In June 2014, Afghanistan will elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai. As of May, National Coalition of Afghanistan leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah leads the count with just under 50% of the votes. Abdullah is of Tajik and Pashtun descent, and was a member of the Northern Alliance party that has clashed with the Taliban in the past. He also served as Foreign Minister under Karzai.
With such a rebellious past (in the Taliban’s eyes), will they allow the new government under Abdullah to go unchallenged? In order for Abdullah to stay legitimate in the Taliban’s eyes, he must appear as a strong leader independent of Western influence.
With a Bilateral Security Agreement on the table between the US and Afghanistan, and fewer US boots on the ground in Afghanistan, hopefully diminished US presence will be a good start. The Agreement itself, however, may again drive a wedge between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Abdullah has said that he will place priority on rule of law and internal security if elected. He hopes to be able to continue free and fair elections and uphold the constitution of Afghanistan. He has issued warnings to the Taliban that, should they continue attacks in Kabul and other parts of the country, they will be dealt with firmly, citing his hopes for an improved relationship with Pakistan to this end.
No matter who is elected as the next president of Afghanistan, that leader will have to keep a steady hand when it comes to dealing with the Taliban. Part of this strategy will include casting off, or at least seeming to cast off, foreign influence in order to build legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people, and keep the Taliban at bay.