Ahmed Rashid: It's about
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Ahmed Rashid: It's about ballots, not boots

In Afghanistan in 2014, the drawdown of international forces will be the key. Wrong, says Ahmed Rashid. The elections are the one single event that will have the most important effect on the future of the country, he argues.

Ahmed Rashid:

It's about ballots, not boots

I think the crux

of this whole drawdown

has nothing to do with troops.

It is not the timetable

of when the Americans leave

or whether the Afghans are going

to continue fighting the Taliban.

The crux

is going to be the elections.

If you have at the end of April

a legitimate government in Kabul,

which is more or less accepted

by the majority of people...

I won’t say a perfectly...

a perfect government,

but more or less accepted,

then we are well

on our way to success.

But if we have an election

that is deemed to have been rigged

right from the start

and there is major opposition activity

against it, then we have a problem.

What are the security concerns?

Who is going to maintain

the fact that these will be

semi-transparent

or semi-free and fair elections,

because many Afghans

remember the experience of 2009

when elections were

heavily rigged by the warlords,

by elements in the government,

by almost everyone

and a repeat of that would really

be disastrous for Afghanistan.

It could lead even

to a multidimensional civil war

because I don’t see

opposition candidates

if they feel they’ve been

done out of their vote,

accepting it the way they did in 2009

and accepting US mediation.

The US and NATO is going to be

in a much weaker position,

not having troops, not having

leverage, the way they had.

Suggested solutions?

Personally, I think that what

perhaps we should be looking at,

given this huge distance

between the two sides,

is perhaps

an interim government.

Would it work for an interim

government to be formed?

President Karzai steps down

two months before the elections,

a neutral

interim government is set up

with people in charge who are not

candidates for future presidency.

The elders, if you like, they come in

and they hold elections

and so the blame does not fall

on one side or the other.

Ahmed Rashid:

It's about ballots, not boots

I think the crux

of this whole drawdown

has nothing to do with troops.

It is not the timetable

of when the Americans leave

or whether the Afghans are going

to continue fighting the Taliban.

The crux

is going to be the elections.

If you have at the end of April

a legitimate government in Kabul,

which is more or less accepted

by the majority of people...

I won’t say a perfectly...

a perfect government,

but more or less accepted,

then we are well

on our way to success.

But if we have an election

that is deemed to have been rigged

right from the start

and there is major opposition activity

against it, then we have a problem.

What are the security concerns?

Who is going to maintain

the fact that these will be

semi-transparent

or semi-free and fair elections,

because many Afghans

remember the experience of 2009

when elections were

heavily rigged by the warlords,

by elements in the government,

by almost everyone

and a repeat of that would really

be disastrous for Afghanistan.

It could lead even

to a multidimensional civil war

because I don’t see

opposition candidates

if they feel they’ve been

done out of their vote,

accepting it the way they did in 2009

and accepting US mediation.

The US and NATO is going to be

in a much weaker position,

not having troops, not having

leverage, the way they had.

Suggested solutions?

Personally, I think that what

perhaps we should be looking at,

given this huge distance

between the two sides,

is perhaps

an interim government.

Would it work for an interim

government to be formed?

President Karzai steps down

two months before the elections,

a neutral

interim government is set up

with people in charge who are not

candidates for future presidency.

The elders, if you like, they come in

and they hold elections

and so the blame does not fall

on one side or the other.

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