Afghans will go to the polls on April 5 to vote for the next president of their country, the first person who will lead Afghanistan since President Hamid Karzai took office following the overthrow of the Taliban. The election will also mark the first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan’s history. But with many candidates in the running, a clear winner may not emerge — perhaps leading to a runoff election later in the year. At the same time, U.S. and NATO forces continue drawdowns ahead of a deadline at the end of 2014, while attempts are made to secure a lasting presence of a smaller footprint to help ensure Afghan forces can keep the country secure.
On March 31, the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings hosted a discussion on the upcoming elections in Afghanistan as well as the planned drawdown of foreign troops by the end of 2014. Participants included General John Allen (USMC, Ret.), former commander of NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and Brookings distinguished fellow; Ronald Nuemann, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005-2007 and currently president of the American Academy of Diplomacy; and Najib Sharifi, senior analyst at Afghanistan Analysis and Awareness, a Kabul-based think tank. Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon, recently back from a trip to Afghanistan, moderated the discussion.