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
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1818 GMT (0218 HKT)
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1209 GMT (2009 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT