Afghanistan: Still A Chance
Afghanistan: Still A Chance
After the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, the Afghans welcomed the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to ensure their security disturbed by the incoming warlords. They also hoped the International Community would install a viable government and reconstruct their war-torn country. But little has been done in these three important directions in the last over six and a half years in spite of massive influx of money, military force and support both from locals and the international community. Now, the Afghans have begun to lose hope and the International Community thinks, as Lord Paddy Ashdown put it, "The NATO-led alliance is getting pretty close to losing control of Afghanistan." A recent report by the Atlantic Council of the United States, headed by Retired Gen. James Jones, a former NATO Commander and designer of PRT for Afghanistan, warned that "NATO is not winning in Afghanistan." The European Council on Foreign Relations reported on April 1 2008 that the continuing insurgency and the Afghan government's weakness make Western and European defeat in Afghanistan a realistic prospect. Many argue that the current Afghan Government resembles a patient laying in an Intensive Care Unit, surviving on life support. The moment the life support (foreign troops and injecting billions of dollars a year) is removed the patient will pass away. The incident of 28 April 2008 in Kabul is a perfect example of this. However, we believe there is still a chance if the international community decides soon to takes a bold step in the right direction. The ISAF/NATO not only could not provide security for the country but also is one of the causes of instability; it is now fighting the people rather than fighting the terrorists. The Kabul Government has little control over the countryside. Big cities outside Kabul are largely in the hands of semi-loyal warlords, while, rural areas are out of the government's control. Pashtun areas are largely in the hands of the Taliban in conflict with NATO, while the north of the country is ruled by warlords. The Taliban have already started activities in the north and increased pressure on Kabul. NATO will need more force to fight the Taliban in the north as well. In Kabul City, where International Community and NATO have a heavy presence, the security situation is deteriorating. Not only assassinations, Iraqi-type roadside bombs and hitting soft targets are gaining momentum in Kabul but also banks and business institutions are looted again and again in broad daylight. No minister can move in Kabul city without wearing dark glasses cars and without heavily armed bodyguards. Karzai, in spite of being elected president, is guarded by the American special force. The incident of 28 April 08 in Kabul in which President Karzai narrowly survived assassination is an example of poor security in Kabul. The Kabul Government is crippled not only by the insurgency but also by parallel governments within the government. Karzai's First Vice-President â€” along with some ministers â€” is acting openly in the opposite direction of President Karzai. Second Vice-President is promoting his own agenda in Daikundi and Bamiyan provinces; Governor Atta in Balkh, Rashid Dostum, Chief of the Army Staff, in Shibirghan and Faryab, Governor Hussain Anwari in Herat, and the brothers of President Karzai in Kandahar and Kabul are running their own administrations, mostly independent from the central government. Afghanistan will soon turn more dangerous for NATO than Iraq. There is no Shi'a and Sunni or ethnic conflict in Afghanistan as we see in Iraq. In time though, the Taliban will easily mobilize the whole nation against NATO. Moreover in Iraq, nobody fights face-to-face against foreign troops; the casualties are due to roadside explosions, while, in Afghanistan, hundreds of Taliban fight the NATO forces face-to-face for hours. If the war is prolonged, the Taliban will receive more sophisticated weapon, which will be fatal to NATO. The following are some of the major causes for the instability and chaos in Afghanistan:
Security After over six years, the international community has failed to build up a reliable Afghan Army and the U.S./ NATO forces are compelled to continue the military operation of search/seizure and destroy in a number of villages to sniff out the Taliban or obtain information about them. In this process, many innocent villagers have suffered loss of life, indignation, imprisonment, torture, humiliation and uprooting. The approach is similar to what the Soviets did in the 80s to sniff out the Mujahideen. It backfired, did not work then and it does not work now. This is no way to win the hearts and minds of the population. Instead, it has inflamed the villagers who have become prey to the insurgents. Treating the Taliban as Al-Qaeda is a mistake and treating the Pashtuns as the Taliban is another mistake. A clear distinction must be made between the Taliban, who are part of the Afghan nation with localized objectives, and Al-Qaeda, who vowed to fight the United States throughout the Muslim world. Punishing all Pashtuns for the insurgency of the Taliban is another fatal mistake. One of the major causes for the insecurity and the rise of insurgency is the fact that the international community sidelined the Pashtuns. Sidelining the Pashtuns Since not all soldiers at the time of the Taliban belonged to that religious movement, therefore, tens of thousands of them surrendered to the authorities after their regime collapsed in November 2001. They wanted to work with a new administration, but, were all killed, handcuffed in prisons or in containers at the behest of the international community. The BBC film of Qalai Jangi and the Dashti Leili massacre is still in circulation. Thousands more Taliban went to their villages to resume their ordinary life and were hopeful for a positive change, promised by the West. However, they were persecuted, detained and killed under the name of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. A former Taliban commander went to his village in Shilgar, Ghazni, to resume his ordinary life. The US bombarded that village and killed many civilians. The entire village became rebels. An Australian journalist, working for BBC, showed a film wherein the US soldiers raped old people in Oruzgan province. The news spread, many families fled to Pakistan and their youngsters stood against the US for revenge. The foreign Minister of the Taliban, Wakil Ahmad Motawakil, surrendered to the Americans but was imprisoned for years and still is under surveillance. Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban Ambassador to Islamabad, was arrested against all international diplomatic norms and served five years in Kandahar, Bagram and Guantanamo prisons. Mula Khaksar, the Taliban's Interior Minister, surrendered and cooperated with the Kabul authorities but was killed. Thus, the US and the coalition forces pushed the Taliban and the Pashtuns (by design or ignorance) to the corner to resist. