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How safe is Afghanistan without foreign troops?

Tuesday 21 Aug 2012 3:41 p.m.

(Reuters file)

(Reuters file)

By Joe Brodie

The recent killing of Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone as well as the slaying of fellow officers by an Afghan police officer raises questions over the state of affairs in Afghanistan once the international military presence leaves.

The US has recently withdrawn 35,000 troops and is in the process of withdrawing another 30,000. While this signals its intent to honour its promise of having troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the recent deaths of the two New Zealanders in combat has not convinced Prime Minister John Key of an early withdrawal.

The question is, how safe will Afghanistan be without the presence of international troops on the ground?

South Asian intelligence analyst for the US State Department Joe Mata predicts: “Once the US and the international troops pull out of Afghanistan things will get worse.”

Examples of previous conflicts provide the basis of his reasoning.

“Trends in other conflicts the US has pulled out of shows that the Afghan people won’t have the capacity to provide the needed security or governance because they are too open to corruption,” says Mr Mata.

Afghan-born Naheed Saied thinks that the transition will be “a very gradual process”, and the reason US presence on the ground has been met with such hostility is because they are "strong traditionalists and want to do things a certain way, that becomes difficult when strangers come into your home and tell you you’re wrong and they’re right".

Could the lack of international presence and Afghanistan’s economic vulnerability lead to exploitation by opportunistic Taliban insurgents or corrupt government officials?

Although Afghanistan has recorded economic growth over the past decade, Senior Operations Manager at the World Bank Anne Tully says that in order for a smooth transition, “there needs to be a big boost in the mining and agricultural industries as they are the primary drivers for economic growth”.

If the transition is to be successful, the government will have to increase its revenue substantially, because when US troops leave, Afghanistan will have to pick up the costly security bill.

Afghan-born refugee Abbas Nazari, who currently lives in New Zealand, is well aware of the help international aid provides.

“International aid has been a massive part of the economic growth that has taken place over the past few years," he says. "Within the next two decades I hope to see Afghanistan self-sufficient with no reliance on foreign aid."

There is no question the withdrawal of US troops and those of her allies will have a huge effect on Afghanistan, but as of now it is hard to see what that effect will be.

This could either signal the start of a more prosperous era for Afghanistan and the betterment of US-Middle East relations, or equally it could provide the window of opportunity the Taliban need to reassert authority over a people weakened by decades of war.

Joe Brodie is a young writer-in-training for the 3 News ‘3Youth’ programme. 

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