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As the United States and NATO are preparing to significantly reduce their troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year, Afghans are focused on the April 5 presidential election.A complex interaction of three critical factors will determine the future of Afghanistan and the outcome of U.S. and NATO involvement in the country since the fall of the Taliban.Whether Afghanistan will be able to preserve the gains of the past 12 years or face chaos and instability will largely depend on credible and transparent presidential and provincial elections, the ability of the Afghan National Security Forces to protect Afghanistan from terrorists and insurgents and whether Afghanistan receives sufficient and effective economic and military aid beyond 2014 based on meeting anti-corruption and human-rights benchmarks.The future of the country will be bleak, and the efforts of the United States and NATO countries, as well as those of Afghans – many of whom have sacrificed their lives – will be compromised.The U.S. and NATO should focus on post-Karzai Afghanistan and how to assist the country to ensure continued progress and stability.
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