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of Pashtuns were forced to leave their homes in the north of the country under the ethnic cleansing agenda. They were killed, looted, raped and uprooted in the presence of the international community (films are available). Nobody prevented this genocide. Moreover, BBC and Voice of America reported that a large number of Tajik and Uzbek families were brought in from across the border and settled in the Pashtun properties in the north of the country. After six years, still these hundreds of thousands uprooted Pashtuns are living in Chaman and Quetta in Pakistan and the Zhari desert of Kandahar and the International Community has no intention whatsoever (according to the UN) of allowing them go back home. By leaving no choice to these displaced Pashtuns, they are forced to join insurgency. In 1976, when some Islamists began agitating against President Daud in Kunar, Panjsher, Laghaman and Paktya provinces, the locals caught the agitators and handed them over to the authorities. They considered president Daud and his government their own and thus did not allow anyone to disturb security under the banner of Islam though the dearest to them. President Daud was a Pashtun while the people who caught the agitators were not all the Pashtuns. However, just three years later the same nation chose the same agitators as their leaders against the unpopular and puppet Communist government of PDPA backed by the Soviet Union. Similarly, in January 2002, a person attacked a foreign soldier in Kandahar city. The locals â€” with bare hands â€” caught the attacker and handed him over to the authorities. They were shouting: "We want peace, give the International Community a chance to rebuild Afghanistan." However, today the same people, having been disappointed, are openly backing the rebels against the Kabul Government and NATO. President Karzai narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by the same people, his own tribesmen in his own home-town. In Bonn, the International Community (IC) created a government for Afghans, probably the narrowest based in the history of Afghanistan. In addition, it consisted of well known warlords, human rights abusers and drug traffickers. The kingdom of Afghanistan was divided among the warlords as booty for their service to the US military during the US assault on the Taliban. The Taliban, who were in effective control of 95 percent of the country were totally ignored as though they were nothing and a few isolated groups that were either outside the country or on the mountains in remote north-western parts with a poor human rights record were allowed to shape the destiny of the whole nation. The IC sidelined the Pashtuns, the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan, traditional rulers of the country and fierce fighters. The IC virtually viewed the Pashtuns the same as the Taliban/Al-Qaeda and treated them as terrorists; their numbers are minimized to limit their political role in the country. To serve their colonial designs, the Russians also issued a census three times during 1980s. Though there was fighting and no opportunity to take the census but with design the Russians announced the census, decreasing the number of Pashtuns to show that they were not the majority in the country anymore and thus to limit their role in army, police assemblies and politics. The same pattern is adopted by the Bonn Accord and subsequently by ISAF/NATO, which farther reduced the number of Pashtuns. Thus, not only the Pashtuns were sidelined from the politics of the country, killed and uprooted in hundreds of thousands but also thousands of their technocrats were driven out of the state institutions labeled as being pro-Taliban and their positions were filled by non-Pashtuns, mainly Tajiks. Though the situation has changed a little for the positive and the International Community has brought some Pashtun ministers into the government, however, still most key positions are controlled by non-Pashtuns. Since Kabul is dominated by the Northern Alliance, enjoying the support of the International Community, the Pashtuns, including President Karzai, are still afraid/intimidated/shy to speak Pashto in public in spite of the fact Kabul is a Pashtun province. Over 70% of media is in Persian. Several Pashtun politicians claimed they could not play a positive role in Kabul, afraid of intimidation and even assassinations, giving Haji Qadir and several others as example. A parliamentary report (2007) shows that only 8% of the total employees of the President's Office are Pashtuns â€” keeping in mind that the President is a Pashtun. Just as the US used the Northern Alliance as foot soldiers against the Taliban in 2001, similarly, the Northern Alliance used the US for crushing the opponents, the Taliban, Hekmatyar and the Pashtuns. Hekmatyar, a Pashtun, who fought the Taliban and was prime minister under Rabbani was not invited to Bonn. He waited for two years to be invited but was pushed to the corner to resist and this is why he is now fighting the US in the eastern parts of Afghanistan. Also, the Northern Alliance used the US/NATO war machinery against the majority ethnic group, the Pashtuns, by providing false intelligence reports. For years, the interpreters used by the US in Pashtun areas were non-Pashtuns and members of the Northern Alliance, as the US did not trust Pashtun interpreters, which created misunderstanding. The majority of the vote for Karzai, in the last presidential election came from the Pashtuns, now on fire. Parliamentary and provincial elections also took place in peace in the hope that some positive changes would follow. Time proved that the Afghans did not gain from these elections and thus they neither found Karzai nor parliament to be their true representatives. The nation lost confidence in the government and thus, Karzai could not extend his rule beyond Kabul, in spite of huge international backing. Currently, most of the countryside is out of his control. Democracy and western support did not change the life of the people for the better but instead were given as tools at the hands of warlords, human rights abusers and the drug mafia. In order to minimize its casualties, NATO resorts to heavy bombardments. This inflicts many casualties among civilians. In the Panjwaii and Zhari districts of Kandahar, the Afghan authorities and NATO asked the whole population to evacuate the area within 24 hours as they prepared to fight the Taliban. They were displaced without any prior arrangements and thus suffered a lot. Many of these families did not return and either settled in Kandahar City or migrated to Pakistan. Consequently, this volatile situation dragged many of the youngsters towards the resistance against foreign troops. Since the beginning of 2007, mounting civilian casualties are turning Afghans against the NATO forces and caused the Afghan Parliament to pass a motion for setting a date for the foreign troop's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Under pressure from the people, Karzai, while weeping and offering condolence to the victims, sharply criticized NATO on 2nd May 07 for the irresponsible bombardments and said that civilian deaths and aggressive arbitrary searches of people's houses have reached an unacceptable level. "The Afghans cannot put up with it any longer; their patience is wearing thin." A Pashtun does not allow his brother to enter his house at night, but the Americans do not even knock. This is not acceptable." The irresponsible acts of NATO seriously undermined the legitimacy of the Kabul Government.
