Can Post-2014 Afghanistan Achieve Economic and Political Stability?

The worst election crisis in Afghanistan amidst the US drawdown plan after fighting against the Taliban has finally come to an end.


DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, U.S. Army. (Released). Credit: United States Institute of Peace

A US-brokered deal made it possible for former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. As per the deal, a unity government will be formed with Mr. Ghani as the president of Afghanistan and Mr. Abdullah a CEO, a recently created post which according to experts is almost equal to the power of premier.

This poses a serious question: Who will dominate the overall policy-making amidst the daunting challenges that Afghanistan faces such as security, the economy, and governance as well as foreign policy?

Both candidates represent fairly different and warring ethnic groups in Afghanistan; the former supports nearly 45 percent of the Pashtun people and the latter supports the Northern Alliance who are almost 40 percent of the overall population in the country. It seems complex for both candidates to reconcile over the issues of governance, corruption and policy. Mr. Abdullah boycotted the run-off election in June 2014 after accusing Mr. Ghani of election rigging. This had left the future of Afghanistan in uncertainty after the American highly exaggerated plan of bringing peace, stability and democracy.

The US-brokered deal for the establishment of a “unity government” seems to be carried out in an undemocratic manner; however in the pretext of moving towards a relatively peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

First, foreign aid to Afghanistan is linked with a US residual force remaining in Afghanistan. The Obama administration has already rolled out its drawdown plan by 2016. But before that the residual force of nearly 9,500 NATO troops will remain in Afghanistan for training the army, providing logistic support and cooperating with operations against the Taliban. This will be possible if President-elect Ghani signs a Bilateral Security Agreement with Washington that will grant legal cover to US forces to remain in Afghanistan.

This agreement will also help Afghanistan receive foreign aid for the war-stricken and weak economy. Otherwise the country will plunge into darkness and chaos. Since 2001 Kabul’s economy has been operating on foreign aid and the country has no other means to generate revenue. Development in the agriculture sector, construction, commercialization, banking system and revenue generation has not occurred in the last 13 years.

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Former President Hamid Karzai failed to end Afghan grievances. He was believed to be elected by the will of the people while undermining the democratic process. This time the election also seems to have been rigged and then the result of June run-off was not announced yet. The Taliban rejected the “unity government” deal as a “sham” government, and boasted that they will fight a holy war until foreign troops (especially Americans) leave.

There are also many security challenges plaguing Afghanistan.

This will be a daunting task for the Afghan army as Coalition troops withdrawal. After the American announcement of its drawdown plan the Taliban launched many attacks against military and civilian targets.

The Afghan national security chief and a spy agency was bombed. But recently Abdullah narrowly escaped an attack on his life. These are some of the instances which speaks volumes of the army and their inability to effectively tackle the growing targets of militants and Taliban in Afghanistan. Experts believe that a total American withdrawal would be harmful to both Afghanistan and the region, especially Pakistan, which has a long porous border with Afghanistan.

Both Kabul and Islamabad have blamed each other for providing sanctuaries to anti-Pakistan militants. Cross border attacks are also a routine matter between the two countries. Pakistan has recently accused Afghanistan of accommodating the refugees who fled from North Waziristan after the launch of operation “Zarb e Azab.”

If Ghani and Abdullah can reconcile while taking decisions on the larger interest of the country without tilting their policies towards their communities (Pashtun and Northern Alliance), peace and tranquility will prevail  in Afghanistan and the region.

Tariq Hussain writes for the Lahore-based tabloid newspaper, Pakistan Today. He earned a degree in Mass Communication from National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad. Tariq started his career in 2010 by joining a news agency, Infochange News and Feature NetworksRead other articles by Tariq.