Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Helsinki, 27 February 2023

For two decades, efforts were made to build a central government and a well-functioning security sector in Afghanistan. However, the country once again finds itself in the firm grasp of the Taliban, despite major international interventions. It is astonishing how quickly the Taliban were able to regain power. A Policy Brief published on 27 February aims to find out how this was possible by means of systems analysis. It also makes recommendations on how to improve the impact of crisis management operations.

The crisis management operations carried out in Afghanistan have been studied extensively, and several reasons for their failure have been identified. Almost all studies have attributed the failure to a lack of understanding of Afghan society, culture and history, or to the fact that this information was not taken into account sufficiently in planning and conducting the operations. At a tactical level, for example, the operations reacted to the deteriorating security situation, but the structures creating the violence remained in place.

The Policy Brief aims to deepen understanding of the relationship between Afghan society and the operations carried out in the country. The report uses a systems analysis to investigate the power hierarchies, paradigms and operating models that exist at the village level in Afghanistan, along with other factors that, when combined, produce insecurity and violence in their environment.

“We decided to focus our analysis on the village level, because while the World Bank estimates that around 78 per cent of Afghans lived in villages in the early 2000s, they have not been the focus of many studies. The strong will of village communities to survive is based on the Afghan people’s long experience balancing external and internal threats,” says researcher Antti Karjalainen, who co-authored the report.

The systems analysis found that international troops and the Afghan government, which had their support, largely failed to reach village communities. The government was unable to bring public services to villages or to create a credible outlook of permanent stability, meaning that the survival strategy of balancing between different sides continued, thereby further weakening the new government’s chances of succeeding. The Taliban, on the other hand, built a solid foothold by utilising the position of traditional authorities in villages and by making a quick way to dispense justice available to ordinary Afghans.

Good planning helps to ensure effective operations

The aim of Finland’s crisis management work is to build stability, alleviate human distress and create the conditions for development in areas affected by crises. Crisis management aims to achieve sustainable changes in society by identifying potential targets for change in systems in conflict-affected areas and bringing about the desired changes. Each conflict area is unique and the approach should be adapted accordingly, but the process guiding the activities can be replicated.

When the goal is to achieve sustainable peace, it is first important to understand the operating environment in the conflict area at a systemic level: what are the interdependent factors behind the ongoing instability, violence and other undesirable developments in the region. Second, it is necessary to identify potential targets for change in these systems: where does something need to be done differently in order to strengthen the conditions for peace. This information makes it possible to set better goals for operations and to adjust the operations as the situation changes.

“Going forward, the impact of operations should be assessed proactively. Starting from their mandate and objectives, crisis management operations should always be planned in an impact-oriented manner, relying on systems knowledge. Otherwise, the ability to achieve sustainable societal change will be left to chance,” says Social Impact Expert Saila Tykkyläinen.

The Policy Brief was drawn up as part of the project “The impact of Finland’s operations in Afghanistan and the development of a systemic assessment model”Link to an external website, which is part of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities. The project is being implemented by Comprendum Ltd, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, the Crisis Management Centre (CMC Finland), the National Defence University, Security Analysis Ltd and Impact Business Ltd.


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