Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

War and Peace

This thematic category brings together AAN’s reporting on the conflict in Afghanistan, its underlying causes and drivers, the various armed actors and how it affects Afghans in their everyday lives.

‘Mother of All Bombs’ Dropped on ISKP: Assessing the aftermath

Borhan Osman Kate Clark Martine van Bijlert

American and Afghan forces have arrived at the site of the massive US bomb blast that targeted a complex of tunnels and caves in Achin, Nangarhar, the stronghold of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), on 13 April 2017. Journalists and other independent observers have not yet been allowed to enter the area, so information […]

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Former Taleban shadow governor of Faryab, Qari Salahuddin Ayubi, (barefaced with black turban, sitting in the centre) used to be famous for mobilising fighters with fiery speeches in Uzbek. He was arrested by the NDS in September 2015. He was replaced by Mufti Muzafar. (photo: Taleban media)

Non-Pashtun Taleban of the North (2): Case studies of Uzbek Taleban in Faryab and Sar-e Pul

Obaid Ali

The Taleban have spent many years ‘localising’ their fight in the north, recruiting local fighters and commanders and keying in to Afghan Uzbek madrassa networks in Pakistan and the north. That drive has paid off; in the Uzbek-majority provinces of Faryab and Sar-e Pul, the Taleban have gained significant ground against the government. In this […]

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A Reaper drone flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan (US Air Force/Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt: 2008)

Drone Warfare 2: Targeted Killings – a future model for Afghanistan?

Kate Clark

Armed drones came of age, by chance, at the onset of the United State’s ‘war on terror’. Washington has used them ever since to provide close air support to troops on the ground and to carry out targeted killings. In Afghanistan, they have been relatively uncontroversial, but in other countries, their legality, effectiveness and potential […]

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Graves prepared for those killed during an attack claimed by Daesh/ISKP on 23 July 2016 suicide which targeted a peaceful demonstration in Deh Mazang square, Kabul. It was the single deadliest conflict-related incident for civilians recorded by UNAMA in Afghanistan since 2001. Most of the victims were Shia Hazaras (Xinhua/Rahmat Alizadah)

More Horrific Records Set: UNAMA documents another peak year of civilian casualties

Kate Clark

More than eleven thousand civilians were killed or injured in the conflict in Afghanistan last year, setting a grisly new record – the highest number of civilian casualties recorded by UNAMA in any year since it started systematic documentation in 2009. In its 2016 annual report on the protection of civilians in the conflict, UNAMA […]

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Photo posted recently by Taleban social media activists showing, they said, fighters in Kunduz. Vehicle carries the movement’s flag and fighters appear all to be in camouflage, while one wears a headband. (2016)

Rallying Around the White Flag: Taleban embrace an assertive identity

Borhan Osman

The Taleban appear to have woken up to the importance of organisational symbols and their political meaning. Compared to how little they cared about their image during the 1990s and the initial years of the insurgency, the Taleban now project an increasing consciousness of their ‘brand’. This is seen in both their media and the […]

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Badakhshan – from anti-Taleban bulwark to contested province. Photo: Mirco Kreibich (2005).

The Non-Pashtun Taleban of the North (1): A case study from Badakhshan

Obaid Ali

The Taleban movement is winning ground in the northern province of Badakhshan, a province that was never conquered when the Taleban were in power in the 1990s. Over the past two years, a new generation of largely Tajik Taleban has come to pose a serious challenge for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) : a […]

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IS fighter distributes propaganda material to inhabitants of Kot district.

ISKP’s Battle for Minds: What are its main messages and who do they attract?

Borhan Osman

The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) uses propaganda to carve out new space in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s already crowded jihadi landscape. It uses popular media and promotes a distinct narrative of Salafi-jihadism tailored to local preferences and focused on specific themes. In the first part of this dispatch, AAN’s Borhan Osman analyses the propaganda messages […]

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Carnage in Ghor: Was Islamic State the perpetrator or was it falsely accused? 

Borhan Osman

The Islamic State, holed up in a few districts in eastern Afghanistan, has suddenly popped up in a faraway western province, Ghor – at least according to provincial officials. They blamed IS for the massacre in October 2016 of more than 30 civilians. Digging deeper into the incident, AAN’s Borhan Osman found that the IS […]

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Kabul’s Kart-e Sakhi shrine where two attackers wearing police uniforms and equipped with grenades and machine guns opened fire on Ashura mourners on 11 October 2016. Photo: Tolo

With an Active Cell in Kabul, ISKP Tries to Bring Sectarianism to the Afghan War

Borhan Osman

With its publically claimed attack on Afghan Shia mourners in Kabul on the eve of Ashura, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) was clearly attempting to add a toxic sectarianism to the Afghan conflict. The attack, which killed 19 people, followed two other ISKP attacks, on a political demonstration by (largely Shia) Hazaras in July […]

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The Taleban Assault on Kunduz city: Déjà vu, but why?

Obaid Ali

A little over a year after the temporary fall of Kunduz city to the Taleban, the city has become a battleground again. On 3 October 2016, the Taleban entered during a massive assault from three directions. Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), supported by US forces and air power, are battling to recapture the areas they […]

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President Ashraf Ghani, flanked by senior Afghan officials and politicians, signs the peace agreement with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hizb-e-Islami party, who earlier spoke to the gathering (and signed the agreement) by video link. Photo: Tolo News

Peace With Hekmatyar: What does it mean for battlefield and politics?

Borhan Osman

The peace deal signed today by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hezb-e Islami, and President Ashraf Ghani, has been hailed by the Afghan government as the first major peace achievement of the last fifteen years. However, expectations should be tempered. Given Hezb-e Islami’s almost total absence on the battlefield, the deal is unlikely to significantly lower […]

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Screenshot from a video of a ISKP training in Nangarhar published in 2015

Descent into chaos: Why did Nangarhar turn into an IS hub?

Borhan Osman

Armed groups pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) have tried to establish a foothold in five of Afghanistan’s provinces, but only in Nangarhar have they succeeded. There, IS Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Afghanistan-Pakistan franchise of the Islamic State, landed on fertile ground with a fragmented insurgency, bickering provincial elites, a tradition of Salafi networks […]

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