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Letter from the President, Louise Arbour
In the course of what proved to be a turbulent year, Crisis Group was instrumental in delivering timely analysis and sound recommendations to leaders the world over. The year ahead promises further uncertainty. Taking just two examples, the Syrian conflict looks set to escalate further, and the repercussions of developments in Mali are far from clear but promise to be significant. Meeting these challenges will require renewed efforts and a profound understanding of the dynamics and drivers of conflict in diverse regions of the world.
As the civil war in Syria intensified in 2012 and consecutive peace efforts failed, our analysts continued to report in an extremely complex environment on the devastating military and humanitarian situation. Crisis Group’s reports on the radicalisation of the conflict and extremist currents among the opposition afforded essential insight. In Central and West Africa, the proliferation of armed extremists and rebel groups reflects the relative ease with which radical forces can exploit the political and institutional weakness of countries in transition. Likewise, several states in North Africa face numerous hurdles in their transition to democracy, with enduring political and economic turmoil in Egypt and continued security threats confronting Libya.
Throughout these conflicts and others, Crisis Group has equipped policymakers with informed judgments and practical advice crucial to the de-escalation and prevention of violence. Our analysis of events over the past year has often proved prescient, while our targeted advocacy efforts have produced real results, including the lifting of sanctions against Myanmar and the passage of a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution criticising the Sri Lankan government’s failure to support reconciliation and account adequately for the deaths of perhaps 40,000 civilians at the end of its civil war. In addition, Crisis Group continues to ensure it pays attention to emerging or forgotten crises: last year we reported for the first time on the troubled North Caucasus region of Russia, as well as rising tensions in the South China Sea and the rise of piracy and organised crime in the Gulf of Guinea.
In the coming year, Crisis Group will further its efforts to address security issues in countries currently facing armed conflict, as well as in those emerging from it and those where instability threatens to erupt into open violence. We will also promote dialogue on a range of security-related issues, including the rule of law, the effectiveness of sanctions and the rights of national minorities, to ensure that these concerns continue to be adequately addressed in security circles.
Of course, at the root of any successful organisation lies the talent and dedication of its staff. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues for their hard work and congratulate them on the real-life impact they have made in promoting peace and stability throughout the world.
Brussels, 1 February 2013
Louise Arbour, President and CEO
Watch Louise Arbour, Crisis Group’s President and Chief Executive Officer, live at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013: De-Risking Africa
The International Crisis Group is currently hosting its flagship annual event, The Global Briefing: an exclusive two-day, high-level gathering examining urgent issues and solutions concerning major conflict flashpoints across the globe. Held on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 October 2012, we will post updates on our Twitter handle @crisisgroup with the hashtag #CGGB. Join the conversation!
More details and information can be found on the Global Briefing section of our website.
We now have over 15,000 followers on Tumblr! Thank you all. If you want to learn more about Crisis Group, please go to our website: www.crisisgroup.org
An international think tank has warned that US-led talks with the Taliban are going nowhere and has called for the UN to take the lead in peace negotiations to prevent Afghanistan from sliding into civil war.
In a report released Sunday, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said current negotiations were unlikely to achieve a sustainable peace because they were dominated by the US and hampered by a “half-hearted and haphazard” approach by the Afghan government.
"Far from being Afghan-led, the negotiating agenda has been dominated by Washington’s desire to obtain a decent interval between the planned US troop drawdown and the possibility of another bloody chapter in the conflict," the report says.
The ICG said the result thus far of international involvement in negotiations had been to embolden “spoilers” like insurgents, government officials and war profiteers, “who now recognise that the international community’s most urgent priority is to exit Afghanistan with or without a settlement”.
Regional players like Pakistan and Iran have also significantly hindered talks, the report says.
Candace Rondeaux, senior Afghanistan analyst with the ICG and one of the report’s authors, said time was running out to get peace talks back on track.
The past few months had seen efforts led by the US to negotiate with the Taliban “faltering left and right”, she said.
The Taliban announced two weeks ago that it was suspending preliminary talks with the US because of what they described as “the shaky, erratic and vague standpoint of the Americans”.
The ICG report said the Afghan government must make greater efforts to include a range of ethnic and civil society groups in peace negotiations, and not just deal with warlords.
It said any negotiations must be transparent.
