By Bismellah Alizada
As 2014—the year when the United States and Coalition forces pull their troops out of Afghanistan—is approaching, there are more and more polemics and hotter discussions on the topic ‘Afghanistan post-2014’. TV shows, radio programs, news headings, and academic circles show inclination in drawing more attention to the topic, what talks more of a worry prevailing on the eve of the era. However, there are significant evidences for optimism, too, that in most part overshadow ‘fearing 2014’.
At first glance at the issue, it can be inferred that the concerns are far more logical and reasonable than the utopian analysis of the optimists. 2014 is not merely a year of military transition as apparently considered, but a year when political, economic, and military transition will occur. It is at a time when the political structure, political institutions and the democratic hand over of power through elections is still unreliably precarious. The economic infrastructures are weaker than to be expected to support the economy of a state that can keep sovereignty and can provide security. Most importantly, ANA (Afghan National Army) and ANP (Afghan National Police) are not armed with modern weaponry that can rival those of the Taliban neither are they quantitatively sufficient to face such large-scale threats.
In addition, the government practices strong sovereignty only in Kabul and some central provinces while in most southern and southeastern provinces Taliban are the ones who do so. It is a big concern that those provinces are very likely to fall in control of the Taliban unexpectedly easily. People in those provinces prefer the Taliban than the government especially in terms of their legal and criminal cases because the administration in immersed in the quagmire of corruption. Afghanistan is always ranked the second or third most corrupt state which is no ordinary issue. Corruption can turn to a legitimacy-ruining factor that can undoubtedly drag the country to the swamp of crisis of legitimacy. Taliban take timely action in such cases asking for no bribe (!); thus, attain more acceptability.
Moreover, the Taliban, backed by ISI, have been preparing for 2014 since the U.S. and Afghan officials proposed the issue of negotiation and Qatar Office as the official address of them which meant an official (international) recognition of Taliban. The offer conveyed to the Taliban that the puppet government has been defeated and has no way than to negotiate. The issue of negotiation was followed by other instances that further strengthened their understanding form the negotiation offer. President Karzai released some prisoners of Taliban and accused United States of collusion with Taliban. Karzai also said that the U.S. presence harms the national sovereignty of Afghanistan. These instances all proved to the Taliban that there is a dualism in policies of Afghan Government and that of the western countries headed by U.S. In such an atmosphere, Taliban sturdily concluded 2014 as a point of victory and seriously have been preparing for a velvet takeover. Taliban think of it as a historical victory of ideological Islam after a shameful withdrawal of the anti-Islam stronghold. They think of 2014 as a moment for celebration of a holy victory over ‘infidelity’ in their own terms.
Likewise, the process of installing a western model of democracy—what legitimized U.S. invasion and military presence in Afghanistan before international community—has failed. The current so called democracy seems too resilient. A stable and institutionalized democratic government is only expectable over a longer course of time. More time is needed so the civil awareness of the public increase through which democracy—a modern singularity to a society ruled by consecrated customary rules—can win over traditionalism. It is only then when democracy can be a prime cause in keeping the country’s stability of power.
Although each of the above are challengingly thought-provoking, there are undeniable facts that change the pessimistic calculation of Afghanistan post-2014. These specifics emasculate this cynicism and change the commonly feared 2014 to a decisive moment in political history of Afghanistan. Optimists rely on these particulars:
First, Afghanistan, now, has a reliable political structure and institutions that can avoid any crisis of power. The constitution, the division of power, and the civil society institutions will keep the country of falling into another civil war or of falling into control of the Taliban. Most of the citizens back the government than the Taliban and this gains more legitimacy for the government. Most aged people still remember the spiteful brutalities of Taliban meanwhile the youth, more open-minded, abhor their retrogressive thoughts and radical Islamism.
Second, election as a peaceful and democratic means of transition of power is a reliable guarantee and will definitely avoid any crisis of power or power vacuum in 2014. Meanwhile, an Afghan-run election will be a principal step in institutionalization of democracy in Afghanistan. There are promising steps taken and being taken for the transparency and legal legitimacy of the elections. There are also important steps taken and being taken for a serious contribution in the 2014 elections. For instance, the Coalition for Election—a coalition of Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks key parties and political figures (mostly charismatic figures)—is a joint effort for elections to be a serious event in the political history of Afghanistan. It also speaks of a commitment and strong political will that definitely is a key constituent in saving the country of any crisis of power.
Third, the Kabul-Washington military partnership speaks of a long-run presence of U.S. in Afghanistan. This partnership logically minimizes the possibility of a takeover in 2014. Taliban’s Islamic Emarats simply means ruining all the achievements of the International Community and the Unites States that is a too unbearably exorbitant price to be paid. Taliban don’t believe in civil values neither do they care about human rights, international law, international conventions or what so on. It can change the honorable military pull out to the second shameful withdrawal of U.S. after a disgraceful defeat while the U.S. never desires it to materialize so.
Fourth, Taliban and in wider range Al-Qaeda is not a threat only to Afghanistan but to the whole world. It is ridiculously illogical to think that Taliban may limit their objectives in gaining the political power in Afghanistan. Jihad as the core of Taliban’s ideology should be extended to all un-Islamic countries and this simply means that threats of Taliban have serious global aspects. Taliban being a full-scale global threat, requires global action and there are serious global commitment in fighting the evil phenomenon of our time. The global community cannot sit by not responding seriously to a common threat while it is being extended into perilous dimensions.
In summary, there are reliable promising grounds for a stable Afghanistan post-2014 although prone-to-pessimism factors are logically not negligible. Reliable political structure, 2014 elections, Kabul-Washington military partnership, and global commitment in fighting the common threat altogether make a ground for optimism.