Afghan National Army
Just as the government consists of different conflicting personalities with different beliefs and interests, similarly the Afghan National Army and police forces are also divided along the same lines. As the government is the coalition of warlords, so also is the 'National Army.' As well, the National Army is not representative and does not enjoy the trust of the nation as it is disproportionate serving mainly the political interests of the Northern Alliance and the International Community. This is why the army of one area seldom has dared to fight in another area. When they do deploy, their appearance creates sensitivity among locals and the local army and police do not cooperate with them. The US and Germany trained and equipped the army and police but with little tangible result. In 2006, 40% of the army fled its duty in the south and southwest of the country. The figure increased in the Pashtun areas as they believe locals do not cooperate with them and their future is not secured. The incident of 28 April 2008 in Kabul was a test as to the reliability of the national army and police. The TV footage clearly shows the soldiers telling each other to flee, while military generals were running around with their medals and left the president and the government high ranking officials exposed to the enemy. The president and his state dignitaries were left defenseless and had to make their own way to escape. Prof Antonio Giustozzi of the London School of Economics who has close contact with Afghanistan wrote on May 9, 2008 in Asia Times Online, Hong Kong: "With regard to its long-term viability, a problematic aspect of the ANA is represented by its internal ethnic fault lines. Since 2005, both the Ministry of Defense and the Americans have securely guarded any data about the ethnic composition of the ANA, but there is evidence that a genuine ethnic balance has not yet been achieved; even more worryingly, it is now obvious that they are not. According to the UN sources, the Tajiks are still overrepresented, particularly in the officer corps. According to one estimate, 70% of the battalion commanders are Tajiks. This figure is in stark contrast with the Afghan army of the pre-war period, where the overwhelming majority of field officers were Pashtuns and ethnic minorities were mainly relegated to logistics and administration. The situation is compounded by the habit of the MoD of deploying only predominantly Tajik units to the war zones of the south and southeast, presumably to avoid the risk of "fraternization" and to enhance the cohesion of the units. As a result, very few Pashtuns are fighting against the insurgency within the ranks of the ANA. Such friction and the fact that many soldiers and officers do not speak Pashto must certainly limit the cooperation that these units are able to enlist locally, particularly in remote rural areas. Even the few Pashtuns who serve in these units are usually not from the region where they are deployed, but from other Pashtun-populated regions. Therefore, they lack local knowledge, even if they can understand the language spoken by the villagers. These characteristics of the ANA units deployed in the south, southeast and east are compounded by the unreliability and ineffectiveness of the police, which in principle should contribute local knowledge to the counter-insurgency effort. Locally recruited police forces are more often than not militias in disguise, which fight for their own agenda and are locked in local rivalries. These forces do not effectively cooperate with the ANA and are not reliable sources of information." The Afghan army officers have repeatedly complained that the NATO commanders often tell the Afghan soldiers to fight at the front line, as Afghanistan is their country and they have to take responsibility. While the Afghan soldiers argue that, if it is the case, then why is NATO making decisions for military operations and why does NATO direct the Afghan army, telling it what to do. Considered as a tool at the hands of foreigners, the Afghan soldiers have lost prestige among the locals and are considered "missionaries." In some areas, people do not attend the funerals of those who fought on the side of the Kabul Government, the way they did with Afghan soldiers who died at the time of the Russian occupation during 1980s. Also, they cannot fight for a corrupt government that they do not not consider their own. More importantly, the army has no ideology to fight for as the Kabul incident of 28th April 08 proved â€” who does the army want to defend, the foreigners or the corrupt government made up of warlords and human rights abusers? In addition, the trust gap between the Afghan army and NATO is widening. The NATO soldiers are living in a safe place, well armed and equipped and not fighting at the front line. The Afghan soldiers, while receiving less than $30 per month, have to fight on the front lines, with poor transportation, medical supplies and logistic facilities. They are given only 100 bullets for each operation to fight the fierce enemy. This is why these soldier are not loyal and do not fight sincerely. Poor planning and logistics facilities, humiliating treatment, with no hope for the future, have caused successive failures, which in turn, have broken the will of the Afghan army to fight. Warlords are in control of a high percentage of wealth through the illicit trade of drugs and are able to keep private militia to defend their political position and drug business. Afghanistan, with the support of foreigners, produced over 6,500 tons of opium in year 2007 or 92% of the global supply. When Dr. Farouq Azam, Chairman of ASF, was in the region in April 2007, he saw soldiers, warlords, government officials, the drug businessmen and the Taliban all working together in harvesting the poppies. He saw how the illicit drug trade had changed the soldiers â€” from fighting, to a spirit of cooperation. In off-time (morning and evening), the army and police were working in the opium farms with the farmers and the Taliban while the rest of the day, they were in uniform. They were receiving ten times more money from opium farms than they were receiving from the government as salary. They were in coalition against the foreign coalition forces, NATO, Dr. Azam observed. Thus, the Kabul Government and NATO have to fight everyone including the local governments and the army if they wish to fight the drug trade.
