A new report is warning that Afghanistan is moving toward a potentially devastating political crisis as NATO-led combat forces withdraw and the Afghan government prepares to take control of security responsibilities in 2014.
The report -- titled “Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition” -- was prepared by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG)
, which describes itself as an independent nongovernmental organization committed to preventing deadly conflicts.
Candace Rondeaux, senior Afghanistan analyst for the organization, is quoted as saying there is “a real risk” that the U.S.-backed Afghan government “could collapse upon NATO's withdrawal in 2014.”
Rondeaux added: “The Afghan army and police are overwhelmed and underprepared for the transition.”
The report says Afghan stability is further threatened by the government’s failure so far to prepare for fair elections in the future.
The report was released on the 11th anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban regime.
The Taliban on October 7 marked the anniversary by ridiculing U.S. and NATO-led forces and vowing that foreign troops will leave Afghanistan in defeat.
In a statement, the militia said foreign forces "are fleeing Afghanistan with such humiliation and disgrace that they are struggling to provide an explanation."
The United States started its campaign in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, ousting the Taliban from power as it hunted for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was accused of masterminding the September 11, 2001 attacks in America that killed nearly 3,000 people.
U.S.-led coalition officials say that while Taliban insurgents remain capable of mounting suicide bombings and other attacks, the militants will not have the strength to defeat Western-trained Afghan forces once foreign troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
Coalition officials argue that continued international funding and support for Afghan forces and the Afghan government will eventually compel the Taliban to enter negotiations on a settlement of the conflict.
It its report, the International Crisis Group says that in addition to Afghan security shortcomings, the Afghan government’s credibility has not recovered since what it described as the “fraudulent and chaotic” presidential and parliamentary polls of 2009 and 2010.
The report contains harsh criticism of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Analyst Rondeaux is quoted: “Karzai seems more interested in perpetuating his own power by any means rather than ensuring credibility of the political system and long-term stability in the country.”
The report warns that if Afghanistan’s next elections are marred by fraud allegations, the credibility of the authorities will be cast into even deeper doubt, and more Afghans will look for alternatives.
The report urges Afghan officials to set a date for the next presidential election as soon as possible and to resolve questions on which commissions and courts have authority over the polls.
It warns that unless a clear map for political transition is put forward, there is a risk that Karzai and other leading members of the elite could enter a political competition that could turn increasingly violent after NATO troops withdraw.
With reporting by AP and dpa