"The holding of the election is a blow to the Taliban, since it demonstrates that Afghans support the democratic process and not the Taliban's version of harsh Islamist rule," said James Philips and Lisa Curtis.
In a commentary released on Friday, the two scholars noted that the presidential elections in Afghanistan went relatively smoothly despite sporadic Taliban attacks aimed at disrupting the vote.
There was no large-scale dramatic attack as many Afghan and United States officials feared, they said.
However, both the scholars cautioned that the Taliban may regain its ground if new Afghan government fails to reins in corruption and establish inclusive governance.
Philips is Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, while Curtis is Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.
"The US and coalition forces must assist the new Afghan government in ousting the Taliban from its strongholds, especially in the south, while ultimately relying on Afghan authorities to lead the rebuilding of their nation," they said.
Referring to the threats and terrorist activities by the Taliban, Philips and Curtis said there is a growing perception among many Afghans that the attacks are being directed from outside the country, while the Afghan government was able to convince some local insurgents to lay down their guns and participate in the election process.
Noting that elections mark an important milestone in Afghanistan's evolving democratic politics that could help stabilize the war-torn country, the two scholars said elections alone do not guarantee that the country will become a genuine democracy, let alone a stable country.
"Rather, the success of Afghan democracy will be largely determined by the extent to which Afghanistan's leaders can effectively cooperate after the elections to build a more peaceful and prosperous future," they said.
Arguing that the US stake in these elections is high, they said America will not be able to help stabilise Afghanistan unless it has an Afghan government partner with credibility among the people.
"The US and coalition forces, partnering closely with the Afghan forces, should focus on ousting the Taliban from their strongholds in the south, even if this requires sending additional US troops to the region," they wrote.
Image: Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai [ Images ] holds up his inked stained finger after voting in the presidential election in Kabul on Thursday
Photograph: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters