Defending Hong Kong democracy in ‘global war of ideology’

MARTIN LEETwo of the most stalwart fighters for democracy in the global war of ideology were in Washington last week, hoping for moral support, The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt reports:

They made for an odd couple, though each has spent more than 40 years in the struggle: one is a consummate insider and the other has always battled from the outside.

The latter, lawyer Martin Lee (left) fought the British for more autonomy when they ruled Hong Kong. Since the British left in 1997, he has pressed Beijing to keep its word to allow Hong Kong to preserve its separate system of governance within China — the formula known as “one country, two systems.” …Anson Chan (right), by contrast, rose AnsonchanHKthrough the prestigious Hong Kong civil service to the top appointed position of chief secretary, resigning in 2001 when she felt the chief executive was allowing Beijing to chip away at Hong Kong’s core values: rule of law, a level playing field and freedom of press, speech and association.

With the 2017 and 2020 elections on the horizon, Chinese leaders are making increasingly clear they intend to install politicians they can control, an ominous sign for Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms—not to mention the economy, which relies on transparency and the rule of law, the two veteran leaders told a meeting at the National Endowment for Democracy

U.S. President Barack Obama recently told an audience in Brussels that, though the future belongs to those who support freedom and democracy, “those rules are not self-executing” and “the contest of ideas continues for your generation,” Hiatt observes, yet he also insisted that there is no new Cold War. “After all,” he said, “unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology.”

It’s true that “anti-freedom” doesn’t sound like an ideology to most Americans…But the dictators of Russia and China today are making a bid for legitimacy as well as survival, he writes:

They present themselves as guarantors of stability, warding off the confusion and insecurity that follow democratic uprisings. They boast of investing in the future — in highways and fast trains — in ways that pandering elected officials in India or the United States cannot manage. They put their systems forward as an antidote to the empty materialism of capitalist democracies — the pornography, the hedonism, the lack of respect for elders and religious leaders. They claim to stand for community, spirituality and tradition.

…But whether the leaders believe in their stew of xenophobia, phony egalitarianism and traditional (Russian Orthodox or Confucian) values hardly matters. They are fighting a new Cold War against democracy, and the other side is only intermittently on the field.


Democracies stumble as autocratic ideology trumps economics

putinA quarter-century after the fall of the Soviet Union, authoritarian rulers such as Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are showing they can and will defy international norms, suppress dissent and use military force. American policymakers are struggling with how to respond, Reuters reports:

“It’s a big philosophical question about how to deal with a strong state with anti-Western and autocratic proclivities,” said Michael McFaul, the most recent U.S. ambassador to Moscow and a former NED Reagan-Fascell fellow. “I would say on that score we are kind of confused as a country.”

A 16th-century Machiavellian truism is re-asserting its dominance: The party most willing to decisively use force will prevail over a noncommittal opponent, analyst David Rohde asserts.

“What we’ve seen with Assad and Putin is a willingness to smile at international norms and pursue power politics regardless of the cost,” said Andrew Weiss, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment. “And if the West is not united and America’s interests are not immediately threatened, the response immediately becomes attenuated.”

Putin outlined his ideological paradigm in a newspaper article published on New Year’s Eve of 1999, notes analyst Jonas Grätz in a paper for the Center for Security Studies:

The Russian idea should be some combination of patriotism, “great power-ness” (derzhavnost), statism, and solidarity rather than individualism. But his key proposition was that no political campaigns should be allowed to destroy this “nascent consensus”. Thus he had to rein in rival power centres at any cost in order to turn Russia into a strategic actor again.

Fiona Hill, a Russia expert at the Brookings Institution and a former National Intelligence Council official, said those who believed the Soviet collapse signified the triumph of democratic capitalism were deluding themselves as many Russians remained deeply skeptical of Western norms.

“It was only a very small elite around Yeltsin who were buying this,” she said. “Too many people (Westerners) saw what they wanted to see, rather than what was happening.”

Then the global financial crisis strengthened a perception in parts of the world that Western democracy was failing, Hill added.


Standing with Ukraine – a state in peril

“Suppositions about an either/or fault line for Ukraine—a turn toward Europe or back to the USSR are simplified and overstated,” says Leonard Benardo, the Open Society Foundations’ regional director for Eurasia. “Ukraine’s future lies in Europe and Eurasia. But a democratic Europe and Eurasia. It has been and always will be a bridge to both.” 

