Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

Afghanistan Facing Profound Challenges in 2016

In an assessment that is highly skeptical about the situation in Afghanistan, a top US intelligence official has warned that the country is at risk of a political breakdown in 2016. Talking to a senate committee, Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper said that the Afghan government is facing persistent challenges to political stability in the country including increased insurgency, financial challenges and eroding political cohesion. The top American intelligence official warned that the Afghan government would face more immense and divisive issues during 2016, referring to the difficult peace talks with the Taliban and the controversial electoral reforms. The warning is coming while the government of Afghanistan is preparing for another round of peace talks with the insurgent groups, and in the meantime, is bracing for the upcoming fighting season.
The assessment is skeptical about the ongoing peace efforts to bring the Taliban to the table of negotiations aimed at ending the long-lasting conflict in the country. The US official has also warned about economic woes of the Afghan government undermining the efforts to stabilize the country. However, the Afghan government remains optimistic over the situation, insisting that the establishment has the capacity to handle the challenges. The warning is coming as a fresh alarm over the situation in Afghanistan and is predicting a difficult year for the country.
The Afghan government needs to heed the assessment and start to forge a national consensus for tackling the upcoming challenges this year. The government is preparing for starting negotiations with the Taliban under the four-nation peace initiative while the Taliban has not endorsed the plan yet and instead has set a number of pre-conditions for entering peace talks. Despite the initial hopes over the process, there is no sign of Taliban giving up to violence and coming to a genuine peace talks that could end the conflict. There is a long way ahead to see a concrete result from the ongoing efforts to strike a peace deal with the insurgent groups. For the peace process itself, this year will prove a challenging year for Afghanistan as the process would be lengthy and difficult. The four-way initiative presents a potential opportunity for success of the peace efforts, but it will also test if peace is really viable in Afghanistan. And it is still likely the initiative fails to end the conflict.
The Afghan government needs to be fully prepared politically and militarily for containing much fiercer offensives of the Taliban in 2016. The group is more powerful now than they were in previous years. Now they fight more conventional fights against government forces and gain more important victories in the battlefields. The Taliban are preparing for next season of insurgency against the government of Afghanistan. While we used to witness a lull in the fighting in previous winter seasons, the insurgents are waging a bitter campaign in southern Helmand province and Baghlan in the north. The ongoing offensive by the Taliban is an indicative of intensity of their upcoming summer offensive. The Taliban aims to have the highest possible gains from the group’s military efforts this year, and the fact is that the group has the destructive potentials to expand the insurgency and further destabilize the country.
The existing financial and economic challenges further compound the problems related to the stability of the country. The ongoing insurgency makes it hard for the government to lead reforms and new programs for improving the economy and providing employment for the citizens. The electoral reforms present another major challenge for Afghanistan in 2016. Holding the parliamentary election is one of the key tasks ahead of the national unity government. However, the parliamentary elections cannot be held without the electoral reforms. The issue is of national importance and its failure would mark a major failure for the national unity government. The ongoing efforts for making the reforms is far from being sustained while there is a legal stalemate over legislating the laws that are supposed to govern the electoral processes.
The government has asserted that it is working tirelessly to resolve the issue and make a way forward over the electoral reforms. However, the difference remains in place and the relevant authorities are in continuous bickering over the reforms and election processes.
This is while there is growing discontents over power-sharing issues and the electoral politics among the government stakeholders as well as the political spectrum in the country. In recent months, a number of new political entities emerged in the arena of the Afghan politics. Some of them are in opposition to the government. There is growing discontents over the performance of the government over key national issues such as the electoral reforms, distribution of computerized ID, the anti-insurgency campaign and the inefficient governance. The government needs to come to the realization to make a broader consensus over key issues of national importance. This would help the government to better manage the affairs and deal with the challenges. It would be much helpful for the government’s credibility to implement key financial, electoral and anti-corruption reforms.