The Cost of War

Afghan Experiences of Conflict, 1978 - 2009

Publication date: 17 November 2009

To better understand how Afghans have experienced and understand the devastating conflict of the last thirty years, eight nongovernmental organizations operating in Afghanistan conducted research in 14 provinces across the country. This research focused on individual experiences of the past thirty years of conflict, perceptions of the current conflict and recommendations for alleviating the violence and addressing its root causes.
This research does not aim to provide a full accounting of the fighting or to represent the views and experiences of all Afghans. Rather, it seeks to more fully articulate Afghan experiences of the conflict and its recommendations seek to convey the aspirations that Afghans have for peace and the future of their country.


The individuals consulted overwhelmingly expressed a desire for peace, which they saw as not just an end to the physical violence of war but included respect for basic human rights, the alleviation of poverty, an effective and accountable government and access to basic services such as healthcare and education.
Based on the views expressed and the ideas proposed by individuals interviewed, the following are some key steps recommended to address the causes of conflict and ensure greater protection of civilians:

To the Afghan Government

  • Take serious steps to establish the rule of law at all levels, crack down on corruption and end the culture of impunity and patronage, including through root and branch reform of the police and judiciary.
  • Investigate crimes and abuses associated with the conflict.

To the International Community

  • Commit and deliver not just more aid, but more effective aid for humanitarian, reconstruction and development activities throughout the country.
  • Hold the Afghan government accountable and provide more support for it to tackle corruption and criminality.

To Pro-Government Forces

  • Do more to protect civilians, including tightening restrictions on the use of force.

To Anti-Government Elements

  • Immediately discontinue the targeting of civilians and taking refuge in populated civilian areas.
  • Express grievances and demands through political dialogue rather than violence.