New ISW Reports Examine Remaining Challenges in Afghanistan




Stephanie Robson(202) 253-1150 [email protected] April 9, 2012


Washington, D.C. – As U.S. policymakers debate how to draw down involvement in Afghanistan, a number of challenges remain. Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War have closely examined two critical issues, the negotiations for the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay and the reforms needed to run a fair presidential election in 2014.

As part of negotiations with the Taliban, the U.S. government has considered returning certain detainees at Guantanamo Bay to the Middle East. In their new backgrounder, “ Releasing Taliban Detainees: A Misguided Path to Peace,” ISW analysts Jeffrey Dressler and Isaac Hock take a closer look at six of the high-profile detainees whose freedom is being negotiated and whether those negotiations will serve U.S. counterrorism objectives. 

“The Obama administration should not release these Taliban figures currently held at Guantanamo Bay. This ‘confidence building measure’ is unlikely to generate any immediate results with respect to Taliban reconciliation talks,” they write. “Instead, it would serve as a boost to the Taliban senior leadership and rank-and-file fighters.”

Meanwhile, ISW analyst Paraag Shukla, who helped plan Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections in 2010, details the reforms necessary before the 2014 presidential elections in his new backgrounder, “ Electoral Reform Critical Before Afghanistan’s Next Election.” Afghan law requires amendments to electoral law be made at least a year prior to the election, so most changes would have to be made in 2012.

“The Afghan government relies largely on foreign assistance to conduct its elections, so the international community has the power to press the Afghan government for positive reform,” Shukla writes. “Such improvements would reinforce the credibility of the Afghan government and improve perceptions among the population of their role in the future of their country.”

Shukla suggests the international community and the Afghan government can work together to strengthen electoral organizations and stress transparency, create a new registry of eligible voters, introduce a new electoral voting system, continue to provide localized anti-fraud measures, and engage President Hamid Karzai in high-level discussions to ensure he follows existing electoral laws.

To talk to an Afghanistan analyst, please contact Stephanie Robson at [email protected] or at (202) 253-1150.



The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.