The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan and the International Crisis Group (ICG) on Monday raised concerns pointing to an escalation of economic, political and humanitarian problems in Afghanistan after 2014.
The outgoing ICRC director Reto Stocker said in a press conference in Kabul that with the deteriorating security situation since 2006, ordinary Afghans are suffering not only from the war violence but also from a lack of humanitarian aid, health care and adequate response to natural disasters.
"With the armed conflict in Afghanistan's red zone, life for ordinary Afghans has taken a turn for the worst. I am filled with concern as I leave this country," Stocker said. "Since I arrived here in 2005 local armed groups have proliferated, civilians have been caught between multiple armed actors and it has been extremely difficult for Afghans particularly in rural areas to obtain health care when injured or sick."
He added that the armed conflict also caused people to flee their homes and had led to an increase in displaced families, but he also noted that Afghans were resilient and had learned through decades of conflict how to survive including, if necessary, choosing sides to remain alive.
The newly-appointed ICRC director Gherardo Pontrandolfi said at the briefing that he will attempt to negotiate with armed groups in the country to protect civilians.
"I terms of civilian protection, I will prioritise negotiations with armed groups in Afghanistan to impress upon them to protect civilians particularly women and children," Pontrandolfi said.
The ICRC comments come the same day the ICG released a report suggesting the country faced a looming economic, political and security crisis after 2014.
Speaking to TOLOnews Monday, ICG's researcher in Afghanistan Candace Rondeaux said that she is afraid Afghanistan will become a warzone once again as political power-play descends into military conflict.
"The most serious challenge facing Afghanistan today is the preparation of the political transition," Rondeauz said. "A lot of attention has been focused on the military transition and the exit of Nato troops but the government, the international community and the people of Afghanistan should focus very hard on what it is going to take to do one more election."
"There is a real risk that if the election goes badly, unfortunately we could reach a state of emergency. There is a security issue, there is a economic issue, there is a political issue: all of these things are now under pressure to come after 2014."
Rondeaux, who was an author of the report titled Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition, said that Afghanistan's election commission should come out strongly and define an exact timetable for the elections, and that both the lower and upper houses of the Parliament should cooperate and compromise with each other.
In the report's executive summary, it states that because of factionalism and corruption, "Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when US and NATO forces withdraw in 2014."
It says "a credible presidential election and transfer of power from President Karzai to a successor that year" were needed to avoid "a constitutional crisis" but "in the current environment, prospects for clean elections and a smooth transition are slim".
Rondeaux urged President Hamid Karzai to show by his leadership that he wants stability in Afghanistan.
"The president, most of all, is really the one who needs to set the terms and to really show by his example, by his leadership today that what he needs and wants from the country is the legacy of stability and peace. The only way we can have that happen is if he is willing to step back and make sure the next generation comes forward and plays a part in building the future of Afghanistan," Rondeaux told TOLOnews.
She warned that if the report's recommendations are not implemented, Afghanistan is headed for a civil war again.
"I am afraid for the future of Afghanistan if these recommendations are not followed, if there can't be some kind of compromise and movement forward with electoral reform. I am afraid that we will return to a situation where there be competition between Tazims (parties) again. In fact, many people will be driven out of the country," she added.
"I think everybody is very afraid of what the future holds if we cannot have an election where there is a change of regime and turning of a new leaf. Without that, it's very possible that you come out to a civil war.
This comes as Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a press conference on Saturday that the election will go ahead in 2014 as planned.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) warned Monday of a considerable increase in violence against women throughout the country, citing reports of as many as 60 "honour killings" in six months.
AIHRC Commissioner for Women's Rights Suraya Sobhrang said at a press conference in Kabul that violence against women has become a broad phenomenon.
"We are seeing a disturbing increase in violence against women and the outcomes will be very unpleasant," Sobhrang said.
According to AIHRC statistics, there were 60 honour killings in the first six months of the Persian calendar year [Mar 20–Sept 20].
Honour killings refer to cases where a girl or woman is killed by family members on the claim the victim brought shame to the family.
Sobhrang also cited statistics on rape, saying child rape was also noticeably increasing.
"Ninety percent of the victims of rape are children below 18 years old," said Sobhrang, adding that punishment for such acts should be shown to the public.
The AIHRC believes that the apparent increase of these crimes stem from a culture of impunity, inattention of government officials towards the issue, insecurity, lack of knowledge, existence of unauthorised armed people and presence of insurgents in some areas of the country.
The Afghan government will consider all matters of national interest in signing a strategic agreement with Pakistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Monday.
Deputy spokesman Faramarz Tamana responded in a press conference to criticism towards the government over the planned deal, saying it was aware of the ongoing problems in the Pakistan relationship.
"Afghanistan will seriously consider all the national interests in the agreement with Pakistan," Tamana said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari discussed plans of a possible strategic agreement by the end of 2013 while both were in New York at the United Nations General Assembly about 10 days ago.
The news was broadly panned by Afghan experts and lawmakers who accused Pakistan of not implementing previous agreements and not doing enough to combat incursions into Afghanistan, including an apparent military cross-border shelling into eastern Afghan regions.
Kabul University professor Taher Mohammad Hashimi said Monday that the government of Afghanistan should be cautious in signing any agreement with Pakistan which has failed in the past to fulfill pacts.
"Since the inauguration of Pakistan, the country has shown no interest and transparency in their previous agreements. The Afghan government should be extremely cautious," Hashimi told TOLOnews, pointing to the transit agreement of last year.
"The transit agreement signed between the two countries last year allows the traders of both sides to use all the transit ports and pass through countries with no issues, however the Afghan traders are still facing major challenges with Pakistan," he said.
Pakistan's cross-border shelling into Afghanistan's eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Nooristan and Kunar as well as the refugee issues, and the existence insurgent safe havens have negatively impacted on relations between the two countries.
Analysts and lawmakers have said that unless all these issues and conflicts are tackled, signing a strategic agreement will be meaningless.
Hundreds of Afghan university students on Monday morning protested against the detention of 10 students by the country’s intelligence agency in eastern Nangahar province.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) is said to have detained 10 students of Nangarhar University accused of having links with insurgent groups.
The protest began around 09:30 AM with the demonstrators blocking the Kabul-Jalalabad highway for more than two hours.
The protestors called on the government to release the detained students while chanting slogans “death to the puppet government” and “death to foreign troops”.
Afghan police contained the area and the protest ended after two hours, according to TOLOnews’ reporter at the scene.
Nangarhar provincial spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai told TOLOnews that most of the students were arrested by NDS officials in Logar, Kunar and Kabul provinces.
“The students were captured by the central government. We don’t have more information about it. We have been sent a letter to the central government asking for more details,” he said.
Two staff of Afghanistan's intelligence agency were killed and as many as 12 civilians were injured Monday in a suicide car-bomb attack on the agency's office in southern Helmand province, local officials said.
The blast happened around 2:10PM when a suicide attacker in a van detonated his explosives while trying to drive into the National Directorate of Security (NDS) provincial headquarters in Helmand's capital Lashkar Gah, said Helmand spokesperson Ahmad Zirak.
Two Afghan police officers and another NDS officer were also injured in the attack, officials said.
Helmand hospital officials confirmed that two NDS staff were killed in the attack and around 16 others were injured in the attack and taken to the hospital.
Officials added that most of the victims were civilians.
The NDS Helmand office is located in the Safian area of Lashkar Gah.
No group including the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.