Volume 23, Number 4, April 2014

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Democratic progress has been mixed. Afghanistan will go to the polls in April 2014. The previous presidential election in 2009 was marred by accusations of vote-rigging, fraud, intimidation and low turnout. The current president, Hamid Karzai, will not be eligible to run again and so the contest looks wide open.

What next?

As ISAF withdraws combat troops, the West’s trillion-dollar war comes to an end. State-building efforts in Afghanistan have improved the lives of many Afghans, but progress has been patchy. The insurgent strongholds of southern and eastern Afghanistan remain deeply unstable and inaccessible to aid agencies.

The world now waits to see whether Afghanistan’s fragile democratic institutions can deliver a lasting political reconciliation, including the Taliban who want to stop fighting and advance their cause through democratic means. Even as ISAF withdraws, Afghanistan remains a conflict without a political peace settlement. Most analysts now agree that the Taliban will need to be part of that.

The world also waits to see whether Afghanistan’s security forces can keep the country stable enough to allow this process of reconciliation to germinate, and resist a slide towards civil war. For Afghans, the process of state-building is really just beginning. Now, they will be in charge.

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