Few suggestions for Afghanistan

Posted in Afghanistan | 26-Aug-08 | Author: Imran Khan

An Afghan soldier guards a checkpoint in Kabul.

In Afghanistan there has been a dramatic increase in violence in last few months. Western troop casualties are climbing; the last two months exceeded the monthly death toll in Iraq. In June Taliban staged a spectacular jailbreak in Kandahar that freed hundreds of suspected collaborators. A suicide bombing outside the Indian embassy on July 7 killed 40 and on July 13, nine U.S. soldiers were killed – the worst attack in three years - when Taliban fighters attacked their base in the eastern province of Kunar. 10 French soldiers were killed and 21 injured on 18th August in the deadliest ground fighting for the foreign forces since the 2001. Eight foreign soldiers including three Poles and three Canadians died in various incidents on 20th August, most of them in bomb strikes.

Foreign forces in Afghanistan now total around 72,000 ( 53,000 NATO + 19, 000 US troops). There are 63,000 Afghan soldiers and 79,000 Afghan police officers.

That makes a total of some 214,000 foreign and Afghan security personnel. And comparing it with few thousands Taliban fighters, they make no match for the numbers of security personnel available in Afghanistan. Still thousands of more US and other NATO soldiers would be reaching Afghanistan in coming months.

So there is no shortage of military might in Afghanistan but still we can see that with the passage of time Taliban are becoming stronger and stronger.

When we talk about economic assistance, until now over 15 Billion US $ have been disbursed in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban regime was toppled. At a June conference in Paris, Western governments committed an additional $20 billion in aid. All in the hope to make Afghanistan a successful and Taliban free country.

So there is no shortage also in terms of economic aid from International community.

But still we can see that Afghanistan produces 92% of the world's opium (used to make heroin). Corruption prevails at highest-levels and Transparency International's corruption Index has ranked Afghanistan at 172 out of 179.

Despite massive Western investment and presence of strong foreign force - Taliban insurgency, narcotics, corruption, absence of law and order, distrust of Afghan people on their government- Afghanistan is considered to be close to loose all the gains it made since 2001.

It also clearly shows that military might or huge economic aid can not solve the problems alone.

When it comes to growing Taliban activates, Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai takes the familiar stance of putting all the blame on Pakistan. When in reality insurgency from Tribal areas of Pakistan is a part of problem but certainly it is not the only issue which needs a solution. Why Taliban are active even areas far away from Pakistani borders? In fact Local Afghans in many areas are joining them.

And when it comes to growing narcotics and corruption in the country, Aghan president would blame the West for his problems. recently Mr. Thomas Schweich, former United States top counter-narcotics officer in Afghanistan has accused Mr. Karazi for providing direct help to the drug traffickers for political gains. Even his own brother, who is representative of southern Afghanistan in Kandahar province, is accused for involvement in drug trade. And Mr. Karzai always asks for more and more money from West.

In Afghanistan money is not a solution for many problems. Mismanagement, corruption, abuse of power are the main problems and can be solved without it. I have few suggestions to make Afghanistan a better place.

1) Local / Village Councils. Afghanistan is a democracy, people have elected their representatives for National Assembly and each province has a governor, so what is meant by local / Village Council?

In countries like Afghanistan, unfortunately there is a big economic gap among people. A poor man (majority of Afghans) would not even make 1 US$ a day but there are persons who would be enjoying with all the luxuries of the life. Normally the people who have all the things would be elected as governors and members of assembly (One can check it easily). So like their income gap, a physical and communication gap is always there. These persons usually reach to the common people on the days of elections only otherwise the gap is always intact.

So there is a great need to end this gap by not only hearing the people but their effective contribution is also required. This can be achieved if the system of democracy may be brought to the lowest levels in villages / localities also. Advisory boards (councils) could be formed in villages, representing not only the chief, rich and elders of the villages but randomly selected common villagers / locals (for a certain time period like 3 to 6 months, so others would take their term on time) and they meet regularly (like fortnightly) to discuss the issues relating to their area and try to reach for solutions. In a country where corruption is at highest-levels and people becoming hesitant to trust the system, once it starts working properly, it will bring back the faith of the people in the government and as they would be a part of the process they will effectively contribute in the nation building.

2) Speedy Justice:- Provision of speedy justice to the people has been one of the most important slogan of Taliban. Whenever / wherever they have chance they will punish criminals and when the government's justice system working poorly, it certainly attracts people to join their ranks. Modern justice systems working well in many countries but following the same in Afghanistan does not mean any easy success. It will take a long time to make that system working effectively but till then traditional values must not be ignored. Local / village councils (as discussed above) could play an important role in that and through open courts (jirga system) criminals could be prosecuted in front of the people. Open proceedings would bring fewer chances of corruptions in Judiciary and bring people's faith back to it.

3) Accountability. Power without accountability is one the main cause of high level corruption in many developing countries of the world including Afghanistan. Certainly in a war torn county it can never be easy to make a proper check and balance system in government organization and it would take time and hard work to achieve that important goal. But when corruption is destroying so much, Afghans could not sit still and wait for the system's improvement.

One effective way to check the performance of government servants is that high ups (both political leadership and top bureaucracy) just not remain only up to receiving all Ok reports from them but must get out from their luxurious / protected offices and see / judge things with their own eyes. If they are frequently mobilized, it will certainly put pressure on public servants to work well.

4) Adult Literacy Programs:- There has been good progress in education sector in Afghanistan and millions of children have been educated since 2001. But in a country which is under consistent Wars from last 3 decades, the number of un-educated adult persons make majority of the population. So there is a need for their education also. If militants can motivate people to join their ranks in the name of Islam, than why they can not be motivated to work for their own country? It is possible through education and it will bring some good results for future.

5) Ulama's (religious scholars) participation:- Ulamas get education from Madrassas (religious seminaries) but all are not militants. So every Alim (religious scholar) must not be labeled as friends of Taliban.

In a religious country like Afghanistan, Ulama hold a key position in formation of society, so one must never ignore their importance. Ulama can tell the people about government's good decisions for the people and it will certainly help to make the situation better.

6) Less foreign involvement:- Afghanistan government must take serious steps to be more visible in the country than the international presence. When Taliban raise the slogan of foreign occupation of Afghanistan, it can only be countered if the government is more active in doing things rather than relaying on foreign assistance always. And all the things mentioned above can be achieved easily by the Afghan government. If there is any change in Afghanistan than it will come within the country, so international community must push Afghan government to do more.

Western powers must also tell afghan president to stop his blame game and show the concrete efforts on fight against corruption and narcotics also.

There could be many theories and plans to make Afghanistan a better place but in the end it all depends on the will and sincerity of the government to make a real difference. Taliban are getting stronger because people are joining them and once it stops, Taliban will loose the war. But people will only stop joining Taliban if the government works for their welfare and provide them justice. Only symbolic gestures and fooling the world will never achieve any things and recent deteriorated situation in the country clearly indicate it.