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Experts: Mideast Turmoil Underscores Need for Afghan Political Reform


An Afghan boy from a poor neighborhood carries bread on his way home as it rains in Kabul, Afghanistan, February 23, 2011

An Afghan boy from a poor neighborhood carries bread on his way home as it rains in Kabul, Afghanistan, February 23, 2011

Experts say the ongoing turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East underscores the need for political reforms in countries like Afghanistan, where foreign troops are set to withdraw by 2014. They say along with transferring security to Afghan forces and boosting economic development, the international community also should help Afghanistan build non-corrupt and effective political parties before the next election.

Alvaro De Vasconcelos of the European Union Institute for Security Studies said the recent revolution in Tunisia has shown to the world that economic development alone cannot bring stability in countries like Afghanistan. Instead, political reforms are necessary.

"Economic [development] without political democratization, without political change will not change things," he said.

He said a sustainable peace will require a more inclusive political settlement than the present political structure in Kabul.

Zuhra Bahman, a consultant from Kabul, said that urging Taliban fighters to give up arms and join the government will not amount to the democratization of Afghanistan.

She said democracy could lead to reconciliation with the moderate elements of the Taliban, but reconciliation cannot bring democracy. The need today, she said, is to create political courage and consciousness among the Afghan people.

"In the next three to four years, we need to have political parties that are led by people with clean and non-corrupt backgrounds, with ability to attract the trust of the young people, people who could win the elections without having to bribe, without having to have the backing of guns. And this is a huge responsibility," she said.

And, she emphasized the responsibility for this rests mainly on the Afghan people.

But de Vasconcelos said although it may be the main responsibility of the Afghan people, the international community also can help boost the political process in Afghanistan. He cites the example of his homeland of Portugal, where he said the Germans helped in creating three new political parties to compete with the Communist Party after the 1974 revolution.

"And now our friends in Egypt are asking us to do the same in Egypt. In Tunisia it is the same case," he said. "In Egypt they say, 'we have only Muslim Brotherhood Party, so we need political parties, we need democratic political parties. How can you help?'"

The analysts say to achieve their stated goal of stabilizing Afghanistan by 2014, NATO and its allies cannot ignore the importance of a political transition in Afghanistan to accompany the proposed security and economic transitions.

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