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.

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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The late Haji Gul Agha, ALP police chief for Shajoy district, Zabul. Photo: Pajhwok.

How to replace a bad ALP commander: in Shajoy, success and now calamity

Fazl Rahman Muzhary

The Afghan Local Police (ALP) commander in Shajoy district, Zabul province, Haji Gul Agha, has been killed in a Taleban ambush, along with four of his men. AAN’s Fazal Muzhary had been researching Gul Agha’s record as his was an interesting example of locals managing, with great difficulty, to get rid of an abusive ALP […]

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The complex attack on the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul started around 7 pm on 24 August 2016 with an explosion followed by armed assailants storming the campus. (Photo Source: Tolonews)

The Attack on the American University in Kabul (2): Who did it and why?

Borhan Osman

The attack on the American University in Kabul on 24 August 2016 was unprecedented in many respects. For the first time, a ‘complex attack’ – often reserved for high-profile and well-guarded targets – hit an educational institution. It also came in the wake of an ideological campaign by circles in the Taleban movement that had […]

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The campus of the American University in Afghanistan, which opened in 2006, came under attack in the evening hours of 24 August 2016. (Photo Source: American University Afghanistan (AUAF) Facebook Page)

The Attack on the American University in Kabul (1): What happened and who the victims were

AAN Team

By the time the attack on the American University in Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul on 24 August 2016 ended, 13 people had been killed and 49 wounded, most of them students. Families looking forward to bright futures for their children have been left to bury them or are now waiting anxiously at hospital bedsides. No group […]

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Far From Back to Normal: The Kunduz crisis lingers on

Lola Cecchinel

The Taleban’s recent takeover of both Qala-ye Zal and Dasht-e Archi’s district centres is the latest episode in the long-running battle for possession of Kunduz province. It follows the spectacular takeover of Kunduz’s provincial centre by insurgents in late September 2015, the hard-won recapture by pro-government forces two weeks later and the government’s unsuccessful counter-offensive […]

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