By: Tahir Nazir
In the coming months and years, Afghanistan will likely to go under a mega transition in all spheres i.e. political, security and economic in the midst of growing Taliban threats to existing state structure.
U.S combat forces will leave Afghanistan at the end of this year while leaving behind 9800 numbers in Afghanistan. But the stay of these forces is linked to the signing of bilateral security agreement (BSA) between the U.S and the Afghanistan. Incumbent Afghanistans President, Hamid Karzai refused to sign the BSA and left this issue to the future Afghan President.
With the recent Presidential election in Afghanistan, there is a hope that the next president will sign the BSA and it will enable U.S to station its forces in Afghanistan after 2014. By the end of 2015, the US forces would be going to reduce its forces to around 4900 in and in the following years it will reduced to small contingent to protect US embassy and its installations.
Post 2014, the main task of US and NATO forces will be to train, advice and assist Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and a separate group of Special Operations forces to continue counterterrorism missions against the remnants of al-Qaeda. It will shift the onus on the ANSF to take the lead role in maintaining the law and order of the country and to undertake, effective counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency operations against the Taliban and other insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan.
But the recently published report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), have painted altogether different rather bleak picture of future of Afghanistan in the context of post-2014.
According to report, Afghanistan became the largest recipient country of U.S aid by surpassing the US Marshal Plan that delivered billions of dollars between 1948 and 1952 to help 16 European countries to recover in the aftermath of World War II.
Till this date U.S spent $104 Billion from 2002 and 2014 on Afghanistans reconstruction and development that includes the Afghan National Security Forces: Afghan Army (ANA), Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan Air force (AAF).
US Marshall Plan delivered about $13.3 billion (in inflation-adjusted terms, today it is equal to $103.4 billion) aid to European countries to stand on their feet But that aid did not include the cost of raising their armies, like Afghanistan, where US spent almost $62 billion in training, equipping and maintaining Afghan national security forces.
According to U.S top troops commander, General Joseph F. Dunford, I a m not confident that if we were to leave at the end of 2014, that those forces (ANSF) would be sustainable. There are some significant capability gaps that have to be addressed in order for the Afghans to be able to do things that we have heretofore been doing for them.
And these apprehensions haves also expressed by Afghan themselves and the regional countries about the condition and capacity of Afghan National Army (ANA) , as they are already at a deplorable condition and could become less effective in withstanding the challenges of security after the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
According to the report, the ANSF current size is 352,000 that are expected to be reduced to 228,500 by 2017 and it would need $4.1 billion annually to sustain their presence but according to Centre for Naval Analyses (CNA), in the likely 2015 2018 security environments, the ANSF will require a total security force of about 373,400 personnel.
U.S and the NATO countries are feeling the double jeopardy, on one hand, cutting the size of ANSF would risk the instability in Afghanistan in post 2014 and on the other, increasing the troops numbers will raise the cost around $5 to 6 billion per year.
In the upcoming NATO Summit, United States and NATO countries will have to make tough choices with regards to Afghanistan in the midst of growing austerity.
It is expected that in post 2014 scenario, there would be instability in Afghanistan coupled with the huge unemployment, inflation and severe economic crunch, as the current Afghan economy is based upon war (economy) and the massive foreign financial support.
Gradual draw down of foreign forces and other foreign personnel from Afghanistan will certainly dry the financial aid and it would severely weaken the authority of central government and affect the overall political stability in the country.
And to validate the above mentioned point, the John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, gave an example of an Afghan Local Police unit that cut the power lines from Kabul to eastern Laghman and Nangahar Provinces in retaliation for not being paid for three months.
From this little example, one can imagine, what could happen, if the Afghan government cannot meet payrolls of its servicemen.
Given the fact that Afghanistan largely dependent upon the US and foreign donors and having a low revenue roughly $2 billion (2013), on the contrary, Afghanistan government has unveiled a far larger budget about $7.6 billion, with donor grants expected to fund about $4.8 billion, or still more than 60% of the total.
This report comes at a critical juncture when Afghanistan is facing growing Talibans insurgency with the drawdown of foreign forces, runoff between the two presidential candidates: Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, hectic task of audit of 8.1 million ballots amid growing concerns of a civil war in Afghanistan if U.S backed unity government recipe fails to deliver substantive outcomes.
Also, we should keep in mind that European countries took hundred years to evolve and build their institutions out of complex federal structure. Given Afghanistans political and security situation, it will take little longer to achieve those objectives.
The future of peace and stability in Afghanistan is linked to the progress on three fronts i.e. Political, economic, security and that would be critical in determining the fate of Afghanistan in the years to come.