Syria matters, but watch out for Afghanistan

We cannot forget Afghanistan and let it be become terrorist safe haven again

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
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The nature of demonstrations depend on the country and they are caused for different reasons, depending on the country. My knowledge about demonstrations and their consequences is limited, but I can speak on the case of Afghanistan and how dangerous a simple demonstration can be there.

Demonstrations there are dangerous for a very simple reason; crowd-control is difficult due to a lack of security and burgeoning instability.

The last presidential election, in 2009, disappointed many who believed Afghanistan was entering a new phase. According to international observers and local politicians, President Karzai’s supporters orchestrated a campaign of fraud to ensure a win for Karzai.

The ensuing anger was uncontrollable and the United States administration and the United Nations proposed a second election run, this time with Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah who supposedly collected more votes than Karzai.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of National Coalition of Afghanistan and a nationally known figure who had been at the center of Afghan politics for some time, was faced with a very difficult decision. He had to choose between allowing people to protest against the election’s outcome or remain silent and dismiss his own right to victory.

We cannot forget Afghanistan and let it be become terrorist safe haven again

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Just after the contested election, I asked Dr. Abdullah if he planned to ask his supporters in the big cities to protest against Karzai’s win. He answered that in a country like Afghanistan, demonstrations and protests can lead to nation-wide chaos, which is very dangerous, and he did not want to become president by any price.

He was quite right. In a country where many people have guns at home and security is already very fragile, a massive demonstration can be considered the forerunner of national disorder and dysfunction in the government.

The Americans, upset by the contested election, found that a second election would be very difficult due to issues of financing the operation, ensuring security and the lack of guarantees that Karzai and his supporters would not manipulate the vote.

The U.S. government agreed to recognize Karzai as the next president of Afghanistan and convinced tribal leaders and influential people to accept Karzai as the president for the sake of their nation.

In the past five years the U.S. administration had difficulties reaching out to Karzai to continue the joint task forces’ fight against terrorism and, of course, corruption in his government.

Having doubts

Now, five years later people are having doubts about Karzai’s real aim and are unsure of whether to believe if he is serious about conducting a fair and honest election on April 8, 2014. He can’t run for office again, but his brother Qaum Karzi is running and it is hard to believe that he won’t support his brother at the election. But there is an essential point here, which makes this election different and quite important, not only for Afghans but for the whole world. This time, Americans and Western powers cannot interfere as mediators to fix the problem and prevent clashes between different factions.

Americans are pulling out by the end of 2014 and their involvement in this nation would be limited and if Karzai repeats his 2009 mistake and cheating, his opponents would act differently and wouldn’t accept any more excuses. Afghanistan could soon slide into a horrible civil war if we don’t pay attention to them at the right time.

Americans and Western powers may want to leave Afghanistan this year, but we are still here and we live close by. The Syrian crisis is our concern and it spun out of control because we did not pay it due attention. Considering this, it is now time we take note of what is going on in Afghanistan. Regional powers must engage themselves to fill the power vacuum in the absence of the U.S. and NATO forces.

We cannot forget Afghanistan and let it be become terrorist safe haven again. As important as the Syrian crisis will be this year, regional countries should also observe the presidential election in Afghanistan. This year is not only the year of Syria, it is the year of Afghanistan too.


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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