INSS Strategic Assessment, Vol.20, No.4, January 2018
Since the end of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in December 2014, the security situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating dramatically. On this background, President Trump has advanced a “new Afghan strategy” that focuses on sending more troops, “killing terrorists” and eschewing “nation-building” in order to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. Following the adoption of this militaristic approach, it becomes necessary to analyse the problems that have plagued Afghanistan over the past two years so as to identify the most appropriate strategy to stabilize the country. After offering a thorough analysis of Afghanistan’s current situation, the present paper argues that a comprehensive approach that merges military, political and economic measures is the only path to long-term stability.
A far-sighted “new strategy” for Afghanistan?
On Monday the 21st of August, during a speech delivered at the Fort Myer military base in Arlington (VA), President Trump disclosed a revised vision for the American war in Afghanistan. Reconsidering his initial “instinct” to withdraw troops from a war that has become America’s longest (it began in October 2001 after the dramatic events of 9/11) and costliest (it has cost American taxpayers more than $100 billion), Trump announced a “new strategy” for Afghanistan that he says is rooted in “principled realism”.
The first pillar of Trump’s “new strategy” is the decision to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan. Claiming to be learning from the experience in Iraq –when in 2011 the American forces withdrew too prematurely, leaving behind a vacuum that was promptly exploited by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to gain terrain and supporters- the President has welcomed the recommendations coming from the Commander of the U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission General John W. Nicholson and from the Secretary of Defence James Mattis and has decided to add more American troops to the 11,000 already deployed in Afghanistan. Linked to this decision, is the second pillar of the “new” strategy: while the core aims of the American troops in Afghanistan will remain training the Afghan forces and conducting operations of counter-terrorism, the rules of engagement will be loosened and more flexibility in responding to security threats will be allowed. The third pillar is that decisions will no longer be taken on the basis of pre-determined deadlines but exclusively on the basis of the actual conditions on the ground, in the attempt to contradict the Taliban’s argument that “Americans have all the watches but we have all the time”. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, the American engagement will fulfil the promise made by Trump since the earliest days of his electoral campaign: prioritize American national interests vis-à-vis the interests of foreign countries. In fact, despite arguing that the “new strategy” will witness an integration of all the military, economic and diplomatic instruments of American power, Trump has made no mention to non-military measures and has rather emphasized that the United States in Afghanistan will eschew any effort at “nation-building” and will limit its involvement to “killing terrorists”.
According to Trump, this strategy (if such term can indeed be accorded to the President’s confuse listing of intentions) will succeed in achieving victory. However, as far as “victory” is concerned, the definition provided by the President has remained largely vague: “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge”. From this phrasing, it seems that the U.S. end-goal is to stabilize Afghanistan so as to prevent the country from becoming again a safe haven for terrorist groups, as it was throughout the 1990s when the Taliban government offered a sanctuary to bin Laden’s Al Qaeda.
A question, though, arises at this respect: is the militaristic approach adopted by Trump an effective “strategy” to solve the problems that have been afflicting Afghanistan over the past two years and bring stability to the country?
Afghanistan: trapped between volatile security, fragile politics and a bleak economy
Since the end of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in December 2014 and its replacement with the more modest Resolute Support mission, Afghanistan has witnessed a deteriorating security situation, as the reduction of international forces deployed on the ground has created remarkable opportunities of action for both old and new violent groups.
Already in the early 1990s, when they moved their first steps from the Deobandi madrasas of Pakistan where they had received their indoctrination to the southern regions of Afghanistan with which they shared the Pashtun ethnic identity, the Taliban proved extremely able to exploit the deteriorating security environment, the inefficiencies of the state and the disaffection of the people towards the central government: launching effective military attacks against local warlords; referring to a shared identity and system of values based on a peculiar fusion between the Pashtun tribal code (Pashtunwali) and Sunni Islam; and replacing Kabul in the provision of public services by means of building schools, mosques, roads, clinics and sharia courts, the Taliban managed to obtain territorial control and popular support in the southern part of the country. From there, they expanded towards the north through a brutal military campaign and in 1996 proclaimed their Taliban Emirate over approximately 90% of the country. However, the Taliban Emirate was a short-lived experiment of jihadi state-building that ended in 2001, when the American intervention under the banner of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) defeated the Taliban and led the remnants of the group’s leadership to relocate in the Pashtun tribal area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this new haven in the AfPak area, the group re-organized itself and got prepared for a resurgence when new opportunities of action in Afghanistan would emerge.
Those opportunities emerged in 2015, when the reduction of the international commitment in Afghanistan encouraged the Taliban to believe that the time for their return had come. Since 2015, Afghanistan has thus become the theatre of an impressive Taliban resurgence that has seen the group achieve its most significant military successes and territorial gains since 2001. By means of their renewed military campaign, in fact, the Taliban have succeeded in bringing an increasingly large portion of Afghan territory under their control or influence: according to what transmitted by the group in its official site Voice of Jihad, the Taliban enjoy today “full control” over 34 districts, “partial control” over 167 and have a “significant” presence in other 52. These data do not seem to be too distant from what reported by other sources such as SIGAR, that reports a “full” Taliban control over 33 districts and “partial” control over 116 districts.
In these areas, the Taliban not only have imposed their presence by using force and spreading fear but they have also drawn on their past experience to win the “hearts and minds” of the people by providing the security and the public services that Kabul does not seem always able to guarantee. As a matter of fact, the introduction of structures of “shadow governance” has enabled the Taliban to consolidate and legitimize their presence and to reap discrete levels of popular acceptance, especially in the southern Pashtun tribal belt that is the group’s traditional stronghold and in those rural and isolated areas that the governing arm of Kabul struggles the most to reach.
This resurgence on part of the Taliban has been accompanied by a parallel resurgence of the threat posed by Al Qaeda. The bonds linking Al Qaeda and Afghanistan have to be traced back to the foundation of the group at the time of the Afghan-Soviet conflict: it was indeed after his military experience alongside the Afghan mujahedeen and the exposure to the politico-religious narrative promoted in that context by the fundamentalist ideologue Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, that bin Laden founded Al Qaeda in 1988. Yet, it was not until 1996, when the Taliban Emirate opened its doors to a bin Laden who had been exiled from the Sudan of al-Turabi and al-Bashir, that the linkage between Al Qaeda and Afghanistan gained an indissolubility that not even the U.S.-led OEF could rescind. This “special relationship” between Al Qaeda and the Afghan territory is in fact still evident today in the presence of the group in the de facto ungoverned area stretching across Afghanistan and Pakistan, where bin Laden and al-Zawahiri succeeded in relocating Al Qaeda after the defeat of 2001 thanks to the weakness of Kabul and the connivance of Islamabad. From there, Al Qaeda has continued to project its power over the Afghan militancy and to influence the Afghan insurgency. More recently, then, exploiting the reduction of the international military presence and the subsequent Taliban resurgence, Al Qaeda has managed to reconstitute also a physical presence in Afghanistan by means of opening new training camps in the country’s south-east.
Besides the resurgence of the Taliban and the physical reappearance of Al Qaeda, the security of Afghanistan has been negatively affected by another development: the emergence of ISIS-Khorasan as new terrorist group active in the Afghan theatre. At the apex of its expansion and power in early 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) decided to expand to Afghanistan in order to gain a wilayat of high strategic value and stretch the borders of its self-proclaimed Caliphate. Moved by this intent, in January 2015 ISIS proclaimed the creation of its Afghan branch under the name ISIS-Khorasan (a reference to an ancient name used to designate the easternmost region of the Persian Sassanid Empire) and established its safe haven in the north-eastern province of Nangarhar. From there, the group carried out its first attacks with the aim of expanding its influence over Afghanistan.
