By Edrees Kakar
KABUL, Afghanistan – The withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan and the upcoming Afghan presidential election in 2014 makes it a challenging year for the country.
While there is some level of optimism with the Afghan government for taking responsibility for the security of the country and running a transparent election, there is public concern over the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan and the consequences that will follow.These concerns are mainly on the economic and security aspects of the country as thousands of jobs will be lost with the draw-down of international troops and the security responsibility will be transferred to Afghan security forces, who are less equipped to handle it.
Youth Journalism International asked five young adult Afghans what 2014 means to them. The respondents expressed expectations, worries, optimism and offered suggestions for the challenges ahead. Their written responses follow their identifying information.
Nasrat Khalid is a 24-year-old Afghan social activist with more than six years of professional experience in the field of technology, communications and development. Khalid has worked in government, education and charitable organizations. In recent years he’s given extensive IT training to more than 300 students in Kabul at various vocational and private educational centers.
The year 2014 is anticipated to bring two different changes to Afghanistan. First, international troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan. This will lead the people of Afghanistan, the region and the international community to ask serious questions, including the most important one: "Are we going to be safe?"
Second, the issue of elections, which leads to a new president and changes in the core management of the country. Like troop withdrawal, this also brings up different questions and concerns in our minds. People will be wondering about the election process, security management, international relations and many other things.
Since Afghanistan has been a warzone for approximately 25 years, the people don’t have any practical knowledge of successful governance. This does raise an alarm in the minds of political personalities and within the societies of the region and international community. It isn’t certain that Afghanistan will soon be able to grow into a peaceful and developed country. Furthermore, the people of Afghanistan are very reluctant to contribute to the development of the country. It's our duty as the citizens of the Afghanistan to help remove corruption, report security threats, stand for our rights and fight poverty together.
On the bright side, we have had the support of the international community, the United Nations, donors and organizations throughout the years with training our army, social development, governance, economic growth, finance, technology and much more. Alongside their continued support, it does give us a hope of a better future – or if not better, the hope of sustaining what we have achieved over the last 12 years.
With the presidential election coming parallel to the withdrawal, the new, energetic president will have a chance to make change a priority.
The issue of 2014 is not very serious to me. The love and security one should have for their country should never be doubted by the change of the president or by the nation taking over its own self-protection. I count the withdrawal of the international security forces as a win-win situation for both Afghanistan and the international community. It's time we take over and handle our country ourselves.
Meena Alokozai is a 23-year-old Afghan woman studying at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.
Like every other Afghan youth, I am concerned about 2014. The international troops are leaving Afghanistan without fulfilling their main goal – eliminating Al- Qaeda and other insurgents in the region. On the contrary, the suicide attacks by the Taliban in Kabul and other provinces shows that the Taliban are stronger and more active than before and the peace process is a failure.
Additionally, Afghanistan is ranked as the most corrupt country in the world, and the warlords are still as powerful and influential as they were during the civil war in the 1990s. They have their personal militia groups, own lands and wealth through which they get the support of the people in their provinces. On the other hand, the 2014 elections and the rivalry for the presidency among the political parties have already started.
There are two different beliefs among the people about 2014. One is the optimistic approach, that if international forces leave Afghanistan, the Taliban will also stop fighting and our dream of having peace will come true. The second one is the realistic approach that assumes the history will repeat itself in 2014, and we may return to the era of civil war of the Mujahedin or the totalitarianism of the Taliban.
It is impossible for me to be optimistic because I know that peace-building is a long-term process that cannot happen in only one year. It needs fundamental work at the grassroots level and has some pre-requisites: education, enlightening the people, the creation of a feeling of nationalism, and building the economy, none of which exists in Afghanistan yet.
So I look to 2014 realistically and feel worried. I see the nightmares about the conquering of my country by regional powers or their proxies, and being obliged to sit at home once more. I am afraid of the day that hundreds of people may die or be injured in a civil war, and that women will be tortured, houses will be robbed and buildings will be destroyed again.
Jamshid Nazari of Takhar Taluqan, 35, works in Kabul at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and studies political science at Kateb University in Kabul.
As far as I know, some of the educated people (Political Analysts), senior staff of government, those who work for International political missions and civil societies, they have their different views about the above mentioned years. From my point of view, 2014, with the upcoming presidential election in April, could be a bit challenging year for Afghanistan. Corruption has become a big concern for people and that is likely to continue in 2014 and beyond.
No doubt even Taliban is getting prepared for managing further organized attacks in different provinces, mostly in the capital, Kabul, intending to disorder preparations for the election and particularly the day of polling. Hence, the people will feel threatened and may not go to the polls to vote.
According to my perception, the level of optimism is higher than the level of concern, now it seems the world understands that a small threat in Afghanistan if it’s not prevented and addressed timely can affect the region and even the entire world.
Therefore, I believe that by the mercy of Allah and through our national military forces, together with presence of international troops, especially the U.S. Army supporting us, we hope to pass the election successfully without too much difficulties.
As for what happens after 2014, I think we shouldn’t have much concerns about this issue, because even a crazy man knows his advantage and disadvantage in the current situation. The United States of America won’t be so foolish to spend billions of dollars in this poor country where our yearly incomes still cannot meet six months expenditures of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. So it shows that the U.S.A. is interested in having access and taking control of the region. Therefore, I believe Afghanistan will be used only as a base to fulfill America’s aims against another country, such as Iran, China, Russia and Pakistan.
Despite the opposition of regional powers against the continued presence of U.S. forces, it seems that the U.S. will stay longer.
As a result, we will benefit from the presence of the United States in Afghanistan. Having the U.S. here stabilizes the situation and prevents harmful interferences by neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan and Iran.
But I have worries about one thing: that we won’t be able to have an independent country in the future. This is really annoying to those real Afghan patriots who love their country and never will be ready to sell their country for political positions or dollars.
Sayed Ihsanuddin Taheri is director of the Government Monitoring and Evaluation Authority in the Office of Administrative Affairs and Cabinet Secretariat for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
My view as an Afghan citizen living and working in Afghanistan is positive towards my country in post-2014. We have capable National Security Forces beside the established government. On the other side, concerns are always everywhere in the world.
Problems occur everywhere; we will be taking part in the upcoming presidential elections as responsible Afghans to elect a new government with free, fair and transparent elections. Peace and stability are important goals and everyone is hopeful for a peaceful Afghanistan. For that, negotiation is a must, as instructed by Islamic Shariah law.
So, by 2014, Afghanistan will be safe, peaceful, and three aspects of it – peace, elections and transition – will be the most vital issues that may keep Afghanistan’s prestigious status in the world.
Ahmad Samir Bayat, a former newscaster from Kabul with the Ariana International Television Network, now works in Ukraine.
|Ahmad Samir Bayat|
Afghanistan after 2014 will be the start of new opportunities for Afghans. A nation that tasted democracy after 2001, with some accomplishment and with the presence of international forces, will hopefully continue to remain stable and preserve the achievements of the last 12 years.
Of course, Afghans are worried about after 2014, when many of the job opportunities associated with international troops or organizations will be lost when they depart. But at the same time, Afghanistan will be building up its own economy and gradually moving towards economic independence.
Another opportunity will be the transfer of security responsibilities back to the Afghans. When that happens, the Afghan people will not witness further night air raid killings by international forces. The withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in general will support the self-sufficiency of the country.