With the sudden Taliban takeover in August, Afghanistan now faces severe, multi-faceted, and interlocking humanitarian, economic, and political crises. As the country stands on the precipice of a major catastrophe, there is one global actor that can help the country pull back from the brink: the United Nations. Prior to and during Afghanistan's nearly four-decades of continuous wars—and in particular when the country was all but forgotten by the international community during the Taliban's previous period of rule—the UN remained engaged. It is vital that the organization continues its life-saving support to Afghanistan today.

This Policy Brief argues that the United Nations is best-suited to rebuild trust between the Taliban and the international community—as well as among Afghans—in order to avert a humanitarian disaster and forge a step-by-step roadmap to durable stability. It explores the role the UN can play in assisting Afghanistan by increasing trust (on the road to lasting reconciliation) between the Taliban regime and the Afghan people (or at least non-Taliban political factions), perhaps leveraging a future Loya Jirga for the purpose of increasing representation in the Taliban-led government and fostering reconciliation. The Policy Brief also summarises the challenges facing Afghanistan, identify the key comparative advantages of the UN, and provide a set of key policy recommendations to all actors concerned with durable stability and prosperity for all Afghans. This Policy Brief is the first joint publication between the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies and the Stimson Center. It follows from an expert discussion, held on 26 October 2021 at both institutes (via video conference), on the Changing Role of the United Nations in Afghanistan