The European Business Council for Africa

Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts   

 Afghanistan: The U.S. and the Taliban took a concrete step toward a political settlement on Saturday. Crisis Group expert Andrew Watkins says difficult as it was to get this deal done, this was the easy part. Intra-Afghan negotiations will now have to tackle a range of issues concerning a future division of power. This week’s resumption of Taliban attacks, U.S. airstrikes, hardening rhetoric and a disagreement on a potential prisoner release demonstrate the still-tenuous state of the peace process, and the need to quickly prepare for and initiate intra-Afghan negotiations.

➤ Guinea-Bissau: Two rival camps claimed the presidency as they dispute the outcome of December’s run-off election. Former prime minister Sissoco Embaló took the oath of office shortly before the National Assembly swore in speaker Cipriano Cassamá. Crisis Group expert Rinaldo Depagne says the military's reported occupation of key institutions to support Embaló’s claim signals that the election intended to end years of turmoil has failed. Regional community ECOWAS, which has been the key to unlocking past political standoffs, should increase pressure for a solution that establishes the election result and allows the appointment of a president and prime minister on that basis.

➤ Iran: The International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) reported that Iran has significantly boosted its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, accumulating enough for a single nuclear weapon if enriched to weapons-grade. The government is also blocking access to three locations where the IAEA has concerns about possible undeclared nuclear material and activities. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says that Iran’s obstruction could lead the IAEA to refer the matter to the UN Security Council, increasing diplomatic friction and the risk of a renewed nuclear crisis. 

➤ Syria: Presidents Erdoğan and Putin agreed a cessation of hostilities in Idlib after weeks of deadly clashes between regime and Turkish forces that have worsened the humanitarian crisis. Crisis Group expert Dareen Khalifa says that while the deal has calmed the situation, it has failed to address Russian-Turkish divergence over key elements, in particular regarding the agreement’s duration and the future of the main rebel groups, including Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), operating in Idlib.