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Afghanistan

Afghanistan prepares for an uncertain future

The German cabinet has approved plans to reduce forces in Afghanistan to 3,300 by February 2014 and withdraw troops completely by the end of that year. What happens after that is what many Afghans wonder.

More than 200,000 Afghan soldiers have completed training at the military training center in Kabul.

They've learned how to fight the Taliban and defend Afghanistan after 2014, when only a small number of Western troops are expected to remain in the country.

"Everything will be normal after 2014. In fact, the security situation will be even better," says Aminullah Patyani, commander of the Kabul military training center. "The warnings that our enemies are firing off about this date are just psychological warfare. The Afghans have experienced a civil war; they don't want another one. They want peace. And it will come.

Government collapse?

Patyani is optimistic. But should he be?

Cars parading.
Photo: Hussain Sirat

Afghan commander Patyani: 'Afghans want peace - and it will come'

Critics have painted a picture of Afghanistan's future that is dominated by dark colors. A recently published paper by the respected International Crisis Group, for instance, has caused a stir. It claims that Afghanistan is far from being in a position to ensure its own security and that a government collapse is possible.

"The challenges will get bigger," says Abdul Waheed Wafa, a policy expert in Kabul. "We Afghans will suffer economically and casualties will rise. But overall, I don't think there will be a collapse."

Afghans have changed, adds Wafa. They are now better educated and embrace, in many ways, a civil society. They also have media and don't want to lose all of this.

Afghan security forces

But the question is: What does the country want? How about the local power players outside the capital? Do they want something else?

Angela Merkel 
Foto: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Chancellor Merkel's cabinet has approved the withdrawal of German troops

"The concern that I have isn't a civil war in Kabul in the 90s. I think the political elite, although very problematic, is probably able to prevent completely falling out with each other and starting to fire rockets at each other," says Fabricio Foschini with the Afghanistan Analysts' network. "But at the local level, we could have some incidents, like commanders vying for control of an area."

The number of casualties among Afghan security forces is already alarmingly high: the police and army report more than 500 deaths or injuries per month. Many fear this statistic is a sign of worse to come.

"But most of it depends on the developments inside the Afghan political realm," says Foschini, adding that the various roles played by neighboring states, the security forces and the insurgents should not be underestimated. "It depends on a lot of factors but I think Afghan politics and the future election are possibly the major test."

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