(Washington DC--August 24, 2004) The international community must renew its commitment to a democratic Afghanistan if it hopes to achieve long-term stability. This message was shared by Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. Said Tayeb Jawad, Woodrow Wilson Center Associate Atiq Sarwari and Middle East Institute Scholar-in-Residence Marvin Weinbaum at an RFE/RL briefing last week in Washington.
Ambassador Jawad said that international support is crucial to Afghanistan's stability and democratic development. He expressed optimism about the October 9 presidential elections, citing high voter registration and high growth rates as encouraging factors pointing towards a positive outcome for his country. However, Ambassador Jawad stressed that overwhelming national challenges, particularly terrorism, warlord prevalence, and drug trafficking continue to threaten the election process and the prospects for post-election Afghanistan. To overcome these challenges, Jawad emphasized that Afghanistan needs the "robust and immediate support of the international community, especially the US and NATO."
Sarwari questioned whether an unstable Afghanistan is ready for the presidential election, fearing that political decline will continue if the international community fails to stay involved. He said that the government's inability to provide services to the entire country, the international community's worries about the lack of security, and the resurgence of the Taliban pose serious threats to the government. Since holding elections could jeopardize the country's already fragile stability, Sarwari recommended that Afghanistan build a consensus for a national government and a civil society before holding elections, in addition to continued international involvement.
How the election takes place could either add or detract from the legitimacy of President Karzai and his government, according to Weinbaum, who noted that that even "…the fairest election could lead to paralysis and chaos." He said that Afghans know they cannot achieve democracy by themselves, and currently doubt the international commitment to Afghanistan's renewal. Afghan reservations about the intentions of the international community could endanger the development of democracy there; as a result, maintaining a strong international commitment is imperative.
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