Legitimacy of the Afghan State A state is legitimate when it is capable of exercising effective control over the territory within the boundaries of its jurisdiction. According to the recent report of Mike McConnell, US Director of National Intelligence, the Kabul Government has control over less than one-third of the country. To legitimize power the state has to gain the trust and respect of the people and have public confidence in its rule. The domination of human rights abusers, the warlords and widespread corruption within the institutional structure of the state has undermined the efforts of the Afghan Government to gain such confidence. The warlords and drug traders not only have high ranking positions within the government institutions but they also have private militia. Furthermore, these human rights abusers are sitting in the law-making and law enforcing institutions with huge incomes derived from the illicit drug trade, crippling the state's ability to meet peoples' expectations of improving their security and quality of life. Thus, the incapacity on the part of the state, coupled with a deep sense of distrust on part of the public has seriously challenged the legitimacy of the Kabul Government. Afghanistan cannot make any claims of democracy or having a legitimate government as long as the notorious human rights abusers are roaming around free. Those individuals who are identified in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission's report should be tried by the International Criminal Court at The Hague. A state can only claim legitimacy when it rules its subjects according to the moral standards generally acceptable to the majority of the people. The legitimacy of the state depends not only on its ability to serve with competence, but also on the public's perception of its authority. Leaning heavily upon foreigners, having human rights abusers in the top government positions, with corrupt drug traffickers in the government's hierarchy has eroded the moral concept of the Kabul Government's legitimacy. Of course, a corrupt and illegitimate government can rule some areas with the help of foreign forces and fulfill some obligations with billions of dollars but it is not necessarily respected or considered a trustworthy institution deserving to govern. Protecting its citizens and enforcing the rule of law are other major elements for the legitimacy of a state. It must make the people believe that it, and only it, is the suitable power deserving to govern in return for obedience and cooperation. The Afghan Government has simply not been able to protect its citizens from the Taliban and bring the warlords under the rule of law. A state must have a monopoly in using force to assert legitimacy, not only to convince the public that its decisions and actions are right but also to compel them to follow the rules that they would otherwise refuse to obey. The Afghan Government has no such monopoly and is not the only body to use force for implementing its decisions but there are many other powers as well, e.g., the Taliban, Helmatyar, the warlords, etc. A government is a team of like-minded people with shared aims, objectives and a strategy for the country. To implement its decisions, a government needs to employ honest and loyal officials to serve and lead various institutions through an effective course of action. In the case of Afghanistan, the government has no such loyal and honest officials. The Kabul Government is not a team, but a bunch of self-interested and ideologically contradicting people brought together from around the world by the Bonn Accord. Every ministry is a stronghold of a warlord/party. The Afghan state will be ineffectual and illegitimate as long as it is represented by these corrupt, self-interested thugs. There are some good people as well, but their number is limited and they cannot change the situation for the better. Responsibility for the drug control task in Afghanistan and drug eradication campaign is given to notorious drug dealers. The sum of military (private militia), economic (drug money) and political (government high-rank positions) powers of the warlords is far greater than the power of the Kabul government. The rule of warlords and the Taliban over a large part of the country has challenged the monopoly of the Afghan Government for the exclusive use of force and intimidated the public and government low-ranking officials into obedience. Thus, the government's legitimacy is under serious threat from within. Over eight metric tons of opium was discovered in the office of a governor. He was not punished but rewarded. However, he posed embarrassing problems to the central government and NATO because of this incidental disclosure and humiliation. A state can increase its legitimacy by fulfilling its commitments and abiding by the same principles that it expects the public to follow. If influential figures of a state fail to value the rules and regulations that are created by them; if they consider themselves above the law and feel that nobody can hold them responsible for their wrong deeds, then, the public will question the legitimacy of such a state. Attorney General, Jabbar Thabit, stated to the Afghan Parliament: "only powerless people are prosecuted for crime but those who are powerful are walking free without anyone even daring to name them." He claimed he has faced difficulties when he disclosed that the Balkh Governor, Ata Mohammad, was a warlord keeping a private militia with government money. He neither obeys the president nor respects the constitution of the country. Thabith claimed Mr. Ata has told him that any government employee coming to Balkh province without his prior consent would be kicked out. He also accused the Governor of Herat, Husein Anwari, of corruption, neither obeying the president nor the constitution of the country. Both governors banned the Attorney General from entering Mazar and Heart and thus undermined the legitimacy of the state. Also, the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Rashid Dostum who is a brutal warlord with private militias, instructed Faizullah Zaki, member of the Afghan Parliament from Shibirghan, to vote for a certain minister in the parliamentary voting session. Later, Dostum received news that Zaki did not vote for the person he was supposed to. BBC reported on 02 July 2006 that Rashid Dostum called on Zaki and battered him until he lost consciousness. His arm was broken and he suffered severe head injuries. In order to cover-up the incident, Dostum sent Zaki by his helicopter to Uzbekistan for treatment, not to the local hospital. Zaki is still absent from the Afghan Parliament and neither the Kabul Government nor the parliament has dared to investigate the matter and his absence. Nearly two months ago Dostum attacked, brutalized (allegedly with a beer bottle) and almost killed a rival warlord, Akbar Bai, not far from the Presidential Palace in Kabul. Dostum was not arrested, despite pleas from Afghanistan's chief law enforcement officials. Kabul was abuzz with theories regarding Karzai's decision not to move against Dostum. Excuses were made, but none justified Karzai's open