by Abdul Haleem, Yan Zhonghua
KABUL, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- The year 2012 has seen frantic efforts by the government of President Hamid Karzai in putting in place an effective security apparatus and a viable economic plan in preparation for the pullout of all foreign forces from the country in 2014.
The government has also bent over backwards in trying to engage the still potent Taliban in a national reconciliation process with the help of neighboring Pakistan where some of the more radical Taliban fighters are reported to be ensconced.
The country's main concern, which is going to spill over in the coming year, is still on security issues.
Concluding the 11th year of the war on terror, Afghanistan has experienced Taliban-led violent security incidents for most of 2012, leaving thousands dead that include innocent civilians.
The latest incident was a suicide bombing in this supposedly fortified capital city Kabul on Dec. 6 that badly injured Assadullah Khalid, the head of the National Directorate for Security (NDS). This incident, which happened right in the premises of the heavily-guarded NDS headquarters, had raised questions on the capability of the government to handle the country's security after the 2014 pullout of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Khalid was targeted inside a highly-protected guesthouse of the national intelligence agency and Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had immediately claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt.
During the year, the Taliban have staged high-profile attacks. The attack on Dec. 10 claimed the lives of a police chief in southwestern Nimroz province and a women affairs director in eastern Laghman province.
In late October, a deadly suicide bombing inside a mosque in relatively peaceful Faryab province's capital Maimana, northwest of Kabul, killed 41 people including 23 police and injured 52 others.
The Afghan conflict has claimed the lives of 391 soldiers of the NATO-led ISAF with 302 of them Americans in 2012, according to icasualties, a website tracking U.S.-led coalition fatalities in the war.
There is no report on the total number of Taliban casualties but 830 Afghan army personnel had been killed in the past seven months from April to November known as the fighting season in Afghanistan, according to Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi.
A report released in August by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said that 1,145 civilians were killed in the first six month of 2012.
According to a UN quarterly report released in mid-December, a total of 967 Afghan civilians, including 355 children, were killed and 1,590 injured in conflicts from August to October.
President Karzai has appealed to the Taliban militants to give up fighting, join the government-backed peace process and contribute to the national reconstruction process.
But the Taliban, which ruled the country with iron-fist based on a fundamentalist brand of Islam before they were driven out in 2001, has rejected the offer, saying there will be no peace talks as long as there are foreign troops in Afghanistan.
In a commentary posted on the Taliban website on Dec. 9, the group vowed to continue the jihad or holy war against Afghan and NATO-led troops.
In 2012, there have been a series of direct and indirect contacts among the Afghan government, the U.S. government, the Taliban and Pakistan to end the conflicts in Afghanistan but all seemed in vain.
As a sign of progress, representatives from the Afghan government, the armed militant groups, which include the Taliban, the Hekmatyar-led radical Islamic party Hizb-e-Islami, and Afghan political opposition groups met in Paris in late December.
It was the first-ever face-to-face gathering among stakeholders and warring factions in Afghanistan to discuss the country's future. But analysts are not very optimistic about the outcome of the Paris dialogue organized by an independent body - a French think tank named Foundation for Strategic Research.
During the year, the Karzai government continued to receive pledges of support from the international community.
In the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan held in July, international donor countries pledged 16 billion U.S. dollars to the war-ravaged country in a bid to safeguard the country's future and achievements made since it freed itself from the brutal Taliban rule in late 2001.
However, the donor nations, above all the United States, had called on the Afghan government to fight corruption and ensure good governance.
In her address at the Tokyo Conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for reforms in the Afghan government and said this "must include fighting corruption, improving governance, strengthening the rule of law, increasing access to economic opportunity for all Afghans, especially for women."
Afghanistan tops the most corrupt nations in a report released recently by the Transparency International, a global civil society organization.
Karzai has renewed his determination to fight administrative corruption at the end of the year but the notorious Kabul Bank fraud and many other systemic graft practices in the government have been left unsolved.
Afghanistan also tops the poppy-growing countries in the world and still supplies some 90 percent of the raw materials used in the manufacture of heroin worldwide.
In the political arena, the Afghan Independent Election Commission has set April 5, 2014 as the date for holding the next pivotal presidential elections, months ahead of the final withdrawal of NATO combat troops from the country.
The announcement came as many Afghans doubt whether Afghan security forces will be able to provide security for the elections in the absence of NATO-led coalition forces.
The Taliban-led insurgency, tribalism, along with a high rate of unemployment and poverty, are seen as destabilizing factors that would impede social and economic development in Afghanistan.
Certainly, stability, peace and order are primary requisites for development in any country in the world. And this is what Afghanistan direly needs in the coming years.