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Afghans Find Their Way

Afghans Find Their Way

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The international community will play an important but secondary role in Afghanistan’s future as Afghans work to create a more sustainable state through strengthening their political consensus, building their economy, and increasing security.
The international community will play an important but secondary role in Afghanistan’s future as Afghans work to create a more sustainable state through strengthening their political consensus, building their economy, and increasing security.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Mar 10, 2014
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1 Center for American Progress | Afghans Find Their Way
Afghans Find Their Way
By Caroline Wadhams March 10, 2014
 Aghans will soon decide new leadership or heir counry in presidenial and provin-cial council elecions scheduled or April 5, 2014. Te Aghan consiuion requires Presiden Hamid Karzai, who has served as presiden since 2001, o sep down and ranser power o an eleced successor.
1
Tis poliical ransiion accompanies he ongoing wihdrawal o U.S. miliary orces and NAO’s Inernaional Securiy Assisance Force, or ISAF, rom Aghanisan, whose comba mission ends on December 31, 2014. Given he curren Aghan sysem’s depen-dence on inernaional miliary orces and unding, how Aghanisan adaps o reduced inernaional involvemen and new Aghan leadership remains unknown.
2
  Aghanisans uure sabiliy will depend primarily on Aghans coming o agreemens over who leads he counry, how Aghanisan is governed and secured, who benefis rom he poliical sysem, and how Aghan leaders approach he insurgency and regional players. Based on Aghan perormance, he inernaional communiy should aim o play an imporan󲀔bu secondary󲀔role: filling in he significan financial gaps, providing raining and echnical assisance in a variey o securiy and governmenal secors, and deerring spoiler behavior rom groups wihin Aghanisan and acors in he region.
3
 Boh uniying and cenriugal orces exis simulaneously in Aghanisan, and which orces will prove sronger as inernaional roops draw down remains unknown. Based on consulaions wih Aghan civil sociey members; Aghan and inernaional gov-ernmenal officials; members o he Aghan Naional Securiy Forces, or ANSF; and NAO-ISAF officials in Aghanisan and he Unied Saes, i is clear ha uniying orces in Aghanisan have srenghened since 2001 and may be able o preven a reurn o an expanded civil war. Tese uniying orces are Aghans who have become sake-holders in he curren poliical sysem. Tey include young people, he media, many  Aghan women and represenaives o organized Aghan womens groups, radiional leaders and new civil sociey groups, Aghan governmen officials, and members o he  Aghan Naional Securiy Forces. Tey wish o build upon and improve he curren sysem, raher han overhrow i and begin anew.
 
2 Center for American Progress | Afghans Find Their Way
 Aghanisan’s sabiliy remains in he naional securiy ineres o he Unied Saes. Expanded conflic in Aghanisan has he poenial o no only reverse numerous developmenal gains or Aghans bu also o spill over ino nuclear-armed Pakisan and hroughou he region. Insecuriy in Aghanisan could drive reugees across  Aghanisan’s borders and enable violen milian groups o flourish, including Al Qaeda-affiliaed groups, placing srains on Aghanisan’s neighbors. As in he pas, regional counries󲀔including India, Pakisan, Russia, and Iran󲀔may decide o back heir respecive proxies, hereby leading o Aghanisan’s urher ragmenaion and ensions among counries. Beween now and he presidenial and provincial council elecions in April and beyond, he role or he Unied Saes and he inernaional communiy will be o suppor hose  Aghan acors who are sakeholders in he curren poliical sysem, boh inside and ouside he governmen, as hey embark on heir own poliical, securiy, and economic ransiions away rom deep dependency on he inernaional communiy. While reduc-ing heir miliary presence and unding over ime, he Unied Saes and is parners  will sill need o provide raining, advice, and financial suppor ied o perormance and ransparency or years o come.
4
 Te analysis below describes he hree ransiions underway in Aghanisan, much o iinormed by a Cener or American Progress research rip wih John Podesa and om Perriello, ormer Chair and Counselor o he Cener respecively, in November 2013, in cooperaion wih Heinrich Böll Sifung, a German nonprofi organizaion wih offices around he world, including in Aghanisan. Our rip ocused on meeings wih radi-ional and nonradiional civil sociey groups in Kabul. Tis paper also provides a se o recommendaions or how U.S. policymakers and he inernaional communiy in gen-eral can suppor hese ransiions, wih he undersanding ha Aghan acors hemselves  will play he mos prominen role.  Aghanisans challenges will revolve around hree crucial areas: poliics, securiy, and he economy. Poliically, while he presidenial elecions appear o be on rack, Aghans  will need o creae a sronger poliical consensus ha he elecions will only parially advance. Tis will mos likely require a larger peace process ha includes elemens o he insurgency and discussions among candidaes so ha he presidenial vicor does no creae a zero-sum poliical environmen󲀔areas where he inernaional communiy can serve a aciliaing role. Aghanisans weak economy remains heavily relian on exernal unding, leaving Aghanisan exremely vulnerable and dependen on he U.S. Congress and parliamens around he world or he survival o heir governmen and he susain-abiliy o heir securiy orces. Finally, while he Aghan Naional Securiy Forces have srenghened, violence during and afer he elecion and ensions wih neighboring counries will es Aghanisans miliary and securiy progress.
 
