There will be blood

The primary challenge in the war ravaged country will be security. Veteran Afghanistan correspondent Christina Lamb compared the present situation with the Russian withdrawal more than two decades ago:

“I was there when the Russians left. It looks a very similar situation. A lot of those same war lords are re-arming and talking about going back to how things used to be. . . . Whether it all holds together depends on the Afghan security forces. . . . It’s hard to see how they’re going to hold the country together and whether they really want to.”

The FCO’s Neil Crompton admitted the coming months would be crucial but remained cautiously optimistic over the Afghan forces’ ability to manage security in the country:

“There’s a case that 2013 is genuinely critical. We have a fighting season in which Afghan forces are in the lead. They won’t take the fight to the enemy the same way we did but there are 330,000 of them. But I’m optimistic because the politics are changing . . . and there will be elections next year.”

The discussion turned to the prospect of the Taliban engaging in diplomacy as its primary negotiating tool. Photojournalist John D McHugh expressed his concerns about the process of talking to the Taliban.

“I worry immensely about this idea that Hilary Clinton today will decide, yep I’m going to talk to the Taliban again. They’re not a monolithic organisation. It doesn’t have a corporate board of directors. You can’t go to the CEO make a deal and get it to be passed on.”

Author Tamin Ansary described the vigorous media that’s developed during a technological revolution in Afghanistan, but freelance journalist Kitty Logan feared that other progress made in the last decade could be undone if civil war were to send educated and wealthy Afghans fleeing.

“Afghans are making contingency plans, investing outside the country. They don’t know what will happen post-withdrawal. The country needs people to invest, it needs educated Afghans and it’s these people who might have one eye on the exit at the moment.”

Ansary added that progress made by women’s rights groups in the last decade could easily be reversed.

“I think that Afghan women who have come forward in this period, if their names are known and their addresses are known, have every right to be alarmed at the possibility things could return to how they were. I think they’re in terrible danger.”

When Loyn prompted the speakers to call the elections results in 2014, McHugh summed up the uncertainty engulfing Afghanistan:

“Twenty-thirteen looks like it’s going to be extremely violent and unstable and a situation may emerge where it’s too volatile to have realistic elections.”

Watch the full event here: