Come December We…

By: Dr. G. Rauf Roashan

Literally, there are hundreds of things the Afghan government has not done and there are hundreds more that it has done in a wrong way. Apparently, people in government faced with the hard realities say: if we had…. Because “ If we had…” is no solution. It is better to focus on “ we would…” and use this formula, in the light of things not done so far and things that have been done badly so far, to map out a path at least to lead the country out of the quagmire she is in and to direct her into a future that can be predictable based on facts. This little paper draws the attention to the upcoming Bonn Conference planned for December on Afghanistan.

The Afghan government reportedly is considering an agenda for the upcoming Bonn Conference on Afghanistan. The first Bonn Conference on Afghanistan some eleven years ago mapped out a solution for a country that was deeply in trouble. Al-Qaeda, an Arab terrorist movement had found and established a haven for itself on Afghan soil and an extremist regime, the Taliban, had allowed it to do so stating that the Arabs leading the organization were Taliban’s guests. Al-Qaeda then was scheming to conduct acts of terror beyond Afghan soil internationally and one of its plots resulted in an unprecedented attack on America’s mainland, an attack that changed history and life for American citizens and had world repercussions. The Bonn meeting, on Afghanistan decided on a government for that country to be led by a rather young politician picked up from among the many Afghans who in one way or another were involved in efforts to drag out their country from the abyss of a long protracted war against the Soviet occupation and to bring peace among mujahidin groups who had started infighting for grasping power for themselves and later were thrown in the clutches of an extremist regime namely Taliban. Therefore the Bonn Meeting on Afghanistan was like a ray of hope to brighten the horizons for the country.

But the decisions at Bonn were haphazard and they were taken by a small group representing not the nation of Afghanistan, but certain movements including the Rome Initiative directed the ex-King Zahir Shah, the so-called Shora-e-Nizar of an ethnic group led by Ahmad Shah Masood, and a few other movements, the United Nations and some individuals including an Afghan American who later was entrusted with important tasks and positions such as his country’s ambassador to Afghanistan, then ambassador to Iraq and finally as the US ambassador to the United Nations. It decided on the establishment of an interim government to lead on to an elected one both tasked with drafting a constitution and arranging for general elections. A formidable task that miraculously was carried out with the help of the United States and a number of its allies and Western led resolutions on Afghanistan by the United Nations. Meanwhile, an International force in the name of Nato-led alliance approved of by the United Nations continued to fight Al-Qaeda on Afghan soil with a result of expelling its leadership from Afghanistan. Perhaps that was its only military achievement. Nevertheless, the war continued because Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan that joined the effort as an ally let either Al-Qaeda establish a new base across the border in its soil or was not able to control it. The fight also continued because of insurgents crossing into Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan and committing acts of terror in Afghanistan. Taliban driven out by the United States from Afghanistan did not sit still, but with the knowledge of their actions by the ISI, Pakistani military spy agency, and with the cooperation of Al-Qaeda kept attacking Afghan countryside expanding its activities into big cities including Kabul the capital. Pakistan has consistently denied this even after the leader of Al-Aaeda was located and annihilated by the US deep under the nose of the Pakistani military.

But all of that is now what history has recorded and would remember. What is important is that the second Bonn Meeting on Afghanistan should also remember it. It should also take note of the long war, its inability to achieve its goals, its cost in money and lives and its futility as a means for progress and prosperity in Afghanistan. It should also remember that the war and the democracy brought into Afghanistan have alienated the people because war has claimed thousands upon thousands of innocent civilian lives and government is looked upon as an enemy by the man on the street, because of the level of corruption, the government’s inability to establish security and a general paralysis of the justice system in the country as a whole.

The meeting’s agenda therefore should not only include the cliché presentation of a government report on its achievements as seen by the bureaucrats, achievements that have mostly been on paper, but it should emphasize its failures and the reasons thereof in favor of finding realistic solutions to it. The meeting should consider streamlining of aid to Afghanistan that would be transparent, accountable and used on projects which would have measureable goals and strict implementation time and clear cut ending. It should focus also on remedies for corruption and ways to bring about security. It should furthermore concentrate on bringing about a functioning justice system where crime has the same name and application for the ordinary citizens as for people in power and warlords. It should focus as well on improving and overhauling of governance especially considering that President Karzai’s term is nearing an end and that there are many who are looking forward to a new administration that would be more active and aggressive that would be able to carry out the task of running an effective government and standing up to the warlords in the country taming their illegal power and influence. It should pave the way to bring to justice all cases of war crimes irrespective of who committed them and how powerful the criminals are. It should think of a system to question financial irregularities committed by known individuals who suddenly became billionaires in Afghanistan. These actions would then bring the people closer to the government and would drive them further away from insurgency, from Taliban. It should also pen a plan for an Afghanistan after international forces leave the country. This may include recognition of Afghanistan as a sovereign state whose government is truly national and not a puppet in the hands of big brother forces of the world. It should discuss the issue of Afghan soil not to be used by foreign, local, regional or international countries for purposes of war or war-related objectives. It should consider making Afghanistan a truly peaceful country where foreign interference of any kind is prohibited and guaranteed by the United Nations. Peaceful and lawful foreign investment in Afghanistan’s abundant mineral resources and establishing of industrial projects by international investors should be encouraged. The Bonn Meeting should provide for bringing the people closer to their government. It should focus more on a true rebuilding and reconstruction project for the country that would improve the lot of the ordinary citizens. It should consider ways to tame the unchecked power of the warlords in the country. All of the above seem to be possible only if the international community truly stand by the side of the people of Afghanistan. 9/25/2011