Afghan government could collapse after NATO: Report

Afghan government could collapse after NATO: Report

Afghan government could collapse after NATO: Report

NATO forces will completely withdraw from the war-battered nation in 2014. AFP photo

The Afghan government could fall apart after NATO troops pull out in 2014, particularly if presidential elections that year are fraudulent, a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) said yesterday.

“There is a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon NATO’s withdrawal,” said Candace Rondeaux, the ICG’s senior Afghanistan analyst. “The window for remedial action is closing fast.” The report, Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition, said the country was on course for another set of fraudulent elections after the chaotic presidential and parliamentary polls in 2009 and 2010.

A repeat could undermine what little hope remains for stability after the Afghan government takes full responsibility for security from U.S.-led NATO forces, the report by the Brussels-based group said. The coalition, which has waged an 11-year war against Taliban militants, is already drawing down its troops from a peak of some 130,000, and all combat forces are scheduled to quit the country by the end of 2014.

“The Afghan army and police are underprepared for the transition,” said Rondeaux. “Another botched election and resultant unrest would push them to breaking point.” The Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and the Parliament have failed to take any serious steps towards preparing for a clean vote, she added.

Karzai’s own interests

“Karzai seems more interested in perpetuating his own power by any means rather than ensuring credibility of the political system and long-term stability in the country.” The president is constitutionally required to step down at the end of his second term in 2014, and has repeatedly said he will do so, but there are fears that he might try to manipulate the polls to ensure the election of an ally.

“The danger is Karzai’s top priority is maintaining control, either directly or via a trusted proxy. Political competition is likely to turn violent on the heels of NATO’s withdrawal” Rondeaux said. The report said the possibility cannot be excluded that Karzai will declare a state of emergency as a means of extending his power, which would accelerate state collapse and likely precipitate a civil war. “If that occurs, securing the peace in Afghanistan would then remain at best a very distant hope,” Rondeaux said.