To further dwell on why security is likely to worsen, lets consider how the Taliban seem to be approaching the next couple of years. We have heard them say, time and again, “NATO has all the watches, but we [Taliban] have all the time.” The next few years is their only window of opportunity to intimidate Afghans who are uncertain where the country is heading, thus weaken the economy and increase their prospects of a military takeover of Kabul after a complete withdrawal of foreign troops. Unfortunately, the Taliban have been fairly successful in doing so thus far.
In recent months, the prices of properties in Kabul have declined by 25 to 30 percent amid looming uncertainty – and just last year, $4.6 billion was reported to have left Kabul airport in suitcases and handbags alone, largely financing property purchases in places like Dubai.
This outflow of cash is constantly propelled by a disbelief in the upcoming power-transition (understandably so as it would be the first in recent history if it were to be successful), and worries about being abandoned once more by the international community – but also because the Taliban have been rather strategic in seizing this uncertain moment by carrying out more targeted, like the green-on-blue, attacks to shift the momentum in their direction. The combination of all these factors has undermined the confidence of the Afghan people.
Every effort must be made to help restore the Afghan confidence if we are to right the course of this nation.
For starters, a case must be made to the Afghan people that democracy is the right course for them, and the way to do that is to ensure that Afghanistan has a smooth transition to a new leadership. While some responsibility falls with the international community to help make certain that the election is transparent, President Hamid Karzai shoulders much of that burden. When the time comes, Karzai must step aside and appeal to the nation to go out and vote for a new president. This will boost a renewed belief in democratic processes.
Secondly, the strategic agreement between Kabul and Washington in May this year must allow for some troop presence beyond 2014, enough to train Afghan security forces and serve as a backup force to strike the enemy when needed. This will accomplish two things: It will let Afghans know that they are not going to be abandoned, and will signal to the Taliban that their chances to takeover Kabul are reduced to near zero.
With a restored confidence in both democracy and international commitment, the money that left Kabul airport in handbags and suitcases will pour back in to support local investments. Only then we would truly start to tap into the trillion-dollar reservoir of natural resources (copper, iron ore, gold, and lithium) to spur economic growth and create good Afghan jobs.
Although the policies we adopt might not guarantee the Taliban’s surrender, they will strengthen the economy and boost our morale. The momentum will be on our side, and that is what will matter at the end of the day.
Amin, a native of Afghanistan, is founder and president of Afghan Youth Initiative, Inc.