Interestingly, at the onset of its Afghan experience, ISIS-K saw its capacity of penetration impaired by two obstacles: firstly, the fight waged against it by a Taliban group determined to preserve its credibility as leader of the Afghan insurgency and not disposed to share territory and influence with a new-come group; secondly, the resistance of the Afghan population that regards ISIS-K as an entity that does not belong to the Afghan reality, that promotes a purist Salafi interpretation of Islam incompatible with the Hanafi doctrine prevailing in Afghanistan and that does not understand nor respect the country’s complex tribal and ethnic mosaic. Notwithstanding these obstacles, though, ISIS-K has revealed an impressive capability to perpetrate large scale terrorist attacks. This has been especially true over the past year, as the loss of territory in the traditional Jazira region has encouraged ISIS to invest ever more resources and efforts in the preservation and growth of its Afghan province.
Additionally, the group has proved able to exploit the aura of brutality gained in the Syrian-Iraqi arena to attract to its ranks some of the most radical members of Tariq-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) who were frustrated by years of unsuccessful jihad and fascinated by the unprecedented military accomplishments of ISIS. Even more relevant, though, was ISIS-K’s ability to co-opt into its ranks all those disappointed Taliban who defected the group in Spring 2015, when the death of the founding father Mullah Omar was disclosed and the leadership was transferred to Mansour among several controversies and bitter discussions.
With the resurgence of old terrorist groups and the emergence of new ones, Afghanistan is today a country characterized by an ever-deteriorating security environment that has seen a dramatic rise in the fights between the insurgents and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), in the number of terrorist attacks and in the number of casualties. As reported by the UN Secretary General, in fact, from the 18th of November 2016 to the 31st of May 2017 there has been a total of 11,412 security incidents, including armed clashes, improvised explosive devices, targeted killings, abductions, suicide attacks, criminal acts, and intimidations. On the same line, the United Nations Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) has reported that from the 1st of January 2017 until the 30th of June there have been 5,234 civilian casualties, which amounts to a 1% increase with respect to the same period last year. Of these casualties, UNAMA attributed 43% to the Taliban, 19% to unidentified anti-government elements, and 5% to ISIS-K.
Additionally, the revived insurgency mounted by the Taliban and the arrival of ISIS-K has led the government to suffer a considerable and increasing loss of territorial control: as reported by USFOR-A, as of May 2017 45 districts in 15 provinces were under insurgent control (11 districts) or influence (34 districts), which amounts to a 2.2% increase with respect to the situation observed in the same period last year. The number of contested districts, instead, has remained unchanged. As a consequence, today 3 million Afghans live under insurgent control or influence and another 8.2 million live in contested areas.
This bleak situation reveals how the NATO and American missions that have been operating in Afghanistan for sixteen years have not been able to cancel the threat posed by terrorism and how the ANSF are still not trained and equipped adequately to fight against insurgents. Called to deal with problems such as the low sophistication of the weapons at their disposal and the lack of access to the most advanced military technologies; the absence of a national strategic culture capable of bringing together uniformly in the army’s ranks all the different components of the Afghan social texture; and the necessity to leave several areas outside of Kabul’s protective umbrella in order to concentrate the forces in the major urban centers and in the regions where the threat to security is most serious, the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) have often revealed their inadequacy and their dependency on external military support.
To this limited competency and autonomy of the Afghan security forces, it is then to be added further problems such as the endemic corruption among the highest ranks of the military establishment that often impedes the efficient and rapid transfer of weapons, food and munitions from one outpost to the other; the widespread phenomenon of the so-called ghost soldiers who figure in the government’s payroll but de facto do not serve in the army; the high number of defections that creates a climate of mutual suspicion within the army’s ranks; and the threat of infiltrations on part of individuals linked to terrorist groups who penetrate the army to conduct their attacks against military targets. Importantly, these factors not only hinder the efficiency of the ANSF but also compromise their credibility in the eyes of the local people, thus creating a worrying climate of distrust.