However, the ICG said the Karzai government is not in a good position to agree to a settlement with insurgents because it was “debilitated by internal political divisions and external pressures”.
It said political competition in Afghanistan would heat up in the run-up to the withdrawal of international combat forces at the end of 2014, and “the differing priorities and preferences of the parties to the conflict - from the Afghan government to the Taliban leadership to key regional and wider international actors - will further undermine the prospects of peace”.
A UN-mandated mediation team is needed if a civil war is to be averted once international combat troops leave Afghanistan.
"Given that we only have two years before NATO forces pull out, it is critical that there is intervention from a third party that is acceptable to the Taliban, acceptable to the other opposition groups, acceptable to the Afghan government, and to all the players that are engaged in the negotiation process," Ms Rondeaux said.
Photo: BotMultiChillT/Wikimedia Comons
A regional cooperation conference on Afghanistan is set to begin in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.
The two-day gathering will bring together the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Iran.
It’s the fifth such regional conference focusing on security in Afghanistan and the region.
The conference is expected to follow up on the decisions to strengthen regional economic cooperation reached at the last gathering in Istanbul.
It comes as a fresh report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) predicts attempts by the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai to negotiate with the Taliban are unlikely to lead to a lasting peace.
The Brussels-based group says any deal that appears to give the Taliban preferential treatment could spark a backlash from the Northern Alliance, Hezb-e Islami, and other major factions.
The ICG also says the West is eager to pull out of Afghanistan “with or without a settlement.”
Photo: President Karzai, Officer/Wikimedia Commons
THE United States government has paid $US50,000 ($47,745) compensation for each person killed in a house-to-house shooting rampage allegedly carried out by a US soldier in Afghanistan.
The payments, along with $US10,000 for each person wounded, were made at the weekend during a meeting between US officials and relatives of the massacre victims.
Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38, is charged with murdering 17 civilians and attempting to murder another six when he left his small base in Panjwayi district of Kandahar in the early hours of March 11.
US officials disclosed that they believed the suspected killer returned to his base after attacking one village, before leaving again to claim more victims in another. The two villages are two kilometres apart, leading to widespread disbelief in Afghanistan that the killings were the act of one gunman.
Four of the dead were women and nine were children, aged as young as two.
The payments came as the International Crisis Group accused the West of seeking to pull out of Afghanistan ”with or without a [peace] settlement” and said attempts to negotiate with the Taliban were unlikely to lead to lasting peace.
”No matter how much the US and its NATO allies want to leave Afghanistan, it is unlikely that a Washington-brokered power-sharing agreement will hold long enough to ensure that the achievements of the last decade are not reversed,” the think tank’s report said.
ICG said the process should instead be mediated by the United Nations.
Photo: Sgt. Robert Bales, Kiwipat/Wikimedia Commons
KABUL — The shattered shell of Kabul’s Darul Aman palace bears witness to Afghanistan’s years of brutal civil war, a history many Afghans fear will be renewed when foreign troops leave in 2014.
Designed by French and German architects in the 1920s as part of a new government quarter, the building’s lion-headed buttresses are broken, its colonnades pockmarked by bullets, the metal sheets of its roof crumpled.
Like tens of thousands of people in the capital, the palace fell victim to the carnage of the early 1990s as rival mujahideen groups fought for power following the fall of a Soviet-backed regime after Moscow withdrew its troops.
With the end of the NATO mission looming in turn, analysts warn that without a sustainable peace deal, Afghanistan could disintegrate into yet another virulent civil war.
Some Afghans are similarly pessimistic.
"Every time I look at this building I’m too upset, I can’t say anything," said Mohammed Gul, 52, who sells drinks and snacks — along with the occasional toy gun — from a stall by the palace.
"If this country became good everybody could live in peace. After the Americans go there will be too much fighting," he said. "Again the wars, again the fighting."
In a report released Monday, the International Crisis Group think tank said “desperate and dangerous moves” by Karzai’s government to bring the Taliban and other insurgent leaders to negotiations were unlikely to lead to lasting peace.
The Taliban say they have suspended putative moves towards talks following the US soldier’s shootings in Kandahar, and some fear the insurgents are biding their time until NATO leaves.
"The negotiating agenda has been dominated by Washington’s desire to obtain a decent interval between the planned US troop drawdown and the possibility of another bloody chapter in the conflict," said the ICG report.
Photo: Boing-boing/Wikimedia Commons