The Counselor of the State Department
Published 23 Dec 2016
Table of content
Afghanistan is, according to most sources, one of the most important strategic locations in the world. Indeed, from a geopolitical point of view, it plays an essential role in the global fight against terrorism. However, following the Bonn Agreements, if has constantly failed to provide itself and the Afghan population with a stable security environment. This is rather visible in the volatile security balance that exists in the capital Kabul and throughout the country. The reasons for the current situation can be identified in the weak system of institutions as well as in the overall confusing situation on the political arena.
The US, along with the international community is directly interested in promoting the support for a democratic, stabile, and secure Afghanistan. This is why the situation in the field must be thoroughly analyzed and dealt with having in mind the underlying factors that determine or which fail to stop this security vacuum. From this point of view, there are a number of policy directions that have to be focused on helping the government to strengthen the legitimacy of its actions that will subsequently lead to a more stable security situation in the country and a greater degree of reliance on Afghanistan for the international community.
Following the fall of the Taliban regime in November 2001, Afghanistan was freed from the oppressive and authoritarian rule that had dominated the political system for decades. Still, the power vacuum that resulted from this led to a very serious security issue that affects not only the country and its internal organization but also the international community as well, seeing that it relies on the support of the eventual Afghan government in the fight against Osama bin Laden and the global war on terrorism.
From this point of view, the current report seeks to identify the sources of this state of instability and the possible measures the international community and the US in particular can take in order to improve the record of the national government and to help it gain the legitimate authority needed to establish order in the country. The current security crisis is deeply connected with the lack of power of the government that is seen in different aspects of the society. There is the failure to set a democratic tradition in the political system, a state of physical insecurity caused by the different guerilla troops and paramilitary organizations active throughout the country, the drug trafficking and the overall social conflicts present in the Afghan society.
All these are strictly related to the inability of the central government and the authorities to deal with the complex situation present in Afghanistan. The US must focus on encouraging Afghan efforts through financial, military, political aid, on the one hand; on the other hand, it must strengthen the support of the international community for the Afghan government, both politically, and financially in order to offer it an international legitimate basis that would contribute to the recognition of its authority inside the national borders.
Lack of democratic tradition.
The capturing of Kabul by the Northern Alliance in mid November 2001 eventually led to the organization of the Bonn Conference which represented the international setting for the establishment of a political road map which for “achieving peace and security, reestablishing key institutions, and reconstructing the country”. The system set in place envisaged the creation of a Temporary Authority, followed by a Transitory Authority and in the end by the establishment of a national and democratic government. However, the transition was not a smooth one due to the lack of democratic practice that characterized the political scene.
Thus, although the US and its allies tried to approach the issue of democracy in a different way from previous nation building attempts, they failed to take into account the ethnic clashes that took control of the political debates in the society. Therefore, the differences between the Pashtuns, the Talibans, the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazars all proved essential to the eventual formation of a national assembly. Although elections did take place, they were unrepresentative for the democratic trend needed for Afghanistan.
In trying to help improve the situation, the US and the international community must clearly support a process of ethnic reconciliation, while ensuring that democracy is promoted inside the elective institutions. This may prove to be essential for the future development of the civic spirit because it would offer the population a sense of participatory action that would eventually lead to a reconsideration of the government’s role in supporting the transition to a democratic system and a more stable security environment.
Lack of on the ground security.
The presence of the international forces is widely regarded as being rather positive for the reconstruction of the country, especially by the population. Still, extremist factions are often at the heart of suicide bomber attacks on humanitarian aid workers or international organizations’ officials. These violent manifestations are a clear example of the security chaos present in the country but at the same time of the impossibility of the national government to impose the rule of law and order throughout. This is largely caused by the split between the political elements that make up the authorities, as well as by the failure to construct a solid legitimate basis for its decisions and actions.
The support of the international community and of the US is of great importance. Special attention must be given to the further training of military forces in order to ensure a reliable source of stability in case of armed rioting. In addition, the paramilitary forces are seen as an important disturbing element for the creation of a secure environment. Therefore, disarmament and the demilitarization of different key areas is important for destroying the possible sources of insurgency. Nonetheless, there is an important aspect to be taken into consideration. Although the assistance of the international force is essential for the development of these security forces, their public profile must be relatively modest, taking into account the fact that it is the national government that must ultimately build on this influx of legitimacy.
“In 2002, Afghanistan returned to its position as the world’s foremost producer of heroin. The 2002 crop reached an estimated 3,400 mt., a 540% increase on the yield for 2001 and significantly higher than the 1,900-2,700 mt. earlier predicted for 2002″. Even more, according to UN statistics the situation in Afghanistan concerning drug trafficking is rather grim. Despite the fact that the Interim Authority tried to impose certain restrictions on poppy cultivation, due to the lack of authority in the face of the drug lord, these measures remained unsuccessful. In turn, these continuous tensions between the authorities and the drug lords have as consequence the weakening of the position of the government in relation to such outlawed groups. In turn, they end up challenging the state authority creating chaos around the country.
The US must pay additional attention to this type of issue because, seeing the main role Afghanistan plays in the drug trafficking circuit, the negative evolution of the situation in the country would clearly affect the ongoing fight against drugs going on in the US. This is why it is important for the international community to support the initiatives of the afghan government in professionally training the police force in dealing with the tactics of drug dealers and in discovering and destroying drug networks. At the same time however, the government in Afghanistan needs to benefit from the cooperation of its neighboring countries as well, especially taking into consideration the transnational nature of drug trafficking.
Consequently, the US has the influential power and ability to rally support from countries such as Pakistan, in the name of the Afghan state. In terms of the relationship with Pakistan, the US can broker to a certain extent a proper relation between the two neighbors, which would offer the possibility of improving external relations and a reconfiguration of ties with the Taliban side in Afghanistan, due to the past involvement of Pakistan with the Taliban regime.
Although the Afghan society is considered, at least in theory, to be democratic, ethnic and social conflicts persist and undermine the authority of the central government. This is largely because the society continues to be strongly pided along ethnic lines and relies mostly on the power of provincial strongholds.The segmentation of the society is dangerous for the attempts to construct a national identity. this is why it is important for the government to take the necessary steps in order to bring together the disparate groups and try to form the nucleus of a strong civil force, one that would eventually stand against the future attempts of violent actions.
The situation is Afghanistan is a rather sensitive issue for the international community and world politics. Therefore, it is important to act precautionary and focus on the major elements that prevent the government to create a stabile security environment. Consequently, actions should focus on:
- Supporting the democratic process and the initiatives of the government to establish a reconciliatory mood inside different factions of the political spectrum
- Improve the capabilities of the national security forces in order to contribute to the creation of a safer environment
- Support transnational initiatives in the fight against drug trafficking
- Support the government’s initiative for more involvement in local activities in order to bring together different social groups.
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