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Afghanistan's future not looking good

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As Western troops withdraw from Afghanistan, Afghan security forces’ ability to contain the Taliban insurgency relies on a reasonable degree of political stability in Kabul, which next year’s presidential elections could jeopardize. In fact, Afghanistan’s political transition could prove as challenging as the military one.

Presidential contenders have been registering with the election commission for several weeks now. There was talk that Afghan elites might arrive at a consensus and back a single presidential ticket, which would sweep the elections and perhaps take some of the sting from the campaign. The sheer number of presidential candidates (27), however – and the fact that different tickets represent different factions – suggests this has not happened, though horse-trading before the vote may well reduce the field.

While the broad range of candidates gives Afghans more of a choice, it also means that the competition for power is likely to be fierce. Institutions will have to work hard to protect the integrity of the elections, especially in insecure and insurgency-affected areas in the south and east. A number of the presidential tickets include powerful warlords, who can use their heavily armed militias to mobilize votes before the election, or to protest an outcome they don’t like. Previous elections – particularly in 2009 and 2010 – saw rigging, violence, and protracted political crises over results.

There are grounds for some optimism this time around. Rumors that Afghan President Hamid Karzai would use a state of emergency or other means to extend his rule past the end of its constitutional mandate next spring have quieted significantly, and Karzai has not yet thrown his weight behind one candidate. Furthermore, excitement around presidential nominations suggests that many Afghans (though perhaps mostly in urban centers) remain invested in electoral politics, despite flaws in previous elections. And, for the first time since the ouster of the Taliban from Kabul in 2001, the country’s electoral laws were passed by both houses of parliament and signed off on by the president. Previously, laws were passed only by presidential decree.

The ever-present shadow of the Taliban, however, casts deep doubts on the viability of the vote. Little suggests that planned talks among the Taliban, the United States, and Afghanistan in Doha will reduce the threat the insurgency poses. There’s still no agreement between the United States and Afghanistan over whether the United States will keep any military presence in the country after the drawdown. The prospect of the Afghan army, police, and local militias being left completely on their own to deal with the Taliban is worrying.

The April–May election period (which could go longer if there is a runoff) will coincide with the start of the annual fighting season. By that point, the number of international forces in Afghanistan will be roughly half the current total. As the international forces pull back next year and into 2015, the Afghan government will almost certainly lose control of some districts, although probably not of provincial capitals.

Holding the cities comes at the cost of rising violence in the districts. The number of insurgent attacks has increased almost 50 percent in the first half of 2013 compared with the same period last year, and we’ve seen a 16 percent increase in the number of civilian casualties in the first eight months of 2013 compared with the same months in 2012. These increases are happening mostly in rural areas, especially in the east, and female civilian casualties are increasingly part of the toll.

The escalating war threatens women’s rights in other ways: it is putting female leaders at risk of assassination and creating a regressive political climate on gender (and other issues) in Kabul. Women’s exclusion from the opaque peace talks also augurs ill.

A post-2014 scenario for Afghanistan remains uncertain. The West is quitting the war without any idea what will result from its departure. There are many moving parts: the election’s outcome, the reactions of those who lose, the withdrawal of international troops, the state of the Afghan forces, the potency of the insurgency, and, of course, the role of Afghanistan’s neighbors, who will look to secure their perceived interests in any new political dispensation. With all these factors in play, it’s hard to predict an outcome – and, sadly, even harder to predict a positive one.

This article originally appeared at www.themarknews.com.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


11 Comments
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Of course not. That country and its society are a pit. Just as the British colonialists of the 19th century. Any sane Western country would give that country and its people a wide berth a long, long time ago. No, it's not strategic, never has been. No, the Taliban are not a threat to the West.

Walk away from Afghanistan, and you walk away from nothing.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

With all these factors in play, it’s hard to predict an outcome – and, sadly, even harder to predict a positive one.

Sadly I agree, however I will hazard a guess at a few strong possibilities:

The U.S. will not completely withdraw, it will try and retain at least a foothold.

The U.S. and its allies have killed off all of the major players, resulting in a major power vacuum when they withdraw.

Warlord and extremists will rush to fill this power vacuum, resulting in wide-scale fighting and countless deaths.

The U.S. will wait until they have a justification, like the oil pipeline being threatened, and then will move back in.

At the end of the day this isn't actually a withdrawal, this is just another U.S. strategy to justify their presence.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@frungy

The U.S. will wait until they have a justification, like the oil pipeline being threatened, and then will move back in.

At the end of the day this isn't actually a withdrawal, this is just another U.S. strategy to justify their presence.

Sorry, but most of our oil doesn't even come from the ME.

Canada is far and away the biggest purveyor of crude to its southern neighbor, hitting a record 2.2 million barrels a day last year as its share of the U.S. market grew by 12 to 15 percent. Latin America about 19 percent Not to mention that the US is sitting on tons of oil, tons of it, once we can get Obama, liberals and these environmentalists out of the way, we can start drilling, already doing it, but Obama is TRYING to regulate the industry. Hopefully, he fails, like with most other things and leave the people that are trying to ween us off ME oil.

You really need to stop with the Michael Moore conspiracy theories. Also there is the Karzai component. Once the US pulls out, how long do you think Karzai will last, I'd say about a month...tops. The Taliban would slit his throat in a second. But the US would probably negotiate a deal to keep a relatively small amount of forces present to quell any upcoming insurgency attacks.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I expect the bearded lunatics with their stone-age mentality will be back in charge within a year after the foreign troops leave. So many lives and so much money wasted on people who don't deserve it.

I favour a kind of quarantine for Afghanistan: no trade, no visas for people from there or anyone who has visited there. Accept no refugees from there and have nothing to do with the place. Let them wallow in their own filth and depravity until they come to their senses or have killed one another. The same policy can be applied to Somalia and other hopeless dumps.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

According to my ill-informed sources, the reasons the US went into and remains in Afghanistan is that it is easy to have a military base there and conduct military operations (e.g., against Bin Laden) in Pakistan and other places (i.e., Iran) in such a lawless territory. Kind of free hand. Also, there is some fear of Pakistan being an out of control nuclear power so the US can take care of business against Pakistan from Afghanistan.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I her you, but I am selfish. All I want my taxes to help my country people...and if other countries try to interfere that, use that money to give them some does of democracy!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Totally wasted effort. The Taliban will be back in control of the country within a year and who really cares??? Let them kill each other off. And if they ever pose a threat to the West again, then sit a few Missile Destroyers off the coast and bombard the country with Cruise missiles. Never send in ground troops.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What do you mean not looking good?

The Freedom lovin' US of A set these guys free!

They knocked off Bin Laden (or a reasonable imitation) and brought them Democracy and Freedom.

They should be grateful for what the United States has done for them!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The best thing the U.S. could possibly do for John Q. Afghani is leave, then bomb Kabul out of existence. That would leave nothing for the populace to do but return to the 8th century tribal existence they seemingly long for.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@bertie

What do you mean not looking good?

They do, of course.

The Freedom lovin' US of A set these guys free!

In many ways, yes. That's another reason why we are training and rebuilding the Afghan forces and police.

They knocked off Bin Laden (or a reasonable imitation) and brought them Democracy and Freedom.

Oh, here we go! Lol You DO KNOW, that Elvis is NOT dead, right?

They should be grateful for what the United States has done for them!

In many areas they are, problem is, you listen to much to the overwhelmingly overrun liberal media, but the average Afghani does. But glad you pointed that out. :-)

Glad to clear the confusion up for you.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Afghanistan's future not looking good

I don't remember a time when it did.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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