While Afghan elections and the drawdown of US/NATO forces is knocking at the door, carked Afghanistan is in quest for a political strategy of national cohesion, good neighbourly relations and comfortable ties with global powers.
Fears and scepticism are the main threats to the current stabilization efforts. With a new government in Pakistan, headed by PM Nawaz Sharif, an effort for normalizing relations with Afghanistan is already in process. However, stability in Afghanistan hinges on the behaviour of Afghan leadership. A responsible Afghanistan with neutral stance and a non-interference pact amongst neighbours only can guarantee a prosperous and peaceful region.
Afghan presidential election is a sensitive phenomenon in country’s politics and it has a bearing on the region as well. The 2009 presidential election —which saw Hamid Karzai again elected as president — was plagued with intrigues and irregularities, that left a negative impression of Afghanistan on international community. However, Karzai couldn’t muster up the respect and support as enjoyed by a popularly elected president. However, this also shows ineptness and lethargy of political parties, Afghanistan’s election commission, and above all, of the US forces which supervised elections. If a legitimate, popularly-elected man is barred from entering the presidential palace, it will not only subdivide the Afghan society on ethnic lines, but will also mar Afghanistan’s impression in the comity of nations. This encourages other nations to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan because a person elected in rigged elections is not taken seriously. This was what happened with President Karzai in his second stint. Lessons must be learnt by presidential candidates for a brighter future of Afghanistan.
The US and NATO allies do mention a military strategy for the post-2014 Afghanistan. They have prioritized their efforts in handing over the country to the Afghan National Army (ANA). The training phase is over. The equipping schedule for the Afghan security forces is also detailed. According to the US policy makers, the ANA has been on the forefront in fight against insurgents for the past 11 months or so. It was possible due to professional coordination of the allied forces with the ANA. This has also given ANA a hand-on experience to deal with troubled elements in post-drawdown Afghanistan.
However, after the approval of Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) from Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, the world community is yet to come up with a coherent political strategy for working with future Afghan government. It has been mentioned that the world desires an amicable, legitimate, and efficient Afghan government with full popular support for the improvement of Afghans’ lives and providing them security. However, these wishes are general terms without any substance and commitment. A political strategy goes much beyond such amorphous ambitions.
Various international agencies like the UN Assistance Mission, USAID, World Bank, etc., are pursuing different programmes for building state and society of Afghanistan. The country does have a National Development Strategy that focuses on governance and development. However, Afghanistan needs to develop its institutions and processes to improve methods for resolution of problems and disputes via legal means and nipping the threats of a civil war in the bud. This is important especially to counter insurgency in the country. Thus, for a sustainable political improvement of the country, the friends of Afghanistan must carve out a political strategy for Afghanistan’s peace and stability as well as that of the region.
Afghanistan has been severely harmed by its neighbours’ undue interference in its domestic affairs. The country is composed of different ethnic groups who are sponsored by the neighbouring states in pursuit of their vested interests. To a greater extent, the presence of the US forces countered neighbours’ influence; however, what will happen after the 2014, is yet to be fixed. BSA is going to be signed soon and the US/NATO forces are already reducing their forces. But no pact or agreement has been concluded with its neighbouring countries for non-interference in internal Afghan affairs. It’s very important that a non-interference pact, on lines with Geneva Accord of 1988, be signed with all its neighbours.
The post-2014 Afghanistan has to opt for neutrality. This is the time that the country goes for neutrality and must cultivate warmer relations with its neighbours irrespective of east or west. Pakistan is quite irritated with Afghan’s growing relations with India. It takes India’s presence on its western frontiers as detrimental to its survival. Hence, Afghanistan has to take her out of such controversy. The incoming president of Afghanistan will find himself caught in the continued rivalry between India and Pakistan and he will also have to deal with Taliban threat to state’s internal security. A neutral Afghanistan on lines of Switzerland or Austria will not falter or even fail in the years ahead. Only a neutral Afghanistan could avoid a possible return to power of the Taliban and its allies, as well as future sanctuaries on Afghan soil for terrorist networks like Al-Qaeda. This would mean there would be a New Afghanistan for the world with more duties and more responsibilities.