disregard for justice. Afghanistan cannot make any claims of democracy or having a legitimate government as long as these gangsters are roaming around free. Those individuals who are identified in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission's report should be tried by the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Proving its legitimacy is an impossible task for the current Afghan Government to fight all inner evils simultaneously wearing different masks, e.g., warlords, corrupt officials and illicit drug dealers. The current Afghan Government resembles a patient in an Intensive Care Unit, being sustained on life support. The moment the life support (foreign troops and injecting billions of dollars a year) is removed the patient will pass away. The incident of 28 April 2008 in Kabul is a prime example of this. NATO is bombarding villages to force people to obey the Kabul Government and recognize its legitimacy. Unjustifiable use of force cannot serve as an effective tool to convince the public of just and proper rule. The use of force does not necessarily transform the state into a legitimate institution. Public support can be ensured through the winning of the hearts and minds of the people, which has been eroded considerably in the case of the current Afghan Government. Many observers believe fighting terrorism in Afghanistan changed to fighting the Pashtuns. This has raised the concern of experts of law and international relations. In the north of the country where there is no open fighting, locals complain of warlords, human right abusers, corrupt officials and drug dealers who rule the area with an iron fist, enjoying the support of the International Community. The police extort money from the public on highways and rob the transit passengers, claiming their salaries are not enough and delayed for months as the BBC and VOA reported repeatedly. Izzatullah Wasifi, Director of the General Independent Administration of Anti- Corruption and Bribery, says "as long as higher government officials act with impunity, corruption will not be seen as a crime. You have to start from the top." "If we can't punish them (high rank officials), how do we tell a small government official who makes $40 a month not to take bribes?" asks Wasifi. This situation resulted in losing trust over the police force and government, which in turn worsened the security situation. There will be a strong backlash from the Afghan people, a collapse of order, not just trust." Thus, the whole country is in chaos; in the south, from the US bombardments, corrupt government and the Taliban and in the north, from corruption and the US allies, the warlords. This has eroded the legitimacy of the Afghan Government considerably. NATO must understand that military measures are temporary; if Afghans don't trust their government, NATO's best efforts will ultimately be futile. Corruption is feeding instability, insurgency and drug mafia. The corrupt government has created fertile ground for the insurgency to take root even amongst those who welcomed the new government when it first came to power.
Since the government positions are allotted to the warlords as booty for their service to the US during the latter's attack on Taliban in 2001, therefore, ministries are actually strongholds of warlords. The warlords have filled these institutions with their loyalists without any consideration to qualification and professionalism. The parliament, provincial councils, district and provincial offices are full of warlords' appointees. Though some European countries, especially Italy, tried to improve judiciary system in Afghanistan but little improvement has been made so far. Still this important institution is not impartial and cannot offer justice. It is corrupt and working under the instructions of certain warlords and this is why when the US invaded Iraq, President Karzai expressed his support while Chief Justice of Afghanistan strongly condemned the invasion and termed it as 'Christians Crusade against Muslims'. Amrullah Salih, Chief Intelligence, in the open session of the Afghan Parliament (Lower House) on 30 th April 2008 bitterly criticized the judiciary that was not in cooperation with the security system of the country. The continued impunity of warlords accused of human rights abuses and the corruption of the judiciary further question the legitimacy of the government and the process of democratization.
Many ministers and governors, in addition to private militia as the Attorney General has claimed, have their own NGOs channeling the money, donated by the International Community, to their own personal interests. They have a share in every major foreign contract. Also, a minister has over $20,000 per month salary while an average salary in the same ministry is about $75. This, itself has created corruption. The former Minister of Interior, Ali Jalali, told the New York Times two years ago that four ministers, 13 Governors and the brothers of President Karzai were directly involved in corruption and the drug business. When Karzai was asked by a journalist about Jalali's claim that his brothers were involved in corruption and drug business, he nervously rejected the claim and accused Jalali of being a liar and corrupt person. The Head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Ezatullah Wasifi, accused Abdul Jabar Thabith, the Attorney General, of being a corrupt person. In response, Thabith claimed he was going to take Wasifi to court for corruption charges (ArianaTV-17/4/08). Zia Masoud, First Vice-President, claimed high-ranking government officials were involved in the drug trade. When Karzai was asked on 01 October 2007 about his deputy's remarks he replied: "if he (Masoud) has dared to name them." Eng Yousuf Pashtun, Minister of Town Planning, publicly claimed the country is ruled by land and drug mafias. The corruption has reportedly reached the President's Office as some papers accused the President's secretaries selling his appointments to those who wish to visit Karzai.
The Afghan Government and the International Community promised the Afghans right from the beginning that security, good and effective governance and sound reconstruction programs are their primary aims. The Afghans gave them enough time and cooperated to achieve these aims. None of these promises have materialized yet.
The Afghans do not expect President Karzai to eliminate corruption, as corruption can be found all over the world, but, he should take some stand for justice, which is very important to people, and they do not see any justice from this government, even though they hope it will be able to get foreign aid to make their lives better. This lack of any effort for justice is a major reason that people do not fight for the government, even if they do not want the Taliban to return. Also, a minister of interior claims that four ministers, 13 governors and the relatives of President Karzai are directly involved in the drug business and still enjoying international support, If Vvce-president of the country openly admits that high ranking officials are involved in illicit drug trade, then, how can we expect to have a good government?
