The Afghan government could fall apart after Nato troops pull out in 2014, particularly if presidential elections that year are fraudulent, a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) said yesterday.
"There is a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon Nato's withdrawal," said Candace Rondeaux, the ICG's senior Afghanistan analyst. "The window for remedial action is closing fast."
The report, Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition, said the country was on course for another set of fraudulent elections after the chaotic presidential and parliamentary polls in 2009 and 2010.
A repeat could undermine what little hope remains for stability after the Afghan government takes full responsibility for security from US-led Nato forces in 2014, the report by the group said.
"The Afghan army and police are overwhelmed and underprepared for the transition," said Rondeaux. "Another botched election and resultant unrest would push them to breaking point."
The Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and the parliament have failed to take any serious steps towards preparing for a clean vote, she said. "Karzai seems more interested in perpetuating his own power by any means rather than ensuring credibility of the political system and long-term stability in the country."
The president is constitutionally required to step down at the end of his second term in 2014, and has repeatedly said he will do so, but there are fears that he might try to manipulate the polls to ensure the election of an ally.