The 2014 elections offer a last chance for Afghanistan to break away from its cycle of violence and instability.
"... they say if you don't vote, you get the government you deserve, and if you do, you never get the results you expected."
This little excerpt from Elizabeth A Bucchianeri's novel Brushstrokes of a Gadfly speaks well into the reality of the situation ahead of Afghanistan's presidential elections next year.
The public at large, both domestic and international, are concerned about the viability of holding the elections. Challenges such as a lack of adequate security, inaccessibility of ballots to voters in remote areas, and the possibility of widespread electoral fraud could either delay the holding of the elections, or threaten the integrity and acceptability of their outcome. What most seem to ignore is whether the elections will bring someone to power who can break the country's vicious circle of conflict and instability.
The status quo
Twelve years after the toppling of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan continues to burn in the flames of a fierce insurgency and a heartless campaign of terrorism. The central government is weak, fragile, corrupt, and trusted neither by its constituents nor its international backers. With little positive change in their lives over the past decade - despite the tens of billions of dollars in international aid - the Afghan populace at large is increasingly weary of their government and the western military presence on their soil.
Meanwhile, the long war, the thousands of dead and wounded soldiers, the billions of dollars expended, and the uncongenial attitude of Afghan President Karzai toward his western allies have pushed America and its NATO partners to the brink of giving up on Afghanistan, and leaving the country at the mercy of its wolf-like neighbours.
But abandoning Afghanistan could prove as costly to the West as it would to Afghans. A total withdrawal of western forces at this stage will most likely result in the Taliban advancing, the former jihadi groups resorting to arms to ensure their own survival, the central government collapsing, and the country descending into chaos. The disorder and lawlessness that follows would not only turn Afghanistan into a hotbed of Islamist militancy, but can also spill over into Pakistan, and potentially into Iran and Central Asia, making the region a haven for international terrorist groups.
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