Many analysts believe the insurgency may not defeat NATO but certainly the corrupt government, warlords and drug dealers will facilitate its defeat.
Western occupation changed Afghanistan to a narco-state to meet the demand in Western markets. The quantity of opium production has increased from 180 metric tons in 2001 to 6,500 metric tons in 2007. Approximately 40% ($3.1 billion) of Afghanistan's GDP originates in illicit poppy production constituting approximately 92% of world's supply of opium. The street value of the poppy production is approximately $430 billion. The Afghan take of the total street value is less than one percent (0.7%). The other 99.3% is taken by intermediaries, most of them Americans and Europeans. It has also been argued that drug production is linked to domestic corruption, criminal activities, penetration of drug lords into the high channels of the government, insurgent activities including suicide bombings, hostage taking and various forms of intimidation. The activities of the drug industry have penetrated the administration of justice, reconstruction and development, the process of governance and state building. With the drug money and western support, the warlords keep private militia and dictate the law making and law enforcing institutions of the country. Over the last few years apparently several strategies have been employed to reduce and eliminate the production of opium poppy in Afghanistan but all of them failed. No solution can be seen in foreseeable future. The Senlis Council claimed "The US-led mission in Afghanistan is failing because US policies on eradicating the Afghan poppy crop aren't working. There are no jobs and sources of income, so people are compelled to cultivate poppies."
Over $16 billion has been spent so far on the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Very little of this amount has reached the grassroots level and little has changed in the lives of the people. Of course, all destruction that occurred during the bloody long turmoil in Afghanistan cannot be reconstructed within a few years; but the demands of the Afghans are very humble and realistic; the provision of subsistence level of life. Not only did this not happen but also little infrastructure is made so far to build upon. Though the International Community has achieved some political gains in Afghanistan, namely helping the Afghans to have (a) the first elected president, (b) to have elected parliament and provincial councils, (c) the improvement of education (especially girls now attending schools), (d) improved telecommunications and media, (e) some improvements in army, police, judiciary, health and rural development. However, ineffective and corrupt government, huge unemployment, distrust, disarray and widespread corruption in foreign aid and suspicion of NATO's intentions have eroded the effects of the positive steps taken so far. As a result, the ordinary Afghans â€” even Paddy Ashdown, General James Jones, The European Council, Senlis, and many other well-informed international dignitaries â€” are not satisfied with what has been promised by the International Community and the Kabul government.
Afghanistan had an agricultural based economy, yet neither a single dam nor a major canal was constructed or even cleaned up, nor was a factory rehabilitated. Only small and sporadic works are done in some villages, mainly by PRT, so they can watch the movements of the Taliban. Agricultural inputs and farm technology are rarely provided to Afghan farmers and thus the cultivation of cotton has been replaced fby the growth of poppies. The West has a prime opportunity to encourage industries in Afghanistan as farm business has been badly interrupted in the last 30 years. Cheap and hard working labor, along with the strategic position of Afghanistan being situated at the crossroads of Central Asia, South Asia and the Gulf could gain much for investors. Afghanistan, being a mountainous country with plenty of clean water, the villagers still living without electricity; even. A large percentage of the Kabul residents still have no electricity after six years of the massive presence of the International Community. Poor reconstruction activities in the part of the government, have forced people to seek alternatives; either to go to Pakistan or Iran for work, join the warlords and the Taliban or resort to the illegal drug business. This factor seriously undermines the legitimacy of the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan.
A recent report by the Senlis Council, Paris-based international security and policy advisory group, says that "Kabul and the international community's consistent promises of aid are simply not materializing in vast swathes of the country. Many Afghans are seeing no improvements in living conditions, and often they are seeing things grow worse. People state: "they have spent billions of dollars in this country, but where has all the money gone?" The reconstruction of Afghanistan requires a sustained and substantial commitment of aid but donors have failed to meet their aid pledges to Afghanistan. Too much aid from rich countries is wasted, ineffective or uncoordinated, the report states.
Afghanistan remains trapped in a cycle created by the theory that security is required for development but in the case of Afghanistan, development is what would provide security. The success of development programs at the local level should foster greater security as citizens come to trust and depend on their government and refuse to support or join the insurgency.
The real security lies in the winning of the peoples' hearts and minds. If security, the propagation of democracy and the modernity of Afghanistan are to be seen, then, we have to demonstrate success in the economic arena. The military option proved wrong, so let us work the way round and give way to a political solution and economic rehabilitation (security through prosperity). After all, the problems of Afghanistan are largely economic/political and institutional and not military.
Thought many western strategists do not agree, we believe there is an inverse relationship between employment and insurgency. Keeping other parameters constant, employment could diminish the power of the warlords and rebels and thus help the legitimacy of the government. If people have legitimate sources of income, they will not fight or die for hated warlords and criminal gangs. The Afghan Government and the International Community have failed to create employment, curb inflation, control rent in Kabul, reduce the gap between rich and poor, decentralize economic activities, reduce the army of the so-called foreign consultants and improve the life of the people. Therefore, in addition to the angry people, the army of unemployed joined the insurgency. The U.S. and Afghan economic strategists neglected to undertake many public sector projects and relied heavily upon the private sector to create the necessary employment. Afghanistan has few economic strategists who understand Afghanistan and have expertise to accommodate western experience with the conditions in the country. Most of them were trained and raised in the West and know only to copy what they have seen in the West, which often does not work when applied in Afghanistan.
In addition to foreign drug dealers, the economy of Afghanistan has been invaded by armies of foreign consultants, NGOs and contractors whose expertise, project profitability and accountability are in serious question. As the NATO force has free hand in kidnapping, imprisoning, killing and bombarding, the army of foreign consultants also have a free hand to do what they want in Afghanistan. They come and go without the true knowledge of the Afghan government. Over 2,600 NGOs are active in Afghanistan, receiving huge amount of funding from foreign donors with no tangible results while donors in their own countries keeps the account of every penny. In an interview with Afghan RTA on 05 May 08, Anwarulhaq Ahadi, Minister of Finance, complained that foreign donors were giving donated money to their own NGOs active in Afghanistan. Less than one-third of the donated money is coming through the Ministry of Finance and therefore we do not know how the money is spent, he claimed. This bypassing has created a vacuum for the government of Afghanistan as to what is being done and what lies ahead. The practice must become collaborative immediately. "They are taking their money back in one way or another. Their work is very expensive and without proper accountability. For example, they reconstruct one kilometer of road with one million dollars, Ahadi expressed." It is understandable that the capacity of the Afghan economic institutions were limited in the beginning and needed the help of foreign expertise. But after six years, some improvements are expected and it is unacceptable that still all donations are spent without the knowledge of the Afghan Government. Allocation of donors' grant to Afghanistan must be a collaborative effort between the government of Afghanistan and the donor agencies.
According to the British daily 'Financial Times' quoted by APP on 02 April 07, the Afghan Finance Minister, Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady, admitted to donors that the (Kabul) government had failed to meet a target agreed with the IMF to raise $715m in taxes, just 8.2% of the gross domestic product. The government has had almost three years to produce the development plan and received at least $15m from donors to support its drafting. And yet, the World Bank and other donors have told the government that the drafts are of such poor quality that they will be rejected if submitted in their current form, the paper said.
In a report released in March 07 by ACBAR, (an umbrella organization for NGOs working in Afghanistan), ACBAR, called for a change of approach saying "too much of the aid has been prescriptive and driven by donor priorities â€” rather than responsive to evident Afghan needs and preferences." 'Preferenced aid' delineates the select areas â€” both in terms of sector and geography â€” that the donor selects without the knowledge of the Afghan Government. Oxfam states that vast sums of the aid money are lost in corporate profits of contractors and sub-contractors, which can be as high as 50% on a single contract. Thus aid has been insufficient and in many cases wasteful or ineffective. Most Afghans still endure conditions of hardship and millions live in extreme poverty." The Oxfam report points out that despite an overwhelming dependence of the country's population on agriculture (70% directly or indirectly), the sector has received only $400-500 million since 2001. International spending in Afghanistan is focused overwhelmingly on military operations. The US military alone spends nearly $100 million a day on Afghanistan while the combined donor funding on aid is only $7 million of which the bulk goes to those provinces and areas where donors have their troops. Coordination among donors is almost non-existent leading to overlapping projects and waste. "Donors are failing to coordinate between themselves and with the government. Donors and donor countries have so far avoided any scrutiny of their effectiveness and aid delivery strategies," Oxfam states.
Foreign NGOs are corrupted institutions. There are widespread complaints that foreign NGOs are reluctant to employ educated Afghans available inside and outside the country. In order to cover up their corruption and avoid taxes, they try to see the Kabul Government weak and corrupted; and thus the foreign NGOs are an input in Kabul Government's corruption. Foreign NGOs must pay taxes to the Afghan treasury, and they must show accomplishment commensurate with their pay and the value of the contract. Donors and the Kabul Government must audit the operations of the projects in terms of accomplishment and accountability per dollar of expenditures. There are many qualified Afghans seeking employment in Afghanistan and there are many Afghans outside of Afghanistan who could perform the same job as foreign consultants at substantially lower cost. Besides, they speak the local languages and are familiar with the culture. The Kabul Government must encourage foreign companies to hire qualified Afghans who are available for these jobs.
The UN and the Bonn Accord gave legitimacy to the foreign interference in Afghan affairs and shape the country's future. Thirty seven countries under the ISAF were given the right to have a say and use military force. The Afghan Government made in the conclusion of the Bonn Conference that was actually the government of 6+2 as the UN Special Envoy, Lakhdar Ibrahimi, put it. This government was to safeguard the interests of the six neighbours of Afghanistan and of the two big powers, Russia and the United States. Later, India was added and thus the formula became 6+2+1. The priority was not given to the Afghans and therefore nearly every ministerial position has a backing from across the border. As an example, according to well informed British source on the ground, the US negotiated with Iran through the UN for two months to convince Iran to agree in transferring Ismail Khan from Herat governor's office to a ministerial post in Kabul. Iran agreed on some conditions.
The development and reconstruction of Herat and other areas adjacent to Iran are given to Iran to expand her influence. Iran provides books, media and help for the Afghan education system. Pakistan has to extend railways to the neighboring provinces of Afghanistan, and electricity and some rural development programs must come from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the Afghans bordering provinces. Similarly, India is to develop provinces and areas bordering Pakistan. Since the neighbors of Afghanistan are rivals, such a policy of the International Community instead of bringing regional cooperation increased tension among them, e.g., Pakistan believes the Indian intelligence (RAW) is active on the Afghan High Mountains right on the borders overlooking Pakistan. Similarly, since India is active in the Chaman-Lashkargah-Zahidan triangle where Baloch of Afghanistan are located, Pakistan accuses India of training and arming Pakistani Baloch rebels on Afghan soil. Thus, the foreigners are one of the major sources of instability in Afghanistan.
