Afghan politicians want to avoid the trauma of the fraud-ridden 2009 presidential election, the Journal reports:
A similar crisis of legitimacy in 2014 would risk fracturing Afghanistan’s security forces and giving ground to the Taliban……To garner consensus, a presidential candidate would need to placate the powerful leaders of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, which represents mostly the ethnic Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara minorities, while drawing support from the country’s largest ethnic group, the Pashtun, who have traditionally ruled Afghanistan. “We all need to sit together and discuss the current situation, and ultimately reach an agreement and choose the best one,” said former Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud, leader of the National Front opposition alliance and brother of the legendary Tajik commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was slain by al Qaeda in 2001.
Afghanistan risks a “precipitous slide toward state collapse” unless measures are adopted to prevent a repeat of the “chaos and chicanery” of 2009’s election, the International Crisis Group recently warned.
Khalilzad could be “very instrumental in the making of alliances” between different Afghan political factions, said Idrees Zaman, an independent analyst with Cooperation for Peace and Unity, an Afghan think tank:
But Mr. Zaman expressed doubt that Mr. Khalilzad would be a viable presidential candidate, comparing him with another prominent Afghan-American political figure, former Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, who is also seen as a potential aspirant. “They don’t live in Afghanistan, really,” Mr. Zaman said. “They come only to make some sort of temporary living arrangement in Kabul during election times.”
“The picture looks very bleak for international oversight and attention to human rights in the region,” said Jacqueline Hale, a Central Asia specialist in Brussels at the Open Society Foundations, which promotes democracy:
Nongovernmental organizations also have other concerns, like the equipment NATO leaves behind. They fear that stockpiles of equipment, vehicles and weapons could fuel a black market in the region. NATO officials say that sophisticated satellite and other surveillance equipment will not be left behind.
The biggest worry is the vacuum left by the departing 102,000 troops. Their presence has always been controversial, especially given the many civilian casualties of accidental bombings. But Western soldiers also provided physical and psychological protection for girls going to school and women learning skills banned by the Taliban.
“Between now and 2014, when NATO’s combat mission is to end, the 50 countries participating in the mission, which includes non-NATO nations, will have to empty their military bases and leave a landlocked country where they have been based since 2003,” writes Judy Dempsey, the editor in chief of Strategic Europe, a project of Carnegie Europe:
NATO says that by the time this NATO mission ends, the Afghan security forces will have assumed control over the whole country. Ms. Hoff and many security analysts say the Afghan forces are far from ready.
“There is no credible plan for the future development of the Afghan forces,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a military analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington. He told a recent session of the U.S. House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that the forces were plagued by corruption, political alignments and their inability to deal with insurgents.
NATO says it is planning a new civilian mission in 2015 that will train, assist and advise Afghan security forces. The details and mandate have yet to be negotiated. Afghanistan’s neighbors who have been critical of the NATO presence are aware of the potential for instability. But instead of working together to promote stability, Ms. Hale said they could use the threat of insecurity in Afghanistan to further suppress human rights in their own countries.
“Governments have to devise a long-term development policy for Afghanistan for the post-combat phase,” said Elke Hoff, a legislator and defense spokeswoman for the Free Democratic Party, part of the German governing coalition. “That means confronting corruption and the weak security environment.”
“With the U.S. presidential elections out of the way and only two more years in the tight calendar of the security transition process a Contingency Force should be established as part of the remaining terms of withdrawal,” according to Norine MacDonald, president of the International Council on Security and Development, and Jorrit Kamminga, ICOS Research Director and Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael:
An operational reserve Contingency Force would provide options to western political leaders when faced with a crisis situation in Afghanistan. It also represents a politically viable compromise between the two extremes currently being talked about in Washington: leaving just a few thousand troops in Afghanistan after 2014, or leaving as many as 30,000 troops.
The fewer foreign troops there are in Afghanistan, the greater the need for proper contingency planning, especially given the essentially uncertain nature of the situation before and after transition. Security transition planning should be based on a solid assessment of possible future scenarios of instability and insecurity, rather than on political hopes or aspirations for what the future will hold.
Zalmay Khalilzad is a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.