Skip to content

Historic negotiated endings to insurgencies – “negotiations in and of themselves do not equal success”

April 30, 2014

Summary: A Rand Study looking for lessons for Afghanistan in historic negotiated endings to insurgencies. The paper notes that Afghanistan’s bloodier conflict and multiplicity of “stakeholders”, amongst other factors, makes a quick resolution less likely. Not as helpful as previous RAND insurgency work, and a bit US COIN-centric, with its understanding of the Taliban a little simplistic.

US troops in AfgA Rand Study came out in February looking for lessons for Afghanistan in historic negotiated endings to insurgencies. This is a very quick rush through some of the key points.
Of 71 insurgencies from 1944 to the present that RAND has looked at in detail, it has identified 13 that ended in a negotiated settlement with a mixed outcome, i.e. nobody wins outright. (Separately, other studies have cheerfully informed me that negotiated settlements are the least likely to hold together in the long-term).

The outcomes of each of these insurgencies followed very different paths and timeframes, but the paper sees a “master narrative” of settlement requiring seven steps – which they are keen to emphasise are rarely in the same order:

  1. Military stalemate
  2. Accepting insurgents as legitimate negotiating partners
  3. Brokered cease-fire
  4. Official intermediate agreement
  5. Power-sharing offer
  6. Moderation of the insurgent leadership
  7. Third party guarantor
exception not the rule...

exception not the rule…

Of the 13 examples they cite, only Northern Ireland broadly confirms to these seven steps in this order. In terms of Afghanistan, the report sees the country at step 2 but with a strong implication of more fighting to come after 2014 before a hurting stalemate is reached.

The paper is certainly worth a look through, but perhaps less useful than previous RAND work on insurgencies (“How Insurgencies End”). Rand, how insurgencies end

From Stalemate to Settlement is quite US/War fighting/COIN-centric and some of the statements and assumptions about the Taliban seemed quite simplistic.

“ Until the Taliban formally agrees to a cease-fire and engages in serious talk…ISAF must continue to kill and capture insurgents while training and equipping the ANSF”.

It bounces from optimism to pessimism in terms of Afghanistan settlement prospects:

“prospects for a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan look reasonably good if the insurgents are unable to prevail militarily”,


“there is reason to be pessimistic…The continuing ability of the Taliban to use Pakistan as sanctuary provides it with a clear advantage…negotiations can be considered just as complex as military operations…the negotiation process can prove perplexing and even insurmountable…”

It perhaps unhelpfully projects a sense of urgency (“time has grown shorter”) and talks of a US “End Game”, which unwisely suggests a clear and clean resolution to the situation. It notes that even the “model” case study of Northern Ireland took decades to resolve. But the paper also observes that Afghanistan’s bloodier conflict and multiplicity of “stakeholders”, amongst other factors, makes a quick resolution less likely – a core RAND theme in their insurgency studies has been the assistance to an insurgency gained by having a “safe haven” – in this case Pakistan. The risk of spoilers – and particularly splinter groups – are noted, together with the caution that “negotiations in and of themselves do not equal success”.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 30, 2014 5:18 pm

    Aarrgghh, Tim. The RAND people make me want to urp at all their buzz words and phrases. What’s happening in Afghanistan is not parsable into their catalog of terms. They are fat and lazy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: