United Nations Secretary-General's Special representative for Afghanistan, Jan Kubis addresses a press conference in Kabul — AFP

KABUL: Afghan and UN officials on Tuesday dismissed a warning from a well-respected international think tank that the Kabul government might collapse after NATO troops withdraw in 2014.

The International Crisis Group (ICG), based in Brussels, issued a report on Monday predicting that the Western-backed administration could fall apart, particularly if presidential elections in 2014 are fraudulent or rigged.

But a presidential spokesman dismissed the report as “nonsense and garbage”.

“Our nation wasn't born in 2001. We have a very long history and we have fought against superpowers and we know how to defend our country,” said spokesman Hamid Elmi. He added that Kabul was counting on “honest, sincere” support from the international community beyond 2014.

Jan Kubis, the UN envoy for Afghanistan, told a news conference that he did not think the report was realistic. He said “strong” commitment from the international community was “not based on speculation” that Afghanistan will collapse after 2014, but instead that it would develop, albeit with problems, challenges and difficulties.

“The international community is ready to do everything that is possible to support Afghanistan and frankly to help Afghanistan not to collapse into these kind of doom and gloom scenarios,” Kubis said.

“I'm not convinced that this is the way of the future of Afghanistan,” he added.

ICG senior Afghanistan analyst, Candace Rondeaux, said there was “a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon NATO's withdrawal”, advising that the window for remedial action is closing fast.

The report said the country was on course for another set of fraudulent elections, which could undermine what little hope remains for stability after the Afghan government takes full responsibility for security from US-led NATO forces. Elmi, however, said the government was committed to free and fair elections.

Karzai, who has been Afghanistan's only leader since the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban, has to step down in 2014 under the constitution. But analysts fear he could try to maintain power, through a proxy, if not directly.

His presidential re-election in 2009 was marred by allegations of widespread voting irregularities. Parliamentary polls a year later were also mired in controversy over fraud and vote rigging.

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