Besides the deteriorating security environment, Afghanistan’s stability is obstructed also by the weakness of the central government in Kabul and the fragility of Afghanistan’s democratic experiment. When in September 2014 the National Unity Government (NUG) was formed with the Pashtun Ashraf Ghani acting as President and the Tajik Abdullah Abdullah acting as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), it seemed that the country was transitioning towards full democracy and stability. However, hopes were soon contradicted: the patronage, corruption, nepotism and factionalism that have historically characterized the country’s politics, and that find their roots in the predominance of tribal and ethnic associations over national identity, have not spared the NUG and have fostered within Ghani’s government ethnic-tribal frictions and personal rivalries that have often paralyzed policy-making. Hindered by these problems, in many occasions the government has failed to implement on time the reforms promised, to hold the overdue parliamentary elections, to fill all the vacant governmental posts, and to deliver public services consistently and uniformly across the country.
In particular, the rural areas geographically distant from or badly connected to Kabul have seen themselves excluded from the government’s reach and have become either dominated by a de facto anarchy or victims of the political games, abuses of power and personal interests of corrupt local governors over which Kabul has no effective system of check and monitor. Similarly, the governing performance of the NUG has been extremely disappointing in the northern regions where warlords like Abdul Rashid Dostum, Ahmad Zia Massoud and Atta Muhammad Noor exercise their power undisturbed thanks to historical clan bonds, as well as in the southern and eastern regions where –as seen above– insurgent groups have managed to assert their territorial control and influence.
On this background, it is not surprising that according to the latest poll conducted by the Asia Foundation the perception of the Afghans of how well governmental institutions are doing their job reached historically low levels in 2016, with only 49.1% of the people saying that the NUG is doing a good job. Satisfaction rates are also low for provincial governments (52.9%), municipal governments in urban areas (42.4%) and district governments in rural areas (50.7%).
Finally, Afghanistan’s internal instability is also to be linked to the weakness of the country’s economy. According to the World Bank, from 2015 to 2016 the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by a mean 0.4% due to a decline in the industrial and manufacturing activities that counterweighed the rise in the agricultural production. Furthermore, over the same period the population grew by 3%, which led to an inevitable decline of the overall per capita income. In this context of increasing poverty, domestic demand and private investments have declined; business sentiment has remained largely suppressed; no new firms have been registered and unemployment has remained dramatically high at 24%, leaving many youngsters with no other or better option than joining insurgent groups and criminal networks. Also, the collection of domestic revenues on part of the government has declined by 25% in the past year, leaving the country dependent on foreign aid to finance its public expenditures and balance its budget.
On the same line, the IMF has underlined how poor infrastructures, an inadequate development of the country’s human capital, a weak trade performance due to the temporary border closing with Pakistan, rampant corruption, and the thriving of the illicit narcotics sector are some of the main obstacles to the country’s economic development.
The need to look beyond the military
From the analysis above it emerges how Afghanistan’s instability is linked to security as well as political and economic factors. In front of this complexity, the militaristic approach adopted by President Trump appears profoundly inadequate to stabilize the country: while the increase in the number of troops is to be welcomed because it can strengthen the military capabilities of the ANSF and reduce the military threat posed by insurgent groups, a strategy that eschews “nation-building” and does not couple military measures with political and economic ones will fail to bring lasting stability to Afghanistan.
On the political level, it is necessary to address the low legitimacy that impairs the government of Kabul and that has driven many Afghans to support the alternative structures of “shadow governance” established by tribal leaders, warlords and insurgents. This can be done by ensuring a more balanced division of powers through the introduction of a quota system whereby the appointment of governmental officials and institutional figures guarantees a proportionate and fair degree of direct representation to all of the country’s diverse ethnic groups. Doing so is crucial to encourage all Afghans to trust the national government regardless of their subnational ethnic identities. Secondly, it is necessary to fight the corruption, nepotism and patronage that are eroding the credibility of the Afghan political system. This requires establishing clear requirements of transparency for all the nominations to official positions through ad hoc regulations and creating anti-corruption agencies in charge of ensuring that those requirements are respected and that punitive measures are enforced in case they are violated. Finally, it is crucial to pursue reconciliation between Kabul and those many powerbrokers and insurgents that act outside of the legitimate institutions of the state and whose military and proto-governance activities pose a serious challenge to the credibility of the central government. Following the precedent set in 2015 by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group composed of the Unites States, China, Russia and Pakistan, efforts should continue to be made to help Kabul to identify potential partners of dialogue among its current opponents and initiate negotiations with them.
On the economic level, a crucial measure is the launch of development projects aimed at modernizing agricultural production and incentivizing industrial activities in order to stimulate economic growth and create new jobs. Equally important is the promotion of trade between Afghanistan and regional as well as international partners. This can be done by means of reducing the current regulatory and operational barriers and investing in the improvement of Afghanistan’s infrastructure system. Finally, it is necessary to counter the production of narcotics by resorting to a mixture of interdiction (prevent narcotics from reaching their destination) and eradication (physical destruction of the illicit crops). On the one hand, Afghan law enforcement agencies and police have to be trained, equipped and provided technical support to detect and seize the shipments of illicit drugs; on the other hand, the Afghan state must offer material incentives for the abandonment of poppy cultivation and develop economic projects that can offer licit and profitable alternatives to farmers.
Unlike what suggested by President Trump, engaging in similar measures of nation-building is not “dictating” Afghans how to live, but rather helping them to govern themselves effectively and to live the peaceful life to which every human being is entitled. However, moving from the theoretical definition to the actual implementation of these measures is especially problematic since Kabul lacks the ability, Washington lacks the willingness and Brussels lacks both. As it was the case in other contexts of nation-building from Kosovo to East Timor, the only way ahead for a long-term stabilization of Afghanistan seems thus to lie in the cooperation among a variety of actors that have a shared interest in making the “heart of Asia” a safe, prosperous and self-sufficient country. This multiplicity of actors includes regional states such as India, China and Russia; international powers such as the United States and the European Union; Afghan officials and experts; transnational organizations such as the United Nations, NATO and the World Bank; aid and development agencies such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); international and regional NGOs. Until a similar multilateral and multidimensional cooperation in nation-building is achieved, the hopes that war in Afghanistan will end remain an illusion.
 For the transcript of President Trump’s speech: “Full Transcript and Video: Trump’s Speech on Afghanistan”, The New York Times, August 21, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/21/world/asia/trump-speech-afghanistan.html?mcubz=1
 Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. General Seeks “a Few Thousand” More Troops in Afghanistan, The New York Times, February 9, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/09/us/politics/us-afghanistan-troops.html
 H. Cooper, “U.S. Says It Has 11,000 Troops in Afghanistan, More Than Formerly Disclosed”, The New York Times, August 30, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/world/asia/afghanistan-troop-totals.html
 Con Coughlin, “Afghanistan: the clock is ticking for Obama as the Taliban bides its time”, The Telegraph, April 12, 2009, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/6724196/Afghanistan-the-clock-is-ticking-for-Obama-as-the-Taliban-bides-its-time.html
 For an account of the relationship between Al Qaeda and the Taliban, see for instance: L. Wright, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Alfred A. Knop, 2006)
 Ahmed Rashid, Taliban (London, I.B. Tauris, 2010) Ch.1-3
 Ibi., Ch.3
 Ibi., Ch.17
 Bill Roggio, “Afghan Taliban lists ‘Percent of Country under the control of Mujahedeen’”, Long War Journal, March 28, 2017, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/03/afghan-taliban-lists-percent-of-country-under-the-control-of-mujahideen.php
 Bill Roggio, “Taliban controls or contests 40 percent of Afghan districts: SIGAR”, Long War Journal, May 1, 2017, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/05/taliban-controls-or-contests-40-percent-of-afghan-districts-sigar.php
 “The Taliban”, Council on Foreign Relations (https://www.cfr.org/interactives/taliban?cid=marketing_use-taliban_infoguide-012115#!/taliban?cid=marketing_use-taliban_infoguide-012115 ); A. Giustozzi, “Hearts, Minds, and the Barrel of a Gun: The Taliban’s Shadow Government”, Prism, Vol. 3, No.2, March 2012
 See: L. Wright, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, (New York: Alfred A. Knop, 2006)
 Katherine Zimmerman, “Al Qaeda’s Strengthening in the Shadows”, Statement before the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence
on “The Persistent Threat: Al Qaeda’s Evolution and Resilience”, American Enterprise Institute, July 13, 2017
 Seth G. Jones, “Expanding the Caliphate: ISIS’s South Asia Strategy”, Foreign Affairs, November 6, 2015
 Global Terrorism Database: https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/search/Results.aspx?perpetrator=40371
 Literarily “island”. The term designates a region mainly comprised between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. Today the area is divided in two halves by the Syrian-Iraq boundary. It roughly coincides with the Syrian governorates of Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir el-Zor and with the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh and most of Salah al-Din and al-Anbar. It is the area upon which ISIS proclaimed its Caliphate in June 2014.
 M. Torfeh, “ISIL in Afghanistan: a growing threat”, Al Jazeera, August 20, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/08/isil-afghanistan-growing-threat-170813133122968.html
 Caitlin Forrest, Richard DeKold, “Warning Update: the Expansion of ISIS in North-Western Afghanistan”, Institute for the Study of War, February 22, 2017, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/warning-update-expansion-isis-northwestern-afghanistan
 UN, Report of the Secretary-General, The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, June 15, 2017, p. 4.
 UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Midyear Report 2017, July 2017
 USFOR-A, response to SIGAR data call, 5/15/2017, 3/01/2017, and 5/28/2017; SIGAR analysis of USFOR-A provided data, 6/2017
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 Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, https://www.sigar.mil/interactive-reports/high-risk-list/index.html
 “A Survey of the Afghan People: Afghanistan in 2016”, The Asia Foundation, https://asiafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/2016_Survey-of-the-Afghan-People_Exec-Summary.pdf
 Full text of the government of national unity deal available at: https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/miscellaneous/the-government-of-national-unity-deal-full-text/
 Sameer Lalwani, “Ambling Blindly Back Into the Mountains: 5 Hard Questions for the Next Phase of Afghanistan”, warontherocks.com, February 23, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/02/ambling-blindly-back-into-the-mountains-5-hard-questions-for-the-next-phase-of-afghanistan/
 Pamela Constable, “Afghan President is under siege as violence, joblessness persist”, The Washington Post, August 13, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghan-president-under-siege-as-violence-joblessness-persists/2017/08/12/f85d680e-779b-11e7-8c17-533c52b2f014_story.html
 R. Qobil, “At the mercy of Afghanistan’s warlords”, BBC, November 28, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19983266
 Ahmed Rashid, “Trepidation at the return of Afghan warlords”, Financial Times, May 31, 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/b7beff98-3e3d-11e7-82b6-896b95f30f58; Shawn Snow, “Fortress Kabul and Afghanistan’s Warlords”, The National Interest, September 6, 2016, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/fortress-kabul-afghanistans-warlords-17582; Shawn Snow, “Afghanistan Still Hasn’t Recovered From the Soviet Invasion”, The National Interest, July 31, 2016, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/afghanistan-still-hasnt-recovered-the-soviet-invasion-17196
 “A Survey of the Afghan People: Afghanistan in 2016”, The Asia Foundation, https://asiafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/2016_Survey-of-the-Afghan-People_Exec-Summary.pdf
 World Bank, “Navigating Risk and Uncertainty in Afghanistan”, Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, October 4–5, 2016, 9/28/2016, pp. 2, 5–6, http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/933791475512010365/WB-Brussels-ConfAF-Presentation-FINAL.pdf; World Bank, Afghanistan Development Update, 10/2016, p. 13, https://www.openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/25350/109890-WP-P160737-PUBLIC-ENGLISH-ABSTRACT-SENT-AFG-Development-Update-Oct-2016-final.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
 IMF, “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Request for a Three-Year Arrangement Under the Extended Credit Facility”, IMF Country Report, No.16/252, July 2016, https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2016/cr16252.pdf
 J. Boone, “Afghanistan and Taliban peace talks end with promise to meet again”, The Guardian, July 8, 2015
 J. Dobbins et al., The Beginner’s Guide to Nation-Building (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2007)
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