I Am Worried About Afghanistan

By: Dr. G R Roashan
Should one be worried about Afghanistan’s situation beyond 2014? Why and why not? These are some interesting questions that need more than a commentary to explain. However this paper scratches the surface of the problems the country might face.

I am worried about Afghanistan. President Karzai of Afghanistan is not. He has his reasons. I have mine.
Why he is not worried? First let us have a look at his stand:  There are many reasons for him not to worry. Effective mid 2013 foreign forces would start leaving his country. He would then, for a brief period until 2014 and for the first time be the sole commander in chief of the Afghan military and police forces and would not share military power with foreign commanders. He thinks and has said so several times that Afghanistan would be able to take care of its own security when foreign forces leave. Although many know that the US military would not leave but would keep a presence in accordance with the strategic agreement signed between the US and Afghanistan. Perhaps, on purpose, there has not been a decision on the exact number and locations of the US forces that would stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Mr. Karzai is not worried about the future of Afghanistan after 2014 because he cannot be there as the president and would have not much to do with Afghan politics as the constitution does not allow him a third term in office. One thing he would do then, whether inside the country or in a foreign land, would be to have a glance back at his legacy as president of Afghanistan. Many believe that what he would see there would not be attractive because of the drastic failures of his long term as the Afghan leader. He would realize that over a period of more than a decade and with billions of dollars that flowed into his country not much was achieved with regard to governance, economic development and social welfare. But perhaps he would not worry about that at this time.
He is not worried about Afghanistan because of his wrong conception that the country is now on the right track. Well, it is not and he has admitted several times that problems of security, corruption and governance are there but that his government is on top of the situation. Well it is not.
He is not worried about Afghanistan because he thinks that as he is aware of the interference of some of Afghanistan’s neighbors in the affairs of his country the interferences would not harm the country. At one time, addressing a youth congress in Kabul he said if we could, we would also interfere in the affairs of Iran, Pakistan and even the United States trying to bring about a government in these countries that would uphold the interests of Afghanistan. But such a conditional statement would definitely remain wishful thinking on his part and that foreign interference would continue to disrupt social and political progress in Afghanistan unless effective solutions are found to the problem.
Furthermore he now has more reasons not to worry because the Tokyo conference on Afghanistan sent him home with a promise of 16 billion Dollars in aid beyond 2014. But this time the aid was conditioned to elimination of corruption and presenting of a clear plan of action for spending the money on priority programs. Mr. Karzai may think that this time too, he could present a haphazard working paper to the world community much like the “Afghanistan Compact” and that would be it.
Another reason and a good one is that the US and the West in general look at the strategic importance of Afghanistan as an issue of their interest. Afghanistan can be the gateway to trade with Central Asian republics and a crossroads for transportation of energy and other resources from north to south and vice versa. Afghanistan’s location also provides her with an unparalleled strategic importance in that she is a neighbor to Iran and China, close to India and borders with Central Asia. Therefore too, Karzai is not worried about Afghanistan beyond 2014.
On the other hand, I am concerned and worried about Afghanistan. Minor achievements in the way of establishment of democratic institutions have been in form only and the institutions have drastically failed to perform.  Security is illusive; the enemies to progress and democracy are still on the loose. However his perspective has not considered what people outside his presidential palace at the heart of Kabul think and know.  His perspective does not consider the failures and in some fields drastic ones of his administration in improving the lot of the Afghan citizens. Let us touch on some of these difficulties:
Afghanistan would have to face great tests in handling the situation beyond 2014. The challenges include political, military, and social and economic issues. Let us have a quick look at some of these:
1.       Political Issues:  Karzai’s term in office would end. His legacy would show that his troubled term in office while, on the surface, scored some successes in the form of initial steps toward democratization was not able to achieve definitive successes. It failed to bring the government closer to the people, maintain peace and security or provide for a balanced social and economic development in the country. Above all these problems, the issue of corruption gnawed the surface and cut deeply into the matrix of the society. It slithered from top to bottom and from bottom to top of the administration. Warlordism was not only accepted by Karzai’s administration but it was respected and even promoted. Warlords continued to hold positions of power in his administration as well as provincial organizations. Some governors continued to act as local royalty paying almost no respect to Karzai’s central administration. The democratic institutions were occupied by warlords and corrupt officials. Warlords and some members of the legislature continue to keep armed militias that have fought time and again against national security forces under the pretense of doing their job as body guards.
2.      Problems with democracy: This resulted in the drastic ineffectiveness of the democratic foundation. All three branches of government that were put in place with great expectations failed drastically in performance. The administration failed to maintain a balance in filling central government positions among Afghanistan’s many ethnic groupings as a result of which many of these positions were either taken up or given to those with affiliations with warlords. Women’s lots did not improve as much as was expected from a democratic system.
3.       Militarily, problems continued to exist. The Afghan military depended on funds it received mostly from the United States. It was and still is a question in the minds of many whether the military should remain loyal to the national government or to the US? Afghanistan was suddenly found to be a country that was full of army generals. Generals that had not gone through military education, nor did they have any credentials beyond affiliation to warlords and the so-called mujahidin groupings. People have anecdotes of some of these generals who wore uniforms of sorts with sandals instead of army shoes or boots. And also it should be noted that many belong to minority movements. And now that the parliament has withdrawn its confidence to two major security related ministers namely the minister of defense and the minister of interior the situation has deteriorated further. This is not as if the two were faultless members of Karzai’s cabinet, but because of the timing of the decision in relation to the preparation for withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
4.      In Afghanistan today there are a handful of warlords who have accumulated vast amounts of wealth and therefore run fiefdoms of sorts. Majority of the population suffer economically and are deprived from basic amenities. Many are hungry and diseased and unemployment is reaching the skies.
There are many other reasons why I am worried about Afghanistan. Only naming some of them would prolong this paper into a white paper. Just citing examples of this would include the next leader who would replace Karzai. Would he be a warlord? Would he be a so-called mujahid? Would he be a foreign puppet or a militia leader? What would his national and international policies entail?
Even today there are many questions that do not receive adequate responses regarding the social situations in Afghanistan? The many warlords who are now in power have also become millionaires. They live in palaces. How did they do this in a short period of Afghanistan’s fight against Soviet invaders? Were they fighting or accumulating wealth? What has the government done regarding bringing of criminals of war to justice?
It is therefore that I am worried about Afghanistan today.08/07/2012