International Crisis Group: Afghanistan’s Transition Meltdown
October 08, 2012
Afghanistan is hurtling toward a devastating political crisis as the
government prepares to take full control of security in 2014.
“There is a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon
NATO’s withdrawal in 2014”, says Candace Rondeaux, the International
Crisis Group’s Senior Afghanistan Analyst. “The window for remedial
action is closing fast”.
“The Afghan army and police are overwhelmed and underprepared for the
transition”, says Rondeaux. “Another botched election and resultant
unrest would push them to breaking point”.
The new report details the challenge ahead as the country’s political
leaders prepare for political and security transition in eighteen
months. The government’s credibility has not recovered since the
fraudulent and chaotic presidential and parliamentary polls in 2009 and
2010, and so far, leaders have been unable to reverse the downward
“President Karzai and parliament have long known what needs to be done
to ensure a clean vote, but they have steadfastly refused to take any
serious steps in that direction”, says Rondeaux. “Karzai seems more
interested in perpetuating his own power by any means rather than
ensuring credibility of the political system and long-term stability in
Resolving both the long crisis over electoral administration and related
constitutional disputes could well be the key to determining whether the
current political system will survive the NATO drawdown. If the
elections are again nothing but fraud, the credibility of the
authorities will be cast into even deeper doubt, and more people will
look to alternatives.
key tasks are unfinished, particularly regarding electoral oversight.
Confusion over the rival authority of several commissions and the courts
threatens to unravel the system entirely. Constitutional defects need to
be addressed, and rule of law has to be reinforced as the transition
unfolds. As the first step, the date for presidential elections should
be set as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, it is not likely many in the political elite view the
problem this way. The danger is that President Karzai’s top priority is
maintaining control, either directly or via a trusted proxy. He and
other leading members of the elite may be able to cobble together a
broad temporary alliance, but political competition is likely to turn
violent on the heels of NATO’s withdrawal.
The possibility cannot be excluded that he will declare a state of
emergency as a means of extending his power. Such a move would
accelerate state collapse and likely precipitate the next civil war in
the country. If that occurs, there would be few opportunities to reverse
course in the near term. Securing the peace in Afghanistan would then
remain at best a very distant hope.