Skip to main content

Why ordinary Afghans worry about NATO summit

By Rina Amiri and Omar Samad, Special to CNN
May 18, 2012 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
Afghan weavers work in the old city area of Kabul on May 10.
Afghan weavers work in the old city area of Kabul on May 10.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Afghanistan's future will be a focus at the NATO summit in Chicago on Sunday
  • Rina Amiri and Omar Samad: The U.S.'s political strategy involves talks with the Taliban
  • Afghans worry about the political order that may emerge, say Amiri and Samad
  • Amiri and Samad: Afghans are also trying to prepare the economy for NATO's drawdown

Editor's note: Rina Amiri is a former senior adviser to the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Omar Samad, a former Afghan ambassador to Canada and France, is senior Afghan expert at the United States Institute of Peace.

(CNN) -- Afghanistan's recent signings of strategic partnerships with the United States and other countries have provided a measure of reassurance to Afghans about the international community's sustained engagement in the country beyond 2014, when the drawdown of NATO combat forces will be complete. But these documents are short on specifics and do not fully tackle the political, economic and regional challenges that need to be addressed so the Afghan army and police can take responsibility for the security of the country.

To give this transition a real chance of succeeding, Afghanistan and its partners need to concentrate on the risks and challenges in the critical next two years. At the NATO summit in Chicago beginning Sunday, the withdrawal timetable of international forces from Afghanistan and future commitments to support the Afghan government and army after the drawdown will be key areas of discussion.

A user's guide to the Chicago NATO summit

The U.S. political strategy in Afghanistan remains largely focused on talks with the Taliban, and a chorus of voices inside and outside the government is optimistically making the case that the Taliban have reformed and can be "reconciled."

While there is general consensus among Afghans that a broad-based and inclusive reconciliation is necessary to end the conflict, key questions remain about the political order that may emerge from such a process.

Women tortured for saying 'no'
NATO supplies stranded in Pakistan
Leaked pics more bad news for NATO

This lack of discussion has amplified fears among the Afghan population of a grand bargain either between the United States and Pakistan or between the Afghan government and a resurgent Taliban -- tacitly endorsed by NATO countries seeking a face-saving exit -- that could undo the social gains and ethnic pluralism in current Afghan politics. These concerns are already creating fractures in the fragile political balance among Afghanistan's various ethnic powers and exacerbating fears of a civil war once the international troops exit.

NATO invites Pakistan to Chicago summit

Afghans also remain concerned about the 2014 presidential elections, when President Hamid Karzai is due to step down. The absence of an "inevitable" candidate and political trust are likely to lead to an enormously challenging electoral environment, rife with legitimate worries about voter fraud.

To instill confidence in the process, the international community needs to assist Afghan efforts to ensure credible elections through technical and diplomatic support. All Afghan political actors need to be on board for changes planned in the electoral process. This will also be an opportunity to offer any reconcilable Taliban a chance to be part of the election process.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook.com/cnnopinion.

The most critical element to securing peace in Afghanistan will be convincing Pakistan to close down Taliban sanctuaries. While Pakistan and Afghanistan have set up joint mechanisms aimed at establishing more firm control over Taliban contacts, Afghans continue to believe that Islamabad's policy gurus will continue to use its control over the Taliban as bargaining chips in order to retain maximum leverage on reconciliation and the post-2014 political order in Afghanistan.

NATO's post-Afghanistan future unclear

A jittery Iran, incensed by the U.S.-Afghan partnership, also has the potential to foment instability. China, the central Asian republics, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are other key regional players that are anxious about the form the post-2014 political order will take. If more is not done to address their concerns, these regional actors may revert to supporting competing factional elements in Afghanistan and feed the conflict as they did during its 1990s civil war.

Afghans are trying to soften the blow to the economy that will follow the NATO drawdown and to move toward sustainability through regional economic cooperation, agricultural development, mining and associated infrastructure improvement. While this strategy is necessary for the long-term, Afghans want to see clear signs that steps are being taken to avoid repeating the lawlessness and violence that followed when Moscow cut billions of dollars of aid to the Najibullah regime in 1991.

To bolster confidence in the economy's sustainability, the international community will need to pace the reduction of aid, work with the Afghan government to create an enabling environment for foreign investment and support economic projects in the areas of mining, infrastructure and trade. It will also have to ensure that the tools for allocating and managing aid money are improved to minimize the possibility that these vital resources will be squandered through corruption and wasteful spending.

Afghanistan -- located in the heart of the most dangerous neighborhood in the world -- still matters, and the security concerns of the United States and the international community will continue to be affected by instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The task ahead, in Chicago and later this summer at a conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo, is to focus concretely on how best to restructure and reprioritize international efforts to strengthen the prospects for a successful political, economic and military transition to a sovereign and stable Afghanistan. That will be the real test facing a fatigued international community and concerned Afghans.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rina Amiri and Omar Samad.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1626 GMT (0026 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT