Afghanistan: The new president and old pitfalls

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SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)

Mahar Munawar
With Americans set to pull out of Afghanistan by the year-end, the rugged country has once again proved itself to be the grave yard of empires. Many mighty invaders entered the country at their sweet will with Imperial hubris and sense of triumphalism but they had to pay heavy price for the strategic blunder of trying to tame the land known for its fierce and stubborn resistance to the invaders.
Emerging out of the ashes of the election rigging controversy, the new government has assumed power in Kabul, with Ashraf Ghani as the president and Abdullah Abdullah as the chief executive of the war-ravaged country. It is a power-sharing arrangement which requires the president to work in tandem with the chief executive. However, the workability and viability of the tandem set-up remains to be tested. Given the prolonged political deadlock in the wake of the controversial presidential elections, the new dispensation seems a reasonable political middle course to ensure political stability in the country faced with challenges of great magnitude. Now, when the new government has assumed its full responsibilities, it is time to map out and evaluate the grave challenges to be addressed by the new afghan government in Kabul.
First and foremost, Ashraf Ghani has to grapple with an uphill task of sustaining and building Afghanistan as a democratic, peaceful, prosperous and viable state in the face of formidable and multi-dimensional challenges. Certainly, the task is herculean but not impossible at all. Therefore, Ashraf Ghani will have to carefully navigate through the pitfalls taking full advantage of opportunities available to him. He will have to live with many limitations. The president will no longer have active US financial and military support enjoyed at by his predecessor. As evidenced by flurry of diplomatic activity, the new president seems up to task of finding feet and bracing for post-American drawdown situation.
Recently, he visited China and is due to visit many other countries in order to seek diplomatic and economic support and solace.
Further, the Kabul visit of Pakistan’s army chief is a welcome development that suggests Pakistan’s desire for engagement with the new government despite mutual misgivings and trust-deficit. Undeniably, Pakistan’s cooperation and collaboration is crucial for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and vice versa.
Secondly, the new president ought not to replicate the debilitating mistakes of his predecessors whose government earned global notoriety for rampant corruption, ineptness and inefficiency.
The new president will have to take solid and substantial measures to curb menace of corruption, warlordism, narcotics and nepotism. Asraf Ghani is supposed to rise above personal, familial, ethnic and tribal priorities in order to win hearts and minds at home and abroad.
Thirdly, Economy is another area that calls for urgent reforms and revival. The afghan economy has been heavily dependent on foreign aid and assistance. The American drawdown will result in reduced international financial support critical to keep the aid-addict afghan economy afloat. Moreover, it has become a drug economy as the major contribution to GDP comes from poppy production.
Abject poverty and widespread unemployment is a primary contributive factor to militancy that thrives on social and economic injustice. The elimination of corruption, promotion of education, regard for meritocracy, revival of the cottage industry and skill development of human resource will go a long way in breathing new life into moribund economic sector. The improvement in socio-economic conditions of the people is imperative to vindicate the choice of ballot by the masses who expect democracy to deliver.
Fourthly, the new president needs to chart out a result-oriented roadmap in order to reform the security apparatus.Arguably; The Taliban insurgency constitutes the greatest threat to the fragile afghan state. Taliban may stand depleted but not defeated at all despite deployment mammoth man and material resources by US, the powerful nation on the planet. The persistent threat posed by Taliban brings into the picture the pivotal role of the afghan national security forces that are supposed to prevent the state from falling apart by keeping the Taliban at bay. Thus, the fate of afghan state largely depends on the afghan national security forces’ capacity to hold the ground amid gigantic security responsibilities in absence of US ground and air support. Presently, the ANSF are bedeviled by illiteracy, corruption, and drugs addiction, lack of professionalism, organizational incoherence, ethnic imbalance and inadequate air power.
Fifthly, The Taliban remains a formidable force to reckon with, holding key to peace and stability in country. Without reconciliation and political integration of Taliban through meaningful dialogue, the pursuit of peace will remain a wild goose chase.
Last but not the least; Afghanistan has long been a playground for proxy warfare. The new president needs to make sure that the afghan soil is not used as a launch pad for subversive activities against any neighboring country. The neighboring and regional countries are also supposed to abandon use of proxies and pursue peaceful means as a foreign policy instrument to secure and safeguard their legitimate interests in the country. The stable and peaceful Afghanistan is critical to peace and security of the region in particular and the world in general.
In conclusion, the impressive electoral turnout in the presidential elections 2014,is illustrative of the people of Afghanistan’s firm faith in democracy and outright rejection of the militant line of thinking and action.
Therefore, the new president is supposed to live up to sanctity and purpose of the mandate accorded by the afghan voters who have given a chance to the power of ballot rather than bullet.

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