By annexing Crimea, Putin has won enormous popularity with the Russian public, says analyst Anatole Kaletsky:

Perhaps most important, Putin’s rapid reaction put a stop to any potential political contagion — where the populist overthrow of a corrupt and authoritarian oligarch in Kiev might have metastasized into a revolutionary movement that could sweep across Eastern Europe all the way to Moscow. Just as the Arab Spring had swept across North Africa to Cairo. 

Yulia V. Tymoshenko, the former prime minister, said Thursday that she would run for president in elections to be held in May, The New York Times reports (HT: FPI): 

The House and the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to approve a $1 billion aid package for Ukraine, but Congress’s near unanimity on its modest package of aid and sanctions on Russia masked deep divisions on what the government should do next to confront President Vladimir V. Putin. – New York Times

In the first barometer of global condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Ukraine and its Western backers persuaded a large majority of countries in the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday to dismiss the annexation as illegal, even as Russia sought to rally world support for the idea of self-determination. – New York Times

The European Union’s executive plans to disburse some €850 million in assistance to Ukraine by June, a senior EU official said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would spend money on pro-democracy broadcasting practices in Ukraine. – The Hill’s Global Affairs

Nearly 100,000 Russian forces have massed on Ukraine’s border, a top Ukrainian defense official told an American audience Thursday, giving a number far higher than US military estimates. – AFP

Matthew Kaminski writes: Although [Tymoshenko] harks back to the messy politics of Ukraine’s past for the millions of people who hanker for a fresh start—and 24% of Ukrainians say they “will definitely not vote” for her—you can’t count her out. Her party organization is the best bar none. She showed in the 2010 election, which she narrowly lost, that she’s the most energetic campaigner in Ukraine. And in these uncertain times, many voters are undecided. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Opportunities for Partnership – Supporting Free, Fair and Credible Elections in the DRC

Democratic_Republic_of_the_CongoFLAGMAPWhen I was appointed to be the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the DRC, says Russ Feingold, I was necessarily consumed in the initial months by the M23 crisis and the Kampala Talks. But I have always been of the mind that the key to unlocking the vast potential of the Congolese people and their country, is the establishment of truly functioning democratic institutions, founded by and responsive to the Congolese people, he told a recent conference at the National Endowment for Democracy.

The Great Lakes region is vast, the issues are complex, and the players many.  While I was necessarily often consumed in the initial months by the M23 crisis and the Kampala Talks, I have always been of the mind that the key to unlocking the vast potential of the Congolese people and their country, is the establishment of truly functioning democratic institutions, founded by the Congolese people, responsive to the Congolese people, and ultimately responsible for the well-being of the Congolese people. 

The instability and underdevelopment that has plagued the DRC for too long has many causes, both regional and domestic in nature.  But only when the state is able to establish its authority across the entire country and through effective democratic processes harness the voices and energy of its people will the DRC realize its potential to be a leading nation on the African continent.

This conviction has in recent months caused me to focus intensely on the democratic process in Congo, particularly on the upcoming cycle of elections.   Between now and the end of 2016, the DRC faces the monumental task of holding local elections, delayed provincial elections and, finally, national elections in a vast country with little infrastructure.  The government has signaled its commitment to holding the first local elections in over 50 years – a staggering task that any fully developed country would find daunting – but one that is central to the DRC’s constitutional commitment to decentralize power.  I have made multiple trips now to discuss this process, with members of the Government, including the President of the national election commission, or CENI, Abbé Malu Malu, who I am very glad to see, is with us today, but also with the political opposition, civil society, and a cross-section of Congolese society from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi to Bukavu. 

Everywhere I traveled in the Congo, my interlocutors stressed that the upcoming elections are absolutely critical to the future of the DRC, a viewpoint with which I wholeheartedly agree.   Obviously, I am naturally drawn to elections and the electoral process given my past life in politics, but my interest in the elections process, and the criticality of the process at this point in Congolese history, is much more than that.  And this is why:  the DRC is at a crossroads, and these elections will in large part help determine on which road the country will travel in the future. 

The DRC has emerged from a period of conflict as devastating as the modern world has seen.  The country began this century left with few functioning institutions and a generation of citizens forced to scrape by and educate themselves as best they could in incredibly trying circumstances.  Make no mistake; the DRC has made important progress in the past decade.   Impressive economic growth rates give a glimpse of the potential of legitimate use of the country’s natural resources to enrich and sustain the people of the Congo.  But continued instability from armed groups, the lack of state authority, and inter-ethnic tensions mean the challenges for villages in Haut-Uele to Beni, North Kivu to Katanga to the seat of government in Kinshasa are immense.   

But these challenges must be met and overcome in the DRC’s journey to lasting stability and good governance.   After stewarding the DRC through a historic and tumultuous period of more than a decade, President Joseph Kabila faces the end of his constitutional term-limit.   The core test of any true democracy — the peaceful transfer of power –is before the DRC, its government and its people.    A democracy that does not know the regular and peaceful transfer of power is a democracy only in name.

When I speak to people in the DRC, yes, they often talk of stability and the need to end the cycle of violence, but often the first topic is not security, but elections.  Many do not buy the argument that stability must come first, then elections.   Nor do they buy the argument that indirect elections are necessary because of budget or security constraints.  They understand the flaws of the prior elections and are demanding a credible and transparent process. 

It is thus difficult to overstate how essential successful elections will be to the immediate and long-term future of the DRC.  But what will success look like?  What are the essential tasks of the CENI, of the government and its institutions, political actors and indeed of the citizens of the DRC?  And of particular interest to me, how can the United States and the international community support those essential tasks to assist the country and its people to realize the promise of democracy. 

Before examining these important questions, it is worth a brief review of the past election cycles in DRC, in 2006 and 2011, both of which left the Congolese people wanting, but for different reasons.  

In 2006, the country held its first democratic national elections in more than 40 years.  More than 70 percent of registered voters participated in the first round of elections, and more than 65 percent in the second round.   Voters elected Joseph Kabila president and gave his AMP coalition a majority of legislative seats in elections that international observers considered credible.  The elections were not without irregularities, episodes of violence, and even repugnant media broadcasts inciting ethnic hatred, which have no place in an election campaign, or in Congo period.   However, a broad range of observers including the Carter Center, the African Union and the European Union praised the conduct of the 2006 elections.   The Carter Center said the elections were “very well executed” and while noting some deficiencies in voting and ballot collection procedures, as well as instances of manipulation of the electoral process, said that they appeared “isolated and unlikely to affect the overall success of the vote.” 

Indeed, after four decades of a complete absence of democratic elections, a country emerging from a brutal period of war managed to conduct elections on par with some of the better electoral processes on the continent.  However, the 2006 elections were funded and run largely by the UN and the international community.  So while 2006 proved that elections could be held in the DRC, they did not answer the question of whether the government and people of the Congo could hold similarly credible elections.

Then came 2011:  Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on November 28, but the results were delayed more than a week in the case of the presidential race, and more than a month for the Parliament.  Several international observer missions judged that the results of the elections “lacked credibility,” due largely to irregularities and a lack of transparency in the vote tabulation process.   Our own take was that the overall process was “seriously flawed.”  While election day was generally peaceful, it was chaotic and disorganized at numerous polling stations throughout the country.  Many individuals could not find their names on voting lists and therefore could not vote.  Midway through election day, the CENI publicly announced those “omitted” individuals could vote in the stations in which they registered, regardless of whether their names appeared on the rolls.  This capped a voter registration process that had been completed four months earlier, but which the Carter Center and other observers claimed was flawed.  The campaign season and election day itself was marked by violence including riots, brutal security force reactions, and the death of at least 18 people.  After election day, thousands of ballots were left out in the rain, lost, or left uncounted. 

Going into 2011, many expected the elections to mirror and build on the positives of the 2006 election.  Five years later, the international community had expectations that the government had absorbed the lessons, training, and support provided for the 2006 process and understood and prepared for the logistical challenges of holding elections.  It soon became apparent, however, that neither the DRC nor the international community prepared well enough in advance of election day.  While the international community was prepared to assist, and did, it was not sufficient to overcome the faults and weaknesses of the national process.  2011 caused many to doubt whether democratic elections could be held in the DRC without the international community essentially running the operation.   While I understand where this skepticism comes from, I do not buy into it.   The DRC can absolutely hold free, fair, transparent, and credible elections, if the government, the political opposition, civil society, the voters, and, yes, the international community, commit to a collaborative partnership now to address the technical and logistical challenges to the electoral process.  

