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Security overall is deteriorating in Afghanistan and although the Afghan National Security Forces are taking the lead, questions remain about their effectiveness and the government’s dependence on international help to pay for them. It is unclear whether there will be any Western military presence after 2014. Negotiations with the Taliban do not seem to offer much hope.

The legitimacy of the government will depend on clean and convincing elections, but they are being held in a difficult environment. So far, the progress in governance and the delivery of services to the Afghan people has been patchy at best. Meanwhile, human rights abuses by the powerful in Afghanistan often go unpunished, and the rights of women are under attack already, even before the departure of most international forces. Violence against women is commonplace.

Better cooperation with Afghanistan’s neighbours might go a long way to help tackle some of the country’s problems. So far it has disappointed but there is potential for improvement.

Afghanistan gets a lot of UK overseas aid but progress towards the Millennium Development Goals has been slow and often confined to urban areas. Little aid has reached rural areas, particularly those less affected by conflict.

The economy is expected to slow after strong growth in the last few years; if international aid is cut off more abruptly than hoped, Afghanistan could go into recession.

After 2014, the country is likely to continue to be dominated by powerful local figures, and local and ethnic allegiances will continue to be important. However, many observers think the government in Kabul will survive, given international support, although it may increasingly have to come to terms with local strongmen and Taliban figures.

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