Malalai Joya, one
of about 100 newly elected female Members of Afghan Parliament
Unlikely to Control or Confront New Parliament
October 12: On October 3, a crowd of a least 5,000 Afghanis gathered
in Kabul to protest the murder of a prominent parliamentary candidate
and demanded the resignation of powerful warlord General Atta
Mohammed, a provincial governor.
a few days earlier, Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, one of
President Hamid Karzai's closest aides – highly respected
for his honesty and desire for radical reforms – resigned,
in what his friends say is a mood of "anger and frustration."
faces challenges both from the Afghan people and from elites within
his own government. Clearly, though Afghanistan's parliamentary
elections have concluded, the hard part is yet to come. At least
1200 people have been killed this year in Taliban-related violence,
and the presidential and parliamentary elections cost the international
community nearly US$300 million. Both the international community
and the Karzai administration now face the challenges of building
stable, functioning state machinery and infrastructure, while
fighting off a Taliban insurgency, warlordism, drug trafficking,
of this agenda has been accomplished in the four years following
the defeat of the Taliban. And now the two components essential
to success – the Western alliance (the US-led coalition,
NATO, and international aid donors) and the Karzai government
– appear to be faltering even as a resurgent Taliban escalate
days after the September 18 elections for a new parliament and
34 provincial councils, Karzai proudly told reporters that Afghanistan,
"now has a constitution, a president, a parliament, and a
nation fully participating in its destiny." However, he has
failed to ensure that the political architecture, constructed
at enormous loss of life and expense, matches reforms on the ground.
low voter turnout showed growing public disillusionment with the
government and the slow pace of reforms. Compared to the 70 percent
of votes cast in the presidential elections a year ago, only 53
percent turned out for the parliamentary elections. In Kabul,
the most politicized city in the nation, the turnout was only
the Taliban insurgency demonstrated its staying power by an unusual
and devastating urban attack, when on September 28, a suicide
bomber killed nine Afghan soldiers and wounded 36 outside a military
training center in Kabul. Afghans, including Karzai, are deeply
frustrated that the Taliban leadership continues to live and operate
current situation differs drastically from the hopes and visions
for Afghanistan a year ago. After the presidential elections,
Karzai promised to use the coming 12 months to carry out a vigorous
reform agenda that would change Afghanistan from the bottom up.
Instead, through his actions – and more importantly, inaction
– he has wasted the past year.
the support of the US embassy and the United Nations, Karzai abandoned
the reform agenda in favor of maintaining the status quo and his
own power. Afghanistan has never had a strong central government,
and only now has Karzai managed to extend the government's writ
to provinces beyond the center. Still, an enormous amount of crucial
legislation (to encourage local and foreign investment, set up
state institutions, establish a modern judiciary, and so on) has
not been carried out.
by their leader's pledge to enforce accountability for the massive
human rights violations committed by warlords over the past 25
years, Afghans expected that he would continue a vigorous campaign
against them. Instead, warlords have only been reshuffled among
top cabinet or provincial jobs. Not a single drug baron –
many of whom are well-known warlords, cabinet ministers, and commanders
– has been ousted or convicted.
the initial election results indicate that the warlords and their
supporters will dominate the future parliament. They will block
every reform agenda Karzai may want to make and demand he retire
progressives in the cabinet and install their own nominees. Instead
of spurring on development goals and reconstruction, the parliament
will likely become a major hindrance for both.
Karzai's refusal to allow a party political system to flourish
before the elections – a hallmark of any serious democracy
– will also allow individual warlords to exert unnecessary
influence. An indecisive man at the best of times, Karzai is unlikely
to either control or confront the new parliament. Karzai believes
that political parties were responsible for destroying Afghanistan
in the past and that he can control parliament through one-on-one
meetings with representatives.
things look bleak within Afghanistan, Western countries are showing
signs of wanting to back off just when they are needed the most.
"The need for the international community to have a commitment
here and patience is absolutely essential," said Lt. Gen.
Karl Eikenberry, the head of US forces in Afghanistan.
United States, however, may be decreasing its commitment. US Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld indicated his desire to see up to a
quarter of the 18,000-strong US forces out of Afghanistan by next
spring, to be replaced by NATO troops. Further, battered by the
insurgency in Iraq, the hurricane in Louisiana, and historically
low poll ratings, President George W. Bush is desperate to show
the American people a success story in the war against terrorism
and also bring some troops home from somewhere.
call for the US-led coalition fighting the Taliban and the separate
NATO-led peace-keeping force to merge in the spring of 2006. But
major NATO countries, including France, Spain, and Germany, are
resisting the merger or refusing to take part in counter-insurgency
fighting. Other European members are refusing to commit more troops
to Afghanistan – even in a peace-keeping mode.
international donor community is faltering in its commitment to
provide sufficient aid for reconstructing the country so that
a self-sustaining economy can emerge. Western donors have committed
on average about US$2.5 billion every year for the past four years
for reconstruction, but less than half that money has actually
been disbursed. Four years on, not a single new dam, power station,
or major water system has been built. Afghanistan remains the
third poorest country in the world.
Western donors are also financing the training of an Afghan army,
police, justice system, and bureaucracy, the process is too slow
and funds are inadequate. Jean Arnault, the UN s envoy to Afghanistan
says the Afghan people "were exasperated" over the inability
of the bureaucracy and the judiciary to function as it should.
faced bigger problems in 2001, but had always sided with the public's
desire for change, reform, and an end to past abuses. Now, after
four years and little change in their lives, people are becoming
frustrated. Karzai seems to be acting against the people's wishes
by retaining warlords, refusing to allow parties, or carrying
out accountability. However, he still has the time to rediscover
his vision for the nation.
political system will not succeed without steady and substantial
assistance from the international community over the long term.
Ultimately, only a renewed Western commitment – not a withdrawal
– will give the Afghans the confidence to tackle their monumental
problems. It will continue to take two hands to clap in order
to rebuild Afghanistan.
writer is the author of best-selling book 'Taliban and Jihad'
and is a correspondent for The Daily Telegraph for Pakistan, Central
Asia and Afghanistan. Courtesy, YaleGlobal Online. Rights: ©
2005 Yale Center for the Study of Globalization