What will future hold for Afghanistan when troops leave?
By John Norgrove
10 August 2013
One of the drawbacks of working for a charity working in Afghanistan is that one is assumed to have some idea of how things will turn out when western troops scale down next year. Well, no one knows but I can make some pretty uninformed guesses.
From the perspective of a Scottish person, it will be a political mess. The lack of a foreign occupying force, which has acted as a lightning rod for dissent, will increase tension and conflict between the various factions. The Afghan army is a lot stronger than it was and it is better equipped, but is unclear who it will report to and how it will perform when things get messy. The current president is not popular. The democratically elected government has been compromised by infighting and corruption. Unstable neighbouring states, Pakistan and Iran, are both prone to interfere in the political processes.
But Afghanistan has always appeared politically unstable and Afghans are accustomed to it. A nation comprising three main ethnic groups speaking different languages, and a whole host of minorities speaking theirs. A geography difficult to negotiate resulting in the isolation of the many rural populations and consequent difficulty of administration and policing. Constant war since the mid 70s. A crossroads between some extreme forms of mediaeval Islam and the modernising influence associated with the occupation.
It’s a tall order to expect stability, but one shouldn’t underestimate the capacity of the Afghans to endure, or their love of their country, or their pride that they never been completely conquered or colonialised.
Foreign aid, which is a huge factor in the current economy, is unlikely to remain at the current high levels and, with the population having increased significantly over the past 10 years, extreme poverty and malnutrition are likely to increase. One might expect women’s rights to come under threat. The women of the country have made considerable progress over the last decade and I’m confident that they won’t relinquish this easily. A lot has changed since the Taliban were last in power, and reverting back to the situation in 2001 won’t happen.
As far as our charity is concerned then, it would appear likely that things will initially deteriorate, particularly security and the economy. So it will become both more difficult for the organisations that we support to continue with their work, while the need for them to do it will increase.
Our efforts will be required more then than they have been up until now so it wouldn’t be the time for us to give up.