US and NATO troops are set to leave Afghanistan in 2014. After more than a decade of war, this departure comes as a relief to many in the United States, since it will be the first time, in a very long time that our country is not at war. The view in Afghanistan is not so optimistic. The withdrawal of US and NATO forces by 2014 will have a profound effect on the country’s economic and political development. Progress since 2001 has been mixed. While there have been some major achievements such as improvement in basic health and education, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s least developed countries and more than a third of the population live below the poverty line. Although aid, totaling $16 billion for the next four years was pledged at the Tokyo Conference this past summer, there are doubts about what this money will achieve, considering the country’s past. International donors provided $35 billion in aid to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010, but the return on that investment has been mixed. Prior funding has been linked to corruption, fragmented delivery systems, poor aid effectiveness and weakened governance.
With violence increasing in regional areas of the country outside of Kabul, the renewed growth of the opium trade, and reports daily about Afghan civilians and NATO troops being killed, the future of this country is still up in the air. There are a number of troubling variables that could determine what post-2014 Afghanistan will look like. A peaceful solution with the Taliban has not yet been achieved and their resurgence is palpable. Additionally, institutional rivalries, conflicts over local authority and clashes over Islam in governance have put more pressure on Afghanistan. With these problems, the political challenge of organizing a credible presidential election and transfer of power in 2014 seems all the more daunting. With institutions still weak, and corruption virulent within government, the continued violence and re-emergence of the Taliban make it difficult to be optimistic about Afghanistan’s future.
Photo courtesy of The Guardian
-Maxine K. Jacobson is a Junior majoring in International Relations.