While Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential elections were flawed, heavy voter turnout demonstrated that Afghan citizens preferred democracy over Taliban rule. In this context, it is in the interests of United States to strengthen the Afghan state by supporting the September 2019 presidential elections, rather than erode public confidence with news of a likely withdrawal weeks ahead of the contest, argues Ioannis “Gianni” Koskinas, a senior fellow with the International Security Program at New America, and CEO of the Hoplite Group. It is not too late to strengthen the Afghan state, and the democracy that undergirds it, he writes for War On The Rocks:
This is the only path to countering long-term threats from the 20 Islamist terrorist groups active in Afghanistan, most of which are aligned with the Taliban. As such, setting the conditions for the U.S. withdrawal must focus on getting more out of the Afghan government, an enterprise that Washington has enormous leverage over as its financial guarantor. This leverage has never been properly exploited in 18 years of war. ….
Moving forward, American diplomats and military advisors should leverage Afghanistan’s reliance on financial aid to demand results in the delivery of governance and security sector reform, as well as demonstrative progress in counter-corruption initiatives. U.S. funding for all programs should be monitored and evaluated for effectiveness. For example, if programs fail to meet realistic goals, funding should be withheld until adjustments are made and removed if changes are not swift. RTWT
Three main lessons may be drawn from the postconflict democratic transitions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, the administration’s envoy on Afghanistan, wrote for the NED’s Journal of Democracy.