The imminent start of the transition process in the country marks the dawn of a new era in the history of our country, nonetheless, an achievement that has been possible on the back of generous international assistance over the past one decade.The security provision for five large cities around the country will be handed over to the Afghan forces with the rest of the country set to be transitioned to the Afghan lead over the next 40 months. Mazar-e- Sharif, Bamyan, Panjsher, Herat and Mehtarlam are the major cities considered for the first phase of the transition process.
The commencement of the much-awaited transition process is indeed a welcome development for Afghanistan in spite of the negative security reports that keep coming in and the pessimism of many within the general population, experts and government authorities. In the wake of the transition process being kick-started, there seems to be a battle of ideas being waged between the pessimists and the optimists, each having its own set of reasons. The pessimists point out the grave challenges ahead and the less-than-satisfactory track record of the government while the optimists emphasize the gains made in recent years and the outside support and inherent capabilities of the government.
The optimist and determined spirit of those who insist on completing the process as early as possible was clearly evident in the face and words of Ashraf GhaniAhmadzai, chairman of the Transition Coordination Commission, in a two day Conference in Kabul that brought together the central and provincial officials. The Transition Coordination Commission chairman's serious look in face and firm utterance of the sentence "the transition process will go ahead as planned; there is no question of turning back" was dramatic yet a fitting answer to those who attacked the venue of the meeting just a few hours later.
There are quite many reasons to be apprehensive and worried about the future of Afghanistan after the start of the transition process. Many of the concerns raised by observers and general people alike do have a basis in facts and need to be taken seriously by those responsible in the government and the international community. On a pessimist note as the pessimists maintain, the danger of a large-scale failure in the country's security provision architecture in the wake of the withdrawal of a large part of international military support is as real as the fact that the Taliban and other insurgent groups, as a strategy, are bent on waiting out the US-led international coalition. On the other hand on an optimist and yet realistic note, Afghan security forces with the support of international forces will indeed be able to fill the post-2014 security vacuum if the political leadership of the country in conjunction with the international coalition present in the country do the right kind of things in the run-up to the 2014 deadline.
To be fair, being singularly pessimistic and envisioning a fate of doom and gloom for post-2014 Afghanistan is actually not commensurate with some of the facts on the ground such as a more or less able Afghan National Army and the fact that Afghanistan of 2014 will not be simply the Afghanistan of 1992. In fact, the success of the transition process over the long-term and broadly speaking, the success or failure of the government of Afghanistan long after 2014 critically depends on how the country's leadership will navigate this troubled ship through the perilous times.
It depends on how the government of Afghanistan will be able to work constructively with the neighboring countries and the broader region and make them interested in the stability of Afghanistan and in a consolidated strong government in Kabul. It also depends on how the government in Kabul will try to put its disorganized house in order, assert itself strongly on the country's political scene and take effective steps towards winning the trust and confidence of, if not the whole of the population, a majority of the Afghan nation.
It also depends on how well and committed the international community will stay by the government extending its help in both military and civilian spheres. The fact is that Afghanistan of 2014 will not be the Afghanistan of early 1990s. Likewise, Pakistan of 2014 will not be the Pakistan of 1980s and 90s when it had not yet come to know the blowback of unfettered support of militancy and had not yet experienced the negative impacts of promotion of anarchy inside a neighboring country.
Similarly, the international community of 2014 will not be that of 1980s and 90s when the existence or absence of a strong central government in Afghanistan did not concern it. It is, therefore,extremely premature as of now on the part of some to predict chaos and civil war for the post-2014 Afghanistan with a sense of self-righteousness naiveté. There are already good signs appearing on the regional political scene that suggest our neighboring countries, Pakistan and Iran, have indeed come to accept the inescapable need to a strong central government in Afghanistan.
In spite of some of their covert and overt actions that go against the cause of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan such as the bombardment of Eastern provinces by Pakistan, both Pakistan and Iran know that their interest too lie in promoting a strong government in Kabul that will not act as a regional protégé of its Western benefactors. Therefore, with the international community leaving Afghanistan to its leaders, now it is largely upon the political statesmanship and competence of our leaders in Afghanistan to internally put the Afghan house in order and externally forge bridges of trust and cooperation with the neighbors and make them interested in durable peace in Afghanistan.It is neither fair nor politically practical to put the blame of all the ills inside Afghanistan on the neighbors and outside factors. Whether Afghanistan will succeed or not beyond 2014 depends on how we will perform.
The challenges that confront Afghanistan now and beyond 2014 are no doubt grave but this should not be a reason to lose hope. The experience of the past ten years has shown that whenever the government and the public officials act with a measure of honesty and judiciously use the available opportunities and resources in a given field, positive change has always followed. It is highly advisable to replicate the past successes and avoid the past mistakes on the long and treacherous road ahead.