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International and Regional politics in Afghanistan after 2014
Afghanistan’s future holds in a balance after the US and NATO forces announced intentions to reduce military support. The impasse prevailing in contemporary US and Afghan negotiations project a situation where military support is set to decline as the US delegates much of its influence to Afghan authorities(Jones, 2013). This essay seeks to discuss the implications of the Western forces exit from Afghanistan relative to international and regional politics as well as the economic, social and security implications of the pullout.
The implication of the US and NATO forces pullout in 2014
It is a well accepted fact that the relative stability in Afghanistan has been as a result of extensive Western military support and financial aid. President’s Obama’s announcement in 2013 to reduce military presence in the country may be a mark to the end of the long US led war against the Taliban which began 13 years ago (The Economist 2014) (Jones, 2013). However, this does not imply to an end of the Afghan War as the country’s security forces have been known to flounder amid attacks from remnants of the Taliban regime. The US forces are basically leaving as a result of domestic pressures in the US culminating from divergent political views, military spending and continued casualties in the US army operating in Afghanistan.
The situation arising from the proposed US and NATO pullout presents Afghanistan with a bleak future. The Obama administration is to reduce the presence of its troops on the premise that Afghan forces now have the capability in terms of resources and trained military personnel to ensure stability in the country (Jones, 2013). However, this is far from the truth.
According to Smith (2014), the UN provides that civilian casualties continued to plague the country’s stability during much of 2013 representing a 16% increase compared to 2012. This comprehensively negates the Pentagon’s perception of the situation on the ground and as such presents an escalation in insurgencies further deteriorating the prospects of a stable Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Western forces. Afghanistan being an expansive country has many local leaders pensive about the large territories in the countryside still controlled by remnants of the Taliban regime (Jones, 2013). This calls for the need by the USA and NATO forces to continue operating in the Afghanistan and more so assisting with much needed military and financial forces to the Afghan security forces to counter attacks from insurgents.
The 2014 Afghan elections
The US and Afghan governments continue to discuss the far reaching issues privy to the proposed bilateral agreement (Jones, 2013). The Afghan 2014 elections outcomes present monumentous implications to the future relations between the two countries, the entire region as well as international relations with other countries.
The Afghan 2009 elections were marred with corruption and violence and as such the 2014 April elections are said to have been marred with numerous accounts of fraud (The Economist 2014). The two contenders Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani both contenders of the country’s top seat were seeking to be key determinants of Afghanistan’s future. Ashraf Ghani supported by former president Hamid Kharzai aqttained 56% percent of the total vote which was disputed by the Dr. Abdulah after his vote count stagnated at 45% while Ghani’s votes surged from 31% to 56% (The Economist 2014). It took the intervention of the US Foreign Secretary to ensure that peace prevailed by promising an audit of the entire election process. This however resulted in a postponement of presidential inauguration ceremony by a month.
According to the Economist, this has presented the country with a temporary fix to its political woes. This is because in the past two elections, the presidential powers were to expansive overshadowing credibility of the election process (The Economist 2014). Centralization o0f presidential powers presented a scenario whereby Karzhai had the abilities to form a structure of political patronages based on political loyalties as well as close social ties. The 2014 elections have necessitated the call for a government of national unity providing a power sharing structure involving the two presidential candidates. This will appeal greatly to the ethnically diverse country as it will limit corrupt political practices and provide an avenue away from violence by those parties to the political structure who have previously felt sidelined. Though the political future is still riddled with uncertainties, a government of national unity presents a step in the right direction towards realizing a stable political structure in Afghanistan after the western forces pull out at the end of 2014(The Economist 2014). Without a political consensus among the Afghan leaders the proposed pullout of Western forces could remain a simple pipe dream.
13 years ago, the US military intervention saw Afghan embrace a transition from the dark decades of Taliban rule. The eminent transition with regard to Western forces pullout and internal Afghan interventions towards meeting its own domestic challenges is bound to be a milestone of a similar magnitude (Nadery, 2013). The recent elections have proved to be a test on the ability of the country to realize democratic institutions and more so the Afghan defense forces will be the country’s only pillar towards realizing secure democratic institutions.