3 Center for American Progress | Afghans Find Their Way
Political transition
Elections
Te bigges deerminan o Aghanisan’s sabiliy, a leas in he shor erm, will be he success o he poliical ransiion process and wheher i ushers in a more legii-mae Aghan governmen or creaes urher ragmenaion among Aghan leaders and ehnic groups. Te curren poliical consensus among Aghans, esablished a he Bonn Conerence in Germany, in 2001, is in disarray afer years o poor and predaory gover-nance and percepions o marginalizaion. Unlike one year ago, when many in Aghanisan and abroad quesioned wheher he presidenial elecions would happen a all due o ears ha Presiden Karzai would pre- ven heir realizaion, he elecions in April now appear o be ineviable. Te passage o he elecion laws, he esablishmen o he Independen Elecoral Commission and he Elecoral Complains Commission, he nominaion o he presidenial candidaes, and he official sar o campaigning on February 3 have all creaed significan momenum.
5
 Unlike previous elecions, Aghans are leading he planning o he elecoral process and he securiy around he elecions, wih inernaional acors in supporing roles.  Aghans, boh in polling and in our meeings, have expressed enhusiasm or he elec-ions. A December 2013 poll by Glevum Associaes ound ha 86 percen o he respon-dens believed ha holding elecions was an Islamic ac, while 96 percen considered he selecion o he uure leader o be imporan.
6
 A Sepember 2013 pre-elecion survey conduced by Assess, ransorm, Reach, or AR, Consuling ound ha 79 percen o respondens inended o voe in he 2014 presidenial elecions, saing ha a risky secu-riy siuaion would be he only deerren rom voing.
7
 Our discussions wih Aghans echoed hese findings, as he elecions were characerized as he op prioriy. While concerns exised over poenial raud and qualiy o he candidaes, Aghan inerlocuors argued he elecions were essenial or Aghanisans sabiliy and sae building process.  Ashra Ghani Ahmadzai, Abdullah Abdullah, and Zalmai Rassoul are seen as he lead-ing presidenial candidaes ou o he 11 oal who are now in he running. Jus one monh beore he elecion, Qayum Karzai󲀔Presiden Karzai’s broher and 1 o he 11 candidaes󲀔dropped ou o he race. More han 2,700 candidaes are compeing or he provincial councils.
8
 A join December 2013 poll conduced by AR Consuling and OLOnews showed Abdullah leading, wih 27 percen o he respondens ideniying him as he preerred candidae, ollowed by Ghani.
9
 I he ickes󲀔wih slos or one presiden and wo vice-presidens󲀔remain he same, i is unlikely any candidae will receive more han 50 percen o he voe, which will lead o a second round.

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