran-backed government in Syria. The women behind the fighters – wives, mothers and sisters – have remained invisible, despite the fact that many fighters decided to go to Syria with family concerns in mind. Based on interviews with ten women in […]

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Fatemiyun fighters during the Palmyra offensive in Palmyra, Homs province, central Syria, December 2016 (Photo Iranian Tasnim News Agency, 10 December 2016, available under CC BY 4.0)

The Two Faces of the Fatemiyun (I): Revisiting the male fighters

Mohsen Hamidi

Over the last eight years, thousands of Afghan men and some boys have fought on the side of the Iran-supported Assad government in Syria as members of the Fatemiyun group. Although they are sent to Syria from Iran and supported by the Iranian government, Tehran describes the group as “self-motivated.” This dispatch, which is the […]

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A Tomb in Kabul: The Fate of the Last Amir of Bukhara and his country’s relations with Afghanistan

Thomas Ruttig Vladimir N Plastun

In addition to the last Amir of Bukhara’s former garden, on which we reported some days ago, there is another landmark in Kabul that reminds us of this unlucky ruler – his tomb at the Shuhada-ye Salehin cemetery. The Amir, Muhammad Alem Khan, died in Kabul in 1944 and remains buried in Afghanistan despite his […]

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Cover of "Directorate S: The CIA and America’s secret wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016" written by: Steve Coll

“The US’s Greatest Strategic Failure”: Steve Coll on the CIA and the ISI

Ann Wilkens

“Directorate S” is Steve Coll’s second major study of the CIA’s role in recent Afghan wars. While “Ghost Wars” chronicled the years 1979-2001, “Directorate S” – referring to a subdivision of Pakistan’s inter-services intelligence directorate that covers Afghanistan – takes up the story in 2001 and follows it through to 2016. AAN Advisory Board member […]

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Climbing on China’s Priority List: Views on Afghanistan from Beijing

Thomas Ruttig

Since the never completed withdrawal of NATO troops in Afghanistan, China has become more involved in one of its most conflictive neighbour’s affairs. It has offered to connect the country with its multi-billion dollar project, the Belt and Road Initiative, which includes the so-called Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor. AAN’s co-director Thomas Ruttig has found – after […]

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Bozoi Gumbaz in Badakshan where the old Soviet base was built nearby to stop infiltration of mujahedin coming in from China. Photo: Author (2017).

Tilting at Windmills: Dubious US claims of targeting Chinese Uyghur militants in Badakhshan

Franz J Marty Ted Callahan

In early February 2018, US forces conducted airstrikes in Afghanistan’s north-eastern province of Badakhshan, supposedly targeting ‘support structures’ of the ‘East Turkistan Islamic Movement’ (ETIM), allegedly a group of Uyghur extremists hailing from China’s far west said to be focused on attacking the Chinese state. (1) United States Forces – Afghanistan claimed the strikes targeted […]

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Satellite image of Bahramcha crossing point located in Helmand’s remote Dishu district. Photo: Google Maps

Jihadi Commuters: How the Taleban cross the Durand Line

Borhan Osman Fazl Rahman Muzhary

The Taleban use Pakistan as a sanctuary: most of the movement’s leaders are settled there and it is the movement’s preferred place for training, meeting and as a rear base. It is also the prime destination for ‘rest and recuperation’ (R&R) and the rehabilitation of wounded fighters. But how do the Taleban move between the […]

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Tall-hatted Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev opened a ‘Chechen embassy’ in Kabul in 2000. Photo: Natalia Medvedeva (2000)

Chechens in Afghanistan 3 (Flash from the Past): Diplomats, yes, but fighters?

Kate Clark

Following the authoritative account of Chechens – or rather lack of Chechens – in Afghanistan by Christian Bleuer, and how they have frequently been reported on, but rarely encountered, AAN’s Kate Clark here describes her own experiences with Chechens in 2000. In January of that year, she reported on the opening of a Chechen embassy […]

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Chechen cadets (but not in Afghanistan): Chechen separatist government National Guard cadets on parade in Grozny, 1999. Photo: Natalia Medvedeva

Chechens in Afghanistan 2: How to identify a Chechen

Christian Bleuer

Researchers focusing on Chechen issues point to clear evidence that many Chechens are fighting in Syria, but roundly reject the notion of a Chechen presence in Afghanistan. In the first part of his special two-parter, Christian Bleuer looked at how Chechens became a battlefield myth for western soldiers and a tool for Afghan and US […]

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Resistance leader Imam Shamil, an ethnic Avar and hero to many Chechens, surrenders to Russian forces in August 1859, (finding pictures of Chechens in Afghanistan is difficult) painting by Alexei Kivshenko, 1880

Chechens in Afghanistan 1: A Battlefield Myth That Will Not Die

Christian Bleuer

 In 2001, as the United States and other allied military forces attacked Taleban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, numerous soldiers, journalists and Afghans allied to the Americans relayed stories of a fearless and deadly opponent, incomparably worse than any other enemy: the Chechen. Such reports have never gone away, despite no Chechen having ever been […]

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A view over Herat city from a hill in the Bagh-e Mellat (Nation's Garden) resort – Herat is Musa's hometown, where he saw no future for himself. (Photo Source: Said Reza Kazemi)

Raftan, Raftan: How young Afghans from Herat end up in the Syrian war

S Reza Kazemi

Much has been reported about how Afghan men, mostly young Shias, are being incentivised or coerced by Iran into fighting on the side of the Assad regime in Syria. There has been little study, however, of how exactly they end up in Syria. Said Reza Kazemi (*) has been tracking a 22 year-old Shia Afghan […]

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