Thursday, November 27, 2014


Gandhara

Predicting Gloom In Afghanistan An Inexact Science

Afghan policemen carry the body of a civilian victim of a bomb blast -- is a continuation of strife and violence the only possible future for Afghanistan.
Afghan policemen carry the body of a civilian victim of a bomb blast -- is a continuation of strife and violence the only possible future for Afghanistan.
Predicting a troubled future for Afghanistan appears to be the new trend in some of the Western writing about the country. Think tanks, newspaper op-eds, and blogs in Europe and North America are warning about a range of scenarios, from a division of the country to a Taliban takeover, a civil war, and increased ethnic strife among the country's various groups.

The most discussed among these is a report called "Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition" by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG). It warns that Kabul is heading towards a potentially devastating crisis is 2014 when most NATO forces would leave the country:

Plagued by factionalism and corruption, Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when U.S. and NATO forces withdraw in 2014. That makes the political challenge of organizing a credible presidential election and transfer of power from President Karzai to a successor that year all the more daunting. A repeat of previous elections' chaos and chicanery would trigger a constitutional crisis, lessening chances the present political dispensation can survive the transition.

A recent editorial in "The New York Times" aptly titled "Time to Pack Up" advocated a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. It says that prolonging the Afghan war will "only do more harm." It also paints a very bleak picture of Afghanistan after the departure of the Western troops:

We are not arguing that everything will work out well after the United States leaves Afghanistan. It will not. The Taliban will take over parts of the Pashtun south, where they will brutalize women and trample their rights. Warlords will go on stealing. Afghanistan will still be the world's second-poorest country. Al-Qaeda may make inroads.

The most worrying conclusions, perhaps, are drawn by Sarah Chayes, a journalist and former special assistant to senior U.S. military leaders. In an op-ed in the "Los Angeles Times" she reads deeply into the dismissal of Afghan security ministers in August. She essentially sees Afghanistan's future in the rearview mirror:

A plausible scenario upon the large-scale departure of international troops in 2014 is either disintegration into civil conflict or a de facto division of power along ethnic lines, with a Pakistan-backed Pashtun bloc in the south and east lining up against one or more northern non-Pashtun blocs that might well gain military support from India and Uzbekistan, if not Iran. Recent signs indicate that many key players are already rushing to consolidate their positions within this framework, already operating, for all intents and purposes, in a post-2014 world.

Afghans, however, strongly reject such predictions. The Afghan government and sections of the Afghan press condemned the ICG report. They called it part of a "psychological war" and even linked it to a Western effort to pressure the Afghan government into making concessions in future security pacts.

A more sobering view is presented by informed Afghans. Writing for "Foreign Policy,"   Afghan researcher Haseeb Humayoon warns against seeing his country's future in stark terms:

Alarmists about Afghanistan's future paint two likely scenarios: civil war, or the forceful return of the Taliban. Neither of these scenarios ring true. Even more importantly, they are predicted on perverse detachment from the realities on the ground, and colored by a view where external factors determine Afghanistan's course. More essential than what Washington or Brussels decides is whether Afghan politicians will manage to preserve and advance political stability through the constitutional order or not.

Independent international observers tend to agree. Francesc Vendrell, a former EU and UN representative in Afghanistan, is widely respected among Afghans for understanding the complexities of their country. In a recent interview, he told me that no one can destroy some of the things built during the past 12 years, including a better health-care and education system and phenomenal growth in the urban population. "Afghans are not going to revert into the kind of system that the Taliban imposed between 1996 and 2001," he said.

Vendrell, however, said that credible elections in 2014 are a must for a peaceful future for the country. "If those elections lack credibility, or if for whatever reason they couldn't take place, that definitely could lead to a major conflict," he said. "It will be a loss of legitimacy for the government and it will also be inevitably a bonus for the Taliban."

-- Abubakar Siddique
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
October 27, 2012 08:53
Afghanistan, a country long exhausted by 30 plus year military conflicts, almost every post-2014 scanario depicted by writers could be a possibility. One thing however, is sure that Afghanistan will not break. Some of my former Afghani students, whom I trust most once commented that 'despite conflicts at all societal levels, no one wants to see Afghanistan break'. Post-withdarwal situation surely indicates likely crisis, but, as I can perceive, Afghanistan's neighbors are likely to play a crucial role either in avoiding, or delaying, or managing the situiation in an orderly manner. Possibly, SCO will be playing an improtant role. All neighbors, like Afghanistan herself are exhausted from regional instability. The crisis has delayed indefinitely the processes of region wide developments, the trade and transit dreams, construction of new pipelines, etc. I therefore, sense that a regional solutions will ultimately be the most sought after remedied to stabilize Afghanistan and broader Central and South Asia region.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
October 28, 2012 19:06
The most plausible scenario for the future of Afghanistan after 2014 is that the Taliban will come back to power pretty much the same way they did in the late 1990s. At the same time, the Taliban will continue supporting those in neighbouring Pakistan who are fighting against the currently existent form of govt. So, who knows, maybe by the year 2020 this latter country - with the population of more than 150 mln people and with a nuclear arsenal - will follow the suit of Afghanistan and Iran and will turn into a teocracy.
The above will constitute (one more) major defeat to the United States and will once again expose the miopic nature of their policies in the region - since the 1980s when the then Pres. Ronald Reagan did all he could in order to create and strengthen such movts as Taliban or such organizations as al-Qaeda.

by: Jack from: US
October 29, 2012 21:05
what doomsday? Aren't US government and its NATO minions "winning" in Afghanistan?

by: William from: Aragon
October 29, 2012 22:41
"Alarmists about Afghanistan's future paint two likely scenarios: civil war, or the forceful return of the Taliban. Neither of these scenarios ring true." How so? Based on past history, that is exactly what has happened in the past and is likely to happen in the future.

People seem to be unaware that "The Taliban" never actually ruled Afghanistan - during the civil war they managed to assemble a collection of waring factions and power-brokers into something that resembled a central government while at the same time fighting against the Northern Alliance (who were pro-Moscow at that time and would shortly be "bought" as a useful tool by the US). Some of these brokers still form part of the Afghan government today and will do so well into the future no matter who thinks that they hold power.

Additionally, it appears that since 2005 ISAF has no longer been fighting just the Taliban - as depicted by Western governments in the Western media - but has been fighting a country-wide insurgency with the Haqqani network as the biggest player, followed next in size by the Taliban, then followed by the Party of Islam. Western governments cannot even tell the truth to their own people, and become mired by their own deceptions. The sooner they cease interferring in the future of this tortured land then the sooner the internal parties can sit down together and reach a compromise, as is the tradition in this part of the world. The concept of the "good guys" and the "bad guys" is a foreign one imposed by Western governments, as is the idea that there can only be one winner and one loser in this conflict.

About Gandhara

Gandhara is a blog dedicated to Afghanistan and Pakistan written by RFE/RL journalists from Radio Mashaal (Pakistan), Radio Azadi (Afghanistan), our Central Newsroom, and other services. Here, our people on the ground will provide context, analysis, and some opinions on news from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Send comments or questions to gandhara [at] rferl.org.