With past as prologue, there are a few key qualities of the upcoming elections which I believe must be met, and which the international community has a major stake in ensuring:

First and foremost, these elections must be held on time, with preparations beginning early.  With the electoral roadmap yet to be finalized, any delays from the 2015/2016 timeframe for local, provincial, and national elections are a cause of major concern.  This means that the critical preparatory work which the CENI has begun must be explained clearly and in detail to the public and the international community which is being asked to support this vital first stage.  Inadequate preparations in voting lists, tabulation plans, communications plans, judicial challenges, security, and certification of results can doom even the most orderly election day.  The government must have a clear plan of what is needed, when it is needed, and who will meet these needs now in order to successfully engage the international community’s support.  In the United States, where elections are an engrained undertaking, we still begin planning for the next elections almost as soon as the last election is held – and we can still be caught by surprise. 

Second, the elections, and the run-up to elections, must be free of electoral violence and intimidation, fair and transparent.  Political parties, including opposition parties, and civil society are important and necessary actors in any democracy and must be allowed to participate fully in the planning and conduct of elections, free from harassment and intimidation.   An independent and unbiased media is critical as well.  Observers should be permitted full access to the elections process at all levels and from the beginning of preparations, including vetting and auditing of voter lists.   A vital component of a free and fair process is the judiciary.  Magistrates who will be charged with settling election disputes must be independent and respect the neutrality of the elections process.  They should be properly trained and able to conduct their work absent intimidation or interference.  This sort of training is part of the preparation process, and it needs to be done early so that judges will be ready, beginning with the pre-election period to resolve any disputes about candidate registration and voter lists.  

A fundamental aspect of free and fair elections is respecting the right to vote.  I am deeply concerned by reports that the DRC voting rolls may not be updated in time for the 2015 local elections, which would result in people being denied the right to vote, including those who came of voting age since 2011.  I understand there are budgetary concerns at play, but there is no justification for denying citizens the right to vote – a right that goes to the very heart and soul of democracy.  If the voter rolls are not updated, these next elections may lose some of their credibility before a single vote is cast.

In ensuring fair elections, media plays a critical role and must also remain impartial.  All parties should have equal access to state-owned media, and government employees must embrace the principles of neutrality.  One of the most harmful aspects of previous elections was the use of hate speech in an effort to foster ethnic tensions and persuade voters.   There must be real sanctions for this type of abuse of the media, and a strong, independent media council to guard against abuse.  Journalists should be free to report on the planning and conduct of the elections free from harassment and intimidation.

Third, the elections must take place in a climate of security.  The 2011 elections were marred by reports of violence that killed at least thirty-three people and kept voters from the polls across the country.  The security forces, particularly the national police, must be trained appropriately, and ensure that there is not a repeat of this type of violence.  Security is not just about physical safety; it’s also about voters feeling safe to vote for whomever they want.  If a voter feels intimidated and forced to vote for a certain candidate, even if he or she is physically unharmed during the process, the election lacks credibility.

Fourth, there should be strict adherence to the Constitution, including the provision limiting the term of the President.  As President Obama said, the African continent needs strong institutions, not strong men.  I have stressed the importance of term-limits since I began working on the Senate Foreign Relations Africa sub-Committee, and in those two decades have seen countries which have respected term limits blossom into open, productive, and prosperous democracies.  Even countries where war and coups were the norm, like Sierra Leone, have turned around and seen peaceful changes of government at the ballot box.  

A president’s legacy is not determined by his or her time in office, but rather by what they accomplish while they are there.  Look at Nelson Mandela, or George Washington in this country.  These presidents would have certainly been re-elected had they run again, but both chose to step down.  Their legacies are none the worse for wear because of it; if anything, their legacies were solidified by their decisions to give their countries their first peaceful transfers of power in new eras of democracy.  And both men are considered the fathers of their countries to this day.

But we too often see the opposite, countries where Presidents cling to power and increasingly limit the essential human rights of their people, and consequently the potential of these people and their countries, which is only realized through strong democracy.  I want to emphasize that this is not a distinction I make only in the context of the DRC.  Other countries in the region, Rwanda, Burundi, the Republic of Congo, will have elections in the coming years, and the principle of executive term-limits will be essential in all.

Finally, there must be absolute respect for the outcome of elections.  This goes part and parcel with the peaceful transfer of power.  It is not enough to simply hold elections and then disregard the outcome, which we have sadly seen happen on the continent.  The burden is not just on the government or the CENI however; opposition, civil society and donors all have a duty to ensure that credible observation structures operate to ensure independent verification of the polls.  Candidates at all levels, security services, political actors and the voters themselves, must accept the outcome of the elections and support the will of the people.  I can tell you from experience that supporting democracy does not mean that you will always enjoy the outcome on election day.

