Vanda Felbab-Brown, Aspiration and Ambivalence: Strategies and Realities of Counterinsurgency and State Building in Afghanistan, Brookings Institution Press, Washington, DC

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  • May 2015
    Book Review

    After 13 years of international engagement, political and security scenarios appear to be uncertain in Afghanistan. The unity government formed through a power-sharing agreement between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah faces multiple external and internal challenges. Analysts remain sceptical about the future of the government itself. Although the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the US and Afghanistan has been signed, which permits 9,800 American and around 2,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, security across the country will depend on diversely trained Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), whose professional competence remains untested in tackling the threats from disruptive forces and maintaining law and order solely and effectively. The reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban is in a nascent stage. Due to months of uncertainty at the highest level of the country’s political system, the Taliban have expanded their influence in new areas. They described the power-sharing agreement as a ‘US-orchestrated sham’ and claimed that the unity government would not be ‘acceptable to the Afghans’. They also rejected President Ghani’s call for peace talks. The Afghan economy has achieved considerable progress since the fall of the Taliban, and with the support of the international community, the capacity of state institutions has been strengthened in order to provide basic services to Afghans. Access to education, public health, telecom services and so on has been improved. However, economic progress made in the last decade will be under serious threat and the future socio- economic development programmes will be affected if security further deteriorates.