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Afghans concerned over country's future

As Afghanistan heads towards a runoff in its presidential election, the Taliban is waiting in the wings, hoping to capitalise on the country's growing political vacuum.

ISLAMABAD: As Afghanistan heads towards a runoff in its presidential election, the Taliban is waiting in the wings, hoping to capitalise on the country's growing political vacuum.

Afghanistan remains one of the most volatile countries in the world, and with the United States set to pull out the last of its troops by the end of the year, Afghan citizens are starting to panic.

The last 30 years have not been kind to Kabul.

Regimes have come and gone, but Afghanistan's future looks far from assured.

The outgoing president's refusal to sign the bilateral security agreement, which allows US forces to stay on in Afghanistan, has been criticised for increasing the likelihood of a Taliban resurgence.

Political analyst Bashir Behzan said: "Taliban’s intervention is not our only concern. Our main worry is the intentions of our neighbouring countries, especially Iran and Pakistan. For the past few years, they have proven their negative intentions."

But the new president looks more likely to sign an agreement than his predecessor.

Nader Nadery, chairman of Free and Fair Elections Foundation, said: "All indicators suggest that the next Afghan president is going to sign the bilateral security agreement and therefore the likelihood of (the forces’ full withdrawal) is limited."

Meanwhile in Pakistan, the military regime is trying to push the Taliban to participate in the ongoing peace process in the region.

Simbal Khan from Islamabad Policy Research Institute said: "There is some talk of the revival of the whole peace initiative in Pakistan. The reconciliation process, or the Qatar process, might see some revival, post-successful completion of elections.”

But not everyone is convinced by a movement more synonymous with terror than harmony.

Waqas Khan has no wish to return to the dark days of the Taliban.

With several members of his family living in Kabul, he fears for their safety if the Taliban comes back to power.

He said: "I am afraid that after the US forces leave Afghanistan, the situation might become worse, like before. I work in Pakistan to make a living, and my family is back home in Afghanistan. If the situation worsens, then it’s a great cause of concern for me and people like me."

The polls are a positive step forward but the bilateral security agreement with the US will play a crucial role in determining the direction Afghanistan takes in the future. 

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