This transition which relates to security and political structures is bound to have an effect on the socioeconomic gains attained in the country over the past decade. It is important to note that the pullout of Western forces will also translate into reduced presence of international development organizations and agencies, lower economic aid packages as well as a largely uncertain economic investment climate (Nadery, 2013). Some of the expected socioeconomic effects on Afghanistan are bound to be relative to higher investment risks, capital flight and major shocks to economic growth drivers such as logistics, transportation and reconstruction. For instance, women rights, women empowerment, and all inclusive economic participation have been significantly appraised after the fall of the inhibitive Taliban regime (Nadery, 2013). It is expected that gains realized in this field may be lost to backlash stemming from conservative circles further negatively impacting on socioeconomic development.
These dangers are bound to get compounded if the country’s political elite lacks the motivation and inherent desire to offer the much needed certainty with respect to long standing partnerships previously gained with the regional and international players (Nadery, 2013). This is especially the case with the country’s security sector which has been largely dependent on the US and NATO forces. For instance, in Afghanistan’s Balkh province where much economic growth has been recorded, property values are said to have fallen greatly upon the announcement of the intended foreign forces pullout scheduled for 2014 (Markey, 2013). This has been sparked by poor confidence with regard to future security, political and socioeconomic stability. It is therefore expected that for regions to the east and the south of the country where conflict is rife and security has been ensured by international military interventions, the socioeconomic situation will deteriorate immensely.
The solution to mitigating the adverse effects of the intended foreign military pullout solely rests from goodwill from the international community (Markey, 2013). It is a well accepted fact that the future economic stability and economic growth is dependent on the international community’s commitment towards long term economic development projects as opposed to short term economic projects. For instance, long term support mechanisms for the already established National Solidarity Program which aims at supporting self government, availing employment opportunities and encouraging small and medium sized enterprises among the Afghan rural communities (Markey, 2013). Afghanistan is known to grapple with one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world lack of economic development would result on the youth migrating to other countries as opposed to staying committed to national development.
According to Rahmanullah (2013), the withdrawal of the Western forces from Afghanistan could plummet the region into an all out war as Taliban elements as well as insurgents with Al Qaeda links could restructure and reorganize in the country affecting regional peace. For instance, after the defeat and subsequent withdrawal of Soviet forces after 1988 saw many fighters take interest in the volatile India Pakistan border (Rahmanullah, 2013). Fighting in the Kashmir region has been a source of tension for decades between India and Pakistan and the prospect of an unstable Afghanistan is of grave concern to both countries. South and Central Asia therefore has a stake in ensuring there is political stability and affective Afghan defense force to ascertain peace in the region.
Pakistan has a longstanding border dispute with Afghanistan over the Durand line (Markey, 2013) (Menon, 2012). Furthermore, Pakistan has been grappling with the Pakistani Taliban in its tribal regions. There are fears among the Pakistani intelligence community that their local Taliban units may draw strength from insecurity in Afghanistan stemming from the pullout of Western forces. In an effort to realize its own security, it is expected that the Pakistani intelligence community will play a huge role in influencing the outcome of the political structure in neighboring Afghanistan (Menon, 2012).
According to Ilmoittautumisen (2014), other countries in the South and Central Asia region such as Kazakhstan are committed towards ensuring stability in neighboring Afghanistan. Kazakhstan employs soft power in influencing development agendas in Afghanistan through officially established development assistance initiatives. These include infrastructure developments in the Afghan education sector, hospital and humanitarian assistance efforts. More so, the country is bound to positively gain from stability and economic development in Afghanistan as this will translate to fewer illegal immigrants, eliminate extremist elements as well as improve its own international image (Ilmoittautumisen, 2014).
