News / Asia

Afghanistan Faces Crucial Year of Elections, Security Transition

Afghanistan Faces Crucial Year of Elections, Security Transitioni
X
December 10, 2013 5:31 AM
After more than a decade of war, Afghans have another tough year ahead. In 2014 they face the complete withdrawal of international combat forces, a tapering off of aid money, a weak economy, a continuing insurgency, and elections for a new president. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Afghanistan Faces Crucial Year of Elections, Security Transition
Sharon Behn
After more than a decade of war, Afghans have another tough year ahead. In 2014, they face the complete withdrawal of international combat forces, a tapering off of aid money, a weak economy, a continuing insurgency, and elections for a new president.
 
The April 2014 presidential elections will usher in the first government since the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban that does not have Afghan leader Hamid Karzai at the top.
 
Over the years, critics say Karzai has transformed from a reliable U.S. ally into an unpredictable leader, to the frustration of both his foreign partners and domestic allies. Nonetheless, despite his political maneuvering, Karzai has become a symbol for continuity in Afghanistan.
 
Young people growing up in busy cities like Kabul have expectations of a better future, but fierce power rivalries and lawlessness in the country mean it is unlikely next year's election will be free and fair, according to analyst Kate Clark.
 
“The ideal is that you have someone that has a popular consensus. And I think that’s difficult,” she said. “The fraud is so much that you are not going to get anyone happy, and it’s a question of how messy it’s going to be.”
 
Also in question is what is going to happen to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. By early December, Karzai had refused to sign a bilateral security pact that would keep a contingent behind to train, assist and equip Afghan forces.
 
Karzai snubbed the nation’s tribal elders, who approved the security deal and called for it to be signed immediately,JirgaJ and instead declared that the agreement should be signed after the elections and peace and stability are established in the country.
 
U.S. officials are working hard to convince Karzai to finalize the security agreement before the end of the year, and say delaying the signing will make it harder to keep the estimated 12,000 U.S. troops in country.
 
Another thorny issue is neighboring Pakistan. The U.S. is concerned about Pakistan's harboring of militants and the security of U.S. transit routes out of Afghanistan. 
An Afghan peace deal with Taliban militants - who also rejected the security pact - does not seem any closer.
 
Former Taliban and now Afghan High Peace Council member Abdul Hakim Mujahid says that without a deal with the militants, the country risks sliding backwards.
 
“If we couldn’t reach a political settlement and we went to the general election, and a president came in power who is not assured of a political settlement, we will [have] lost at least five years, unfortunately for peace, and we will for more five years, and the fighting and the crisis will be continued for more than five years in this country,” predicted Mujahid.
  
Afghan security forces are increasingly taking the lead across the country, but attrition and casualty rates have been high. A July 2013 Pentagon report noted that in March, Afghan force casualties spiked to more than 300 a month. March is the start of the traditional Taliban fighting season.
 
Clark said that as of September, Afghan security forces were dying at the rate of 100 per week.
 
Former minister Hamidullah Farooqi, who is also a member of the Truth and Justice party, says the national forces will need substantial help beyond 2014.
 
“We are a little behind in that case, that is why we don’t know if Afghan security forces will be able to defend this country without support, and our economy, our national resources are not enough for our national and security needs,” said Farooqi.
 
International patience is wearing thin with Karzai. Analysts say much will depend on how much Washington is willing to accommodate the Afghan leader and his demands. If the United States does withdraw all forces and a related eight billion dollars in aid, analysts warn that Afghanistan is headed for some very hard times.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs