from 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2013 | Foreign Policy
by Louise Arbour
Plagued by factionalism and corruption, the Afghan government is far from ready to assume responsibility for its own security when U.S. and NATO forces withdraw in 2014. Relations with Washington continued to deteriorate in 2012, particularly when scores were killed in February following reports that U.S. troops burned dozens of copies of the Quran and other religious materials, and when U.S. soldier Robert Bales in March shot 17 villagers, including nine children, in the southern province of Kandahar. A spate of insider attacks since then has contributed to the increased distrust between Afghan and U.S. military leaders, while friendly fire incidents undermined the Afghan National Security Forces’ morale.
The looming political transition in Kabul is possibly even more important for the future of the country and the wider region. Although President Hamid Karzai has signaled his intent to exit gracefully when his term ends in 2014, fears remain that he may try, directly or indirectly, to retain influence over the post-election setup. A reasonably credible election — something Afghanistan has yet to experience — could forge a degree of national consensus and boost popular confidence in the government’s capabilities.
The best guarantee of Afghanistan’s stability is to ensure the rule of law during the political and military transition in 2013 and 2014. If the leadership fails at this, the coming crucial period will result in deep divisions and conflicts within the ruling elite, which the Taliban-led insurgency will exploit. At worst, it could result in the fragmentation of the security services and trigger extensive internal conflict. Some possibilities for genuine progress remain — and we have to remain hopeful — but the window for action is narrowing.
FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy)
Photo: United Nations Photo/Flickr