Russia is also heavily involved in the regions political structures as it is concerned with the possibility of a rise in Islamic extremism which may spill over to its Northern Caucasus regions (Menon, 2012). Furthermore the Czarist Russian Empire and the former USSR have long had important strategic and economic interests in South and Central Asia. Russia presently still has substantial strategic and economic interests in the region which it views closely and would like to protect incase of a collapse in the region’s stability.
China is another major player in the region and as such has enjoyed a strong economic presence without worrying about the security aspect as it has been contained all along by the western forces. For instance, from 1992 to 2009, Chinese trade with the regions five nations increased from 527 million dollars in 1992 to 25.9 billion dollars in 2009 (Menon, 2012). China has expansive interests in the oil and gas sector in the region. As the deadline for the Western forces to pullout draws near, Beijing will have to do more to ensure stability in the region is achieved in an effort to protect its vast economic interests. More so, China has some restive regions bordering Central and Southern Asia which have been a matter of concern in the recent past (Menon, 2012). For instance, Beijing has consistently required that the Central Asia states do more to suppress the Uighur nationalist movement plaguing development in China’s Xinjiang province.
At present, there is a lot of conflict stemming from the growth of Islamist groups in war torn countries such as Iraq and Syria. These have appraised the need for more efforts to ensure that these groups do not have safe havens in which to train members and merge with other terrorist organizations. The growth in strength of these insurgent elements are said to have motivated similar elements all around the world calling for Islamic extremism. World peace is therefore by extension dependent on a secure and table Afghanistan
The US has had a broad geopolitical agenda in South and Central Asia for a very long time. These have been based on the strategic quest to ensure a global presence by investing in the regions huge oil and gas reserves in an effort to circumvent gains made by Russia in the region (Nopens, 2014). The signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement between the US and Afghanistan governments will necessitate the US to employ a counterbalancing measure to continue realizing its economic agenda in the region.
The European Union on the other hand aims at realizing a successful completion to the Cooperation Agreement for Partnership and Development (CAPD) (Nopens, 2014). Under this agreement, the EU member countries will donate over a billion dollars to the Afghan government in an effort to finance the country’s National Police training programs, supporting the healthcare sector, border control, agriculture, and governance as well as counter narcotics initiatives.
The European Union also has key strategic interests in the region an aims at seeing the Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia come to fruition (Nopens, 2014). This initiative seeks to enhance political dialogue, education, human rights, rule of law, ware resources, energy, trade and economic relations. Other countries such as Turkey and the Arab nations also have interests in Afghan stemming from a common religious heritage.
The international community is considered as having abandoned Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviet forces in 1988 leading to the rise of the Taliban regime. With the proposed pullout of Western forces, regional as well as international communities are focused towards ensuring stability is upheld in the post 2014 Afghanistan. Many gains have been realized in the country after US and NATO’s military intervention introducing democracy, a new constitution as well as socioeconomic developments. The risk of insurgents impacting negatively on Afghanistan’s future is real and thus the need for more from the regional and international community to do more to ensure that democracy thrives in Afghanistan.
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Jones, S, G, (2013) “Presidential Candidates Need Multiethnic Consensus”, Accessed July 18, 2014 from http://www.cfr.org/afghanistan/prospects-afghanistan-2014/p32094
Markey, D, S, (2013) “Pakistan Will Continue to Meddle”, Accessed July 18, 2014 from http://www.cfr.org/afghanistan/prospects-afghanistan-2014/p32094
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Rahmanullah, (2013) “US-NATO Exit from Afghanistan: Challenges and Options Beyond 2014”, Accessed July 18, 2014 from http://frc.com.pk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Research-Paper-4.pdf
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Smith, W, “Vote of Confidence: The United States Mission after the Afghan Elections”, Accessed July 18, 2014 from http://harvardpolitics.com/world/vote-confidence-united-states-mission-afghan-elections/
The Economist (2014) “Afghanistan’s election: A useful crisis”, Accessed July 18, 2014 from http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21607857-fudge-between-two-feuding-presidential-candidates-may-offer-political-road-map-useful