Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Taliban’s Domestic Fantasy

Media punditry after Taliban confirmation of opening a “political office” in Qatar paints the future of a political settlement for the end of conflict in Afghanistan very optimistically. After years of denial and doubts when the idea of negotiations with the Taliban were proposed seriously for the first time, it is indeed a major development that two parties to the conflict: the United States and Taliban militants have put aside their preconditions of talks such as complete disassociation from Al-Qaeda and acceptance of the Afghan constitution and on the Taliban part, full withdrawal of all foreign troops. However, there are many problems which, if not dealt properly, can end all the excitement of a political settlement into the last abyss of uncertainty and eventual descent into chaos for Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says it loud in his media statements that militants do not consider the Afghan Government as a party to the talks, let alone the current political opposition who are mainly the prominent and fiercest rivals of the Taliban. Optimists might say that these are initial game of words and will change when militants have a proper “address” in Doha, and responsible figures sitting there to talk to. As I have always said on these pages, the biggest problem of the conflict in Afghanistan when it comes to a political settlement will not be external, but rather internal factors and domestic stakeholders.

Whatever reasons have caused the positive change in thinking of the Taliban leadership to agree on direct talks with the US, it shows their extreme political immaturity still persistent to ignore the fact that Taliban have more serious problems of acceptability within Afghan society than with the international community.

Long before there were any foreign troops in Afghanistan, Taliban could not reach to an understanding with any faction of the forces resisting them, among whom the former Northern Alliance was prominent. Were they politically mature enough, the Taliban leader Mullah Omar could avoid the bloodshed at the peak of their victory in Afghanistan, when they controlled over 80 percent of the country, and the forces resisting them either retreated outside or fought to their last bullet and drop of blood, but could not, despite attempts, come to an understanding of the sort of political deal.

Today Taliban have the same mentality. In his statement, Taliban spokesman say Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban shadow government and the United States are only parties to the talks. The biggest problem is this mindset of the Taliban leadership with the fantasy that most people of Afghanistan support their brand of Sharia and extremist political ideology. They might enjoy some grassroots support in some insurgent-controlled parts of the country in South, but they will always be unacceptable for majority of the population in Afghanistan with their brutal ideology and Islamo-fascist mindset. If they are not naïve, and the change of mind for talks with Americans is an honest move, the Taliban leadership have to be open and transparent about the process. They have to consider the fact that they have been resisted in the past and will be fiercely resisted in future, if a political settlement of the US and NATO withdrawal narrative is imposed on us with current mindset of the Taliban.

The strategy of Obama Administration towards a political settlement has cracks in its very fundamental approach to ignore the fact that Taliban have more internal problems in Afghanistan than with international community.

Media leaks in Washington suggest that the White House has decided, on the Taliban demand, to release five notorious former Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay. In the first detailed media report about how western diplomats contacted with Taliban, the German Der Spiegel says Tayeb Agha, the secretary of Mullah Omar was taken to Munich from Qatar on a Falcon 900EX aircraft of German Foreign Intelligence BND in November 2010. The report further says the first deal towards opening of a Taliban office in Qatar include release of Bergdahl, an American soldier kidnapped by the Taliban in June 2009 from Paktika, to be exchanged for those five commanders from Guantanamo.

The release might take time in a long process of approval from the US Congress, but the reports suggest Obama Administration’s approach has no red lines or any principles of accountability and transparency. They will be releasing those notorious Taliban commanders who are wanted by the UN for war crimes.

All of the five commanders were in contact and cooperation with Al-Qaeda. One of them is Mullah Fazl, former Taliban Chief of Army and Deputy Defense Minister who is responsible for massacres of thousands of civilians in Mazar, Bamyan and Yakawlang from 1998 to 2001.

According to the Guantanamo files of detainees released by Wikileaks, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Taliban deputy minister of intelligence, “utilized his office to support Al-Qaeda…and arranged for Al-Qaeda personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff.” Another prisoner is Mullah Noorullah Noori, former Taliban Governor-General of Northern Zone. He is wanted by the UN for war crimes. The Wikileaks file says, he is “associated with members of al-Qaida.”

When these commanders will be released in a murky process, the exclusive approach of the Obama Administration will provoke the Afghan groups who fiercely resisted Taliban and oppose their extremist ideology today, to start preparing for worst days to come. Last week three prominent figures of former Northern Alliance in a meeting with some US congressmen in Berlin expressed these concerns openly to the international community.

On the other hand, President Karzai also needs to avoid overreaction. His order to transfer control of the Bagram Prison from international troops to Afghan officials is an attempt to create influence cards in the process of talks with Taliban. Many Taliban prisoners are in Bagram, and believing to have been left out, President Karzai has ordered transfer of the control of Bagram prison to be in position of influence against the Taliban. If the Taliban are honest about negotiations, President Karzai should avoid muddying the waters with reactionary moves. However, at the end of the day, most important is that Taliban realize and admit the fact that they have more internal problems than with external actors.

Meanwhile, there has been a mysterious silence from Pakistan. Analysts speculate ISI’s approval of the talks saying that there have not been any attempts to stop Tayeb Agha from meeting American officials in Germany and Qatar. The best that Afghans can expect of Pakistan is that Islamabad does not interfere in this process. Their support for the Taliban and prior interference during the civil war and Jihad against Soviet Union in Afghanistan has doomed us to the current situation for the last three decades. Now it’s time they keep away and let us resolve our conflicts.

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Blunders to be Undone

my Outlook Afghanistan op-ed Dec 13

Five months ago when the first preparatory meeting for Bonn II was held in Kabul under the auspicious of International Contact Group, I wrote on this page that there were no expectations of a breakthrough in the peace and reconciliation process. It was what organizers of the conference initially aimed all about to achieve on the 10th anniversary of the Bonn Conference of 2001 that established the Transitional Authority in Afghanistan and the set up later.

There was one big mistake at the time—absence of the Taliban on the table. The international community and the Karzai Administration tried to undo this mistake after 10 years again in Bonn, but despite all-out efforts, they could not make the least of progress on it.

Rather serious blunders were made, once again. For instance, the Afghan delegation was a Government delegation, completely bypassing the political opposition forces—none from the three strong opposition blocks Hope & Change, National Front and Right & Justice Party were invited.

They invited former Taliban figures such as Mutawakel and Hakim Mujahid for the sideline meetings. Whom the international community want to satisfy with such moves? Their media? These former Taliban are now Government’s Taliban of name. They no more represent or have any contact with the insurgency’s leadership based in Quetta and Karachi. It’s waste of time to engage with them. Militants say they will not talk to and through the Afghan Government, but Karzai Administration has been ineffectively trying with the mantra of “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-owned” peace process. This was even added as primary principle for peace talks and reconciliation process in the final communiqué of the Bonn Conference.

Seeing the result of three years of efforts so far, it is unlikely that the Afghan Government will succeed in the reconciliation process prior to NATO withdrawal in 2014. They are yet confