In the beautifully restored third century B.C. citadel of the ancient western Afghan city of Herat, scholars and diplomats from Afghanistan’s neighbors and international partners spent the first weekend in October at a security conference exploring prospects for the country to emerge as a stable and independent state after NATO military forces leave in 2014.
The conference, which I attended along with more than 130 other participants representing 30 countries and organizations, was filled with more questions than answers about what awaits Afghanistan.
Who will be chosen to be the nation’s new leader in the April 5 election to replace President Hamid Karzai? Will the elections meet international standards? Will the Taliban be integrated as a legitimate political force or remain spoilers or worse in Afghanistan’s political future? Will Afghanistan maintain the new freedoms for the media and in the status of women or slip backward once international attention is reduced?
Afghans are engaged in passionate debate about the identity issues that will determine whether their nation will stay on a modernizing course. New legislation to ban violence against women has triggered a backlash among Islamic experts and traditionalists. Newly empowered women are anguishing about the possible loss of their recent gains.
To read the full op-ed, click here.
This op-ed was first published in CNN Global Public Square on October 14, 2013
Photo by UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein