The year 2014 was a momentous year for Afghanistan. Afghans successfully concluded a presidential election, transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces, peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to another, signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States and Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) with NATO and now there is a unity government in place with Drs. Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah in the lead. They have a long and hard road to address the many challenges of Afghanistan. The least of which entails the implementation of their unity government agreement. Following is the six key trends to watch Afghanistan in 2015 which was analyzed by Eurasia review and excerpted by The Kabul Times desk of monitoring.
The year 2015 will be decisive and the year of consolidation of years of international investment in the country. With the signing of BSA and SOFA – in 2015 the nature of US/NATO military, diplomatic and economic engagement will change. In this year – Afghans will be in complete charge of their security, economy and political institutions.
Following are the six key trends to watch for in 2015 for Afghanistan.
1. Constitutional Loya Jirga and Unity Government: The Question of Premiership and NUG Survival
The National Unity Government agreement signed by President Ghani and chief executive Abdullah predicts that within two years of the formation of the new government, the President shall call for a Loya Jirga to amend the constitution and create a new position of premiership for the country. This post is currently held by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah who is the Chief Executive of the country based on a presidential decree and has no constitutional basis.
There are also other amendments expected in the constitution i.e increasing the number of Vice-Presidents, clarifying roles and responsibilities of minister among others.
Furthermore, based on the history of national unity governments in Afghanistan and the growing number of deadlocks over many issues i.e. including the formation of a cabinet among others, many experts doubt whether this arrangement will last long.
2. Parliamentary Election: Will history repeat itself again?
Afghanistan is due to hold its third parliamentary election within 6 months. One of the key agreements between Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani in their unity government arrangement is to bring fundamental reforms i.e. distribution of electronic ID cards, changing of the election law, appointment of new election commissioners to avoid the experience of the recent presidential election.
Many observers believe that the recent prolonged presidential election has frustrated common Afghans and the turn out will be low. In addition – many of the losing candidates of the upcoming Afghan parliamentary election will try to derail the election or seek for extra-legal arrangements learning from the arrangement between current NUG leaders.
The successful conduct, management and implementation of the Afghan parliamentary election will be a key milestone for the national unity government to prove its competence and effectiveness.
3. Peace Process: President Ghani’s Quiet Diplomacy
President Ghani since assuming office has declared that he will pursue a quiet diplomacy with Pakistan unlike his predecessor and was the first Afghan President to go to the office of the powerful Pak Army Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Raheel Shariff to ask for assistance directly from the Pak army to bring Taliban to the table of negotiation with the Afghan government.
The President has also announced on several occasions that peace remains on the top of the priorities for his administration. On the other hand, the Taliban in one of their press releases right after the swearing in ceremony of Dr. Ghani as president of Afghanistan announced that their armed struggle will increase against President Ghani’s administration.
Will the quiet diplomacy approach work – time will tell.
4. Unfinished Business: Security Sector Reform and Growing ANSF Casualties
Significant progress has been made in training, mentoring, equipping and investing in the Afghan National Security Forces i.e. ANA, ANP and NDS of Afghanistan but much remains to be done. Afghanistan still does not have an air force, lacks surveillance systems and medical facilities including emergency field evacuation helicopters, does not have heavy weaponry and above all lacks a cadre of sophisticated officers to lead an army.
With the transition of security responsibilities completely to Afghan forces, the growing casualties of Afghan police and army and the hike in insecurity around the country, the Afghan security sector reform remains an unfinished business.
5. A dwindling Economy: Will donor aid bankroll Afghan Economy?
The Afghan economy has had a double digit dip in its economic growth rate and is completely dependent on foreign aid and military contracts. For almost a decade Afghanistan had a double digit economic growth rate but with the growing insecurity, corruption, US/NATO military withdrawal, other priorities around the world, failed projects; the economy has lost momentum and the growth rate stands at 1.5% today.
President Ghani has promised to turn around this situation by build an indigenous economy for Afghanistan and turning the country into the land bridge of Asia and exploit its vast mineral and natural resources. This requires a lot of technical, financial and regional political capital, will he succeed is an open question and only history will tell.
6. President Ghani’s Ambitious Reform Agenda: Will it rollout or rollback?
President Ghani has promised an ambitious reform agenda i.e. tackling corruption, building an indigenous economy, pursuing peace with the Taliban, reforming Afghan electoral institutions, disrupting the narco-criminal networks in the country and reforming the Afghan government institutions among many others. He is already facing resistance from entrenched interest groups, religious groups, former corrupt officials, his campaign supporters and others.
Many fear that the fast pace of his reforms and his disregard to some political and cultural sensitivities might backfire in a traditional country like Afghanistan. Will he speed up his reforms or slow- down is a question that we would only know in 2015.