In predicting prospects for Afghanistan during and after 2014, international attention has mainly focused on the impact of the withdrawal of international military forces from Afghanistan by the end of this year. However, the political transition of 2014, starting with the Presidential election, will be just as important for security and stability in the short term. There are also concerns that an economic transition will still further reduce access to sustainable livelihoods for many Afghans, and this is likely to be as important a driver for further migration as insecurity or the fallout of the political process. At least Afghanistan’s neighbours appear to see a stable political transition as a priority and are unlikely to undermine the process.
Mobility has been a fundamental coping and survival strategy for Afghans over very many years and their previous migration experiences will certainly influence migration strategies by Afghans in the future. There is a general consensus that the most likely and significant displacement outcome of the current transitions will be more internal displacement, and a particular challenge will be the increasing number of urban IDPs, in turn swelling the number of urban poor especially in Kabul. Any new internal displacement would compound a serious existing crisis.
Even as the need to protect and assist more displaced people is likely to increase, humanitarian access and security are likely to become more difficult. But there is already a significant (although not comprehensive) legal, institutional and programmatic structure in place to support displaced Afghans. While there may be limitations on the capacity, coordination and effectiveness of these structures, at least there is a foundation for responses to any new movements.
On February 24, Vanda Felbab-Brown joins the National Committee on US-China Relations for a discussion on “The faces of fentanyl: China, the United States, and those in-between.”