The international coalition and cooperation that existed during the Bonn Conference does not exist anymore. Today, most of the 6+2+1 are against the presence of the US in Afghanistan. They support the rebels and the Northern Alliance to appease, bleed and trap NATO. At the last summit in Bucharest, NATO members increased their commitment by only 800 soldiers after Canada gave an ultimatum that it would pull out its troops if not supported. Next year, even this support will diminish. Gradually, it will become an American war and a greater burden will fall on the United States. The Americans will bleed; the others will be clapping or at least be indifferent. As the Afghan Army has no ideology for fighting, the same, the Americans are dying in Afghanistan to keep the warlords, human rights abusers and drug dealers in power. They pay with their lives to defend a corrupt government. This will not go on for long.
Many Arabs support the insurgency as they believe a victorious US will go after them next. Many others believe the US must come under more pressure as the current instability in Afghanistan is created by design to justify her presence in the region. Thus, the Arabs are not the same as they were at the time of the Bonn Accord.
The ISAF/NATO is now a major part of the instability and challenging the legitimacy of the already weak Kabul Government. Bombarding civilians, forced entry into houses, dishonoring people and making arrests without legal provisions deeply upset the Afghans. Such irresponsible acts weakened the position of the elected president, elected parliament, elected provincial councils and other democratic institutions. Karzai, while weeping, told the Afghan nation repeatedly he was powerless to stop NATO from bombarding the civilians. Here, many Afghans question the sovereignty of the country and the legitimacy of the government. NATO is gradually changing the 'war on terror' to the 'war against people, the Pashtuns' and as time passes, will need more troops. Remember, the Red Army with a 120,000-strong force was not able to subdue the Afghans. Certainly, the increase of foreign soldiers will not solve the problem but will complicate it. Those who want to bleed the Americans will support the insurgency. It must be realized that securing Afghanistan's future requires the use of force within a much broader strategy of creating stability through prosperity.
The civilian deaths have also exposed the underlying tensions between American and NATO commanders, who have never fully agreed on a strategy to fight the war in Afghanistan. Some NATO commanders argue that the numerous incidents of civilians killed by poorly-targeted air strikes are a major reason that the US and its allies are losing the battle to gain the hearts and minds of the Afghans. A recent clash of strategy between the Americans and Brits in Helmand can be seen as an example. Thus, no clear vision and strategy about Afghanistan exists on the part of NATO. If the US withdraws from Iraq and sends more troops to Afghanistan, which is most likely, the situation will become worse. Many people in the West still do not understood the nature of the Afghans. No one fights the US in Iraq face-to-face. They fight by planting bombs, while, in Afghanistan, hundreds of rebels fight the US super might face-to-face. If the war is prolonged, the rebels will certainly get more sophisticated weaponry, which will be disastrous for the NATO forces as they will be an easy target. The neighbors of Afghanistan also wish to see the US trapped and bleed in Afghanistan. The British Ambassador to Kabul, Sherard Cowper-Coles, told the BBC in June 2007 that Britain needs to keep her presence in Afghanistan for 30 years more. "Afghanistan is one of our very highest foreign-policy priorities," he said. This view is not shared by Germany, Italy and Spain and few may agree Britain can afford 30 bloody years.
Afghanistan, with significant untouched mineral and water resources, enjoys a strategic position of being a bridge between Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. Afghanistan can play this role only if she is stable and can be stable only if is neutral. She only could survive in the last two hundred years by preserving her neutrality. Afghanistan was always cautious about her relations with Iran and Russia, both historic rivals of the West. However, whenever the neutrality of Afghanistan is disturbed the whole region became chaotic. The Anglo-Afghan wars in the 19th century, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 20th century and the US invasion early this century undermined the neutrality of Afghanistan and thus disturbed the whole region. Even an informal deviation from neutrality, such as the Taliban did by giving refuge to Al-Qaeda militants, brought serious consequences to the region. History dictates that the survival of Afghanistan is in her neutrality, having good relations with her neighbors and friendly relations with the West. However, today Russia, Iran, Tajikistan and India, foes and/or rivals of Pakistan, openly support the Northern Alliance, Uzbekistan and Turkey are labeled as allies of Rashid Dostum and NATO supports Karzai and his team â€” if he has one. Pakistan allegedly supports the Taliban. Just as these countries are rivals in regional and global politics, they are rivals in Afghanistan as well, which has created the current chaos. Thus, Afghanistan is no longer a neutral country. Pakistan helped the US in 2001 to topple the Taliban on the condition that the Northern Alliance would not take over Kabul. Yet, the Northern Alliance was allowed to enter Kabul. Pakistan neither could confront the US nor the Russo-Iran-Indian camp but can destabilize any hostile regime in Kabul. The visit to Indian Kashmir in April 08 by Abdul Rahim Wardak, Afghan Minister of Defence, was another Indian lobby to pressurize Pakistan. A Pakistani diplomat claimed that the current Afghan Government is a strategic ally of Russia, Iran and India under the NATO umbrella, appeasing the West for Russia and Pakistan for India.
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