After more than a decade of conflict and political setbacks in Afghanistan, it has been hard for observers to be hopeful about its future. But following a recent trip , where we met with civil society leaders, public officials, tribal elders, youth and women’s groups, we found ourselves cautiously optimistic about the country’s trajectory. Afghans were preparing for the presidential and provincial elections in April. They anticipated that a bilateral security agreement under discussion between the U.S. and Afghan governments would soon be signed, creating the security umbrella essential for a stable state.
President Hamid Karzai has threatened to derail this positive trajectory, however, by stating that he intends to delay signing the security agreement until after the elections. While Karzai claims to be concerned about issues already settled, Afghan observers see it as a Machiavellian play to maximize influence over the elections. The agreement, crafted through months of high-level negotiations, defines a long-term partnership between the countries after the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2014; it was endorsed Sunday by approximately 2,500 Afghans in a loya jirga, or council of elders, packed with Karzai loyalists.This article was originally published in The Washington Post.