While the candidates, Karzai and other elites continue to bicker over the details of what people are at least hoping is an impending settlement, the political instability is shaping security, economics and political decisions for Afghans and diplomats alike. We’ve outline some of the economic costs and challenges (see here), but it’s important to think about some of the opportunities that such political chaos brings for other individuals and groups. While it’s difficult to quantify how much the recent push by the Taliban in certain areas of the country builds directly on the election chaos, there are some clear cases where rumors of attacks are directly created by the political impasse.
Yesterday the U.S. embassy in Kabul sent out an email that included:
“As of early September 2014, militants were planning to conduct unspecified suicide and rocket attacks against the Independent Election Office (IEC) in Kabul City, Afghanistan. Militants had an unspecified number of “Payman” ice-cream pushcarts in which they would hide explosives. Fighters planned to occupy positions on tall buildings located in front of the IEC compound in order to conduct rocket attacks, and also planned to enter the IEC compound using police uniforms and police Ranger vehicles.” (To read the entire message from the US State Department Office of Diplomatic Security click here).
The very fact that the dispute has dragged on has allowed places like the IEC headquarters to remain targets that they would not normally be. More importantly, a major attack on IEC headquarters would be an attack on the legitimacy of the entire process and could be used by either side to withdraw entirely. The longer this drags on the more opportunities there will be like this for the Taliban, insurgents and other criminal groups to benefit, and the higher the cost to the Afghan people.