Kabul’s security and the upcoming elections

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
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Who can forget the pictures that emerged from Kabul showing excited men full of smiles sitting in hair salons while their long beards were being shaved off? The pictures portrayed free Afghans jubilant about the end Taliban rule and full of hope for a better future.

Refugees flocked back from countries like Iran and Pakistan, with the hope that their children would be raised in their homeland. Many of the former refugees have come to regret their decision

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Televisions and satellites quickly became common household items. The world that united to topple the Taliban promised Afghans a democratic election and a constitution that would serve their rights and support them during the transitional period.

The new government convinced ordinary Afghans that the country was entering a new era, answering the people’s demand for peace, stability, employment opportunities and a brighter future for their children.

Refugees flood back to Afghanistan

Refugees flocked back from countries like Iran and Pakistan, with the hope that their children would be raised in their homeland.

Many of the former refugees have come to regret their decision.

With the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2014 and the upcoming presidential election, people are not optimistic about the future. The security situation is quite tenuous for many living in the southern and southeastern cities like Jalalabad, Khost, and Kandahar.

Even those living in major cities like Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif don’t feel safe.

As a result, many are once again preparing to immigrate to foreign countries. Interpreters working for foreign forces have begun filing for political asylum. It appears hope has vanished.

The Taliban are ‘dear brothers’

The series of insurgent attacks in Kabul and other major cities has revealed that insurgents are capable of challenging police and government intelligence in the presence of American troops.

The purpose was to cement fear among the Afghan public, who are already concerned about Afghanistan’s future once U.S. troops and other allies begin leaving in 2014.

The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the series of attacks in Kabul, Jalalabad, and other major cities hasn’t declared clear reasons for the assaults.

When Afghans and the world needed President Hamid Karzai to take a hard stance in confronting the Taliban, he chose a softer approach, calling Talibs “dear brothers.”

Too late to root out terrorism and without much time left for President Karzai, he has adopted a different policy. It was important for President Karzai to continue the peace talks with the Taliban to reach a certain stage before the end of 2014 and the departure of foreign troops.

When the talks didn’t yield the intended results, the president surprised his allies by accusing them having secret talks with the Taliban.

The president’s primary interest is to secure his own brother’s bid for the presidency while at the same time creating a legacy whereby the current president becomes a national hero after serving 13 years in power.

His slim, unknown brother, Qayum Karzai, bears a strong resemblance to the president and is considered his favorite choice for the upcoming election, according to Afghan observers.

Insurgents have killed the most influential tribal leaders and skilled politicians in the past few years. Karzai’s ambition to make peace with the Taliban has cost many lives, without having fulfilled its objective.

The simple reality is that the peace talks haven’t yet achieved any significant success because it is not clear how many groups and rivals are still fighting and competing against one another.

Nearly three years ago, Kabul’s “peace Jirga” saw 1,600 national leaders gathered to suffer an attack by the Taliban costing the Chief Intelligence Officer Amarullah Saleh and Interior Minister Hanif Atmar their jobs. Karzai’s decision to force them to resign was widely disapproved by both foreign and local politicians.

Days after being discharged from his position, Saleh told me President Karzai was under great pressure from Pakistan—primarily its intelligence services, the ISI—to get rid of Saleh if Karzai wanted to see Afghan security improve and get Pakistan’s cooperation.

Karzai complied and Saleh left office, but the ISI did not fulfill its end of the bargain, and security in Afghanistan has not significantly improved.

The nation’s pride and satisfaction—a feeling that has been missed greatly since the death of Northern Alliance chief Ahmad Shah Massoud—have never been restored. The government’s intelligence services failed and Karzai failed.

Despite the grim pictures surrounding Afghanistan, there is still hope that Jihadi leaders and the former Mujahideen can reunite before 2014 and present a strong candidate to run for the 2014 election.

Poor security set to worsen

Currently security is very poor and estimates suggest it will worsen with the withdrawal of American troops. But those who lived under the Taliban and who now live in the nation, experienced freedom, and they won’t allow the insurgency and extremism to come back to their country easily. Just as Karzai surprised western nations, Afghans will surprise President Karzai.

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Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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