Now it is not sufficient for me to articulate the conditions by which the world will judge Congo’s elections successful, without also discussing what we, the international community and the United States, are ready to do to assist in supporting this outcome.  We have seen the difference a strong partnership with the Congolese government and its electoral institutions makes in this regard.  In 2006, the electoral process was robustly accompanied by international partners, and was largely successful.  However, 2006 should not be the model for elections in the DRC.   The future of elections in the DRC must be elections owned, operated, and overseen by the country itself.   The international community absolutely has a role, but it must be a supporting role.  

The role of the international community has been and can be varied and broad, from the heavy lift of MONUSCO helicopters ferrying ballot boxes, to the election day monitoring of polling stations.  Earlier this month, at a meeting of the International Contact Group on the Great Lakes, we discussed elections at length, and I was glad to hear of the increasingly frequent and detailed collaboration among the donor community in Kinshasa, MONUSCO, and the CENI, along with other stakeholders.  Such transparent and consistent cooperation is essential in ensuring that problems are dealt with early, and that there is a continuous feedback loop between donors, election officials, the Government, civil society and political parties.

The United States must look at the areas where it can add particular value to the process, and working with the Congolese and our embassy in Kinshasa, we plan to focus our resources in several key areas:

First, strong civic and voter education activities conducted by Congolese civil society organizations will build a base of informed voters who have knowledgeable expectations of the rights and responsibilities of government, the candidates, and the voters themselves in conducting credible elections and mitigating conflict during the campaign season.  These activities can also seek to strengthen existing linkages between civil-society organizations and the CENI, in order to strengthen the latter’s accountability, independence, and transparency to the public.

Second, CENI’s capacity must be adequate to fulfill its essential role in organizing and overseeing the elections process.  The UN Needs Assessment Mission, CENI, and the DRC Government all have acknowledged that significant gaps in CENI’s logistical, technological, and subject matter expertise exist, limiting its ability to organize three separate elections across such a vast country with little infrastructure and poor communications networks, and within a three year time-frame.  CENI officials require training and technical assistance to prepare them to manage and fulfill the variety of tasks needed for managing the electoral roll, transporting elections materials to polling stations, tabulating votes, reporting results, and other responsibilities to ensure a clean, fair and transparent election.

Third, election observation by local organizations strengthens domestic institutional and technical capacity to conduct credible election and campaign monitoring.  The deployment of domestic observers with advanced elections observation techniques serves an important role in increasing the credibility of the process.

Last but not least, as I mentioned, the national police must provide neutral and effective elections security.  Training is a key part of this.  Police must be adequately trained in such areas as the non-political role of security forces in elections, protection of polling sites, human rights, and crowd control.  A train-the-trainer and mentoring approach, to expand the capabilities of the police and ensure widespread dissemination of the training curriculum, and to ensure that such training can continue after the election to promote long-term and sustainable reform, may be the most viable means to ensure sufficient training given the size of the country and the number of officers to train.

While the international community has a role to play in Congolese elections, in the key areas I’ve outlined above and beyond, the transition from full international leadership of elections to a process solely owned and operated by the DRC is a transition that eventually must and should happen.  The Congolese people must aspire and plan for the day when credible elections in the Congo are a given and the international community is merely a bystander.

But as critical as elections are, they are only a step on the path to lasting good governance.  Once the ballots are in and the winners announced, the difficult work of governing begins.  At the local level, this will occur in a way never before seen in Congo.  The potential benefits are huge: democracy at the village level, tied to the state, able to carry out the people’s will and provide leadership to resolve conflicts before they spiral out-of-control, and help address the root causes of conflict and instability.  However, the holding of local elections will be fraught with risk, as various economic, ethnic, and political jockeying takes place in the run-up to local elections, and in the after-math as institutions and individuals adjust to this new level of democratic governance and oversight.  Local governance is a new responsibility for all Congolese to learn and one that requires a thorough understanding of the local governments’ authorities and limitations, as well as the role and responsibilities of citizens in governance. 

It is essential that the shift from national or provincial power to local authority be managed in a transparent manner, and that politicians not use the language of hate and resort to violence to pursue their agendas.  It is also essential that local governments be granted the resources necessary to conduct their work, and the government begins now to implement the 2006 Constitutional mandate for decentralization, under which 40% of revenues goes to provincial governments and local authorities.   Progress on democratization will open up promising approaches in other important areas as well, such as Security Sector Reform.  That said, progress on Security Sector Reform helps underpin democratic development and these important processes must run concurrently.

These are just a few of the many challenges ahead, but our focus here today is the first and necessary step of elections.  

DRC is at a crossroads, this is clear.   One road leads to closed political space, further disenfranchisement of the population, a failure to harness the natural gifts and potential of the Congo and its people.  At worse, this path would lead to more of the devastating conflict and instability that has scarred the DRC for too long.  The other path leads to a much brighter future, and one that I am confident is within the grasp of the Congolese people if all members of government and society work together.  This other path leads to functioning government at all levels, the enfranchisement of this population, a bold new future based on the citizen’s voice, and the benefits that are sure to come to a country that has earned and lived up to its name as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.    

Special Envoy Feingold gave this Keynote Address at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Conference on “Opportunities for Partnership in Supporting Free, Fair and Credible Elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” March 20, 2014.

Defying Taliban, Afghans head to the polls

Afghanistan(1)Any judgment about the situation in Afghanistan should start by recalling what’s been achieved, says Marc Grossman, United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2011-2012:

In 2002, an estimated 900,000 boys were in school and virtually no girls. Today, 10.5 million Afghan students are enrolled in school, nearly 40 percent of them girls. The number of teachers has increased from 20,000 in 2002 to more than 175,000 today; 30 percent are women. Access to basic health services has risen from 9 percent in 2001 to more than 60 percent today. Life expectancy for Afghans has increased by more than 20 years since 2002, from about 42 years to over 62 years. Afghanistan’s GDP has grown about 9 percent annually since 2002. In 2001, there was one mobile phone company with 21,000 subscribers. Today, four companies have more than 16 million subscribers. In 2002, the country had 50 kilometers of paved road; today there are nearly 2,500 kilometers of paved roads, giving 80 percent of the population greater access to markets, schools, clinics and government services.

Social indicators are impressive, too: Women-owned businesses and associations today number more than 3,000. There are three women out of 25 cabinet ministers, and 68 of the 249 seats in the National Assembly are held by women. Female voters account for nearly 35 percent of new voter registrations. Afghanistan has more than 50 television stations, 150 radio broadcasters and 1,000 newspapers; 472,000 Afghans are on Facebook, and 80 percent of women have access to a mobile phone.

Afghanistan, of course, still faces profound challenges including corruption, poverty, the need for stronger governance and security, and the many issues that stand in the way of real empowerment and protection of women and girls, says Grossman, a Kissinger Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy in 2013, who outlines five important considerations:

First, what will happen election day? Afghans and those who wish them well want an election outcome in which the majority of Afghans will consider their new leader legitimate. ….

If Afghans can produce the first peaceful and democratic transfer of presidential power in Afghan history, this will do much to solidify the gains made over the last 12 years and show all Afghans – and especially the Taliban – that the rule of law matters.

Second, a US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement, or BSA, needs to be signed so that the United States, its allies, friends and partners can leave a robust force in Afghanistan after the end of the international combat mission in December to continue combating extremism and training the ANSF. …..

Third, the private sector continues to promote economic growth. …… The US can keep the region focused on a “New Silk Road,” private-sector focused, designed to connect Central Asian economies with South Asian economies with Afghanistan and Pakistan in the center, where all can benefit first from transit trade and foreign direct investment. Future international assistance programs should focus on support for Afghan entrepreneurs, especially women.

Fourth, creating an Afghan peace process may still be possible. Among the first jobs for a new Afghan president will be assessing the possibilities of pursuing a peace process with the Taliban. The Taliban, in turn, will make their own judgment. If they see a successful election, a signed BSA, a robust residual force, continued economic growth, an ANSF willing and able to fight, Mullah Omar and his followers may finally recognize that perpetual war is not the answer. …..

Finally, a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan can only exist in a secure, stable and prosperous region. ….. Pakistanis increasingly recognize that the threat to them is from the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, and that is why they have taken recent military action against the group even as they explore peace talks. Peace, prosperity and stability in Afghanistan are to Pakistan’s benefit; chaos benefits the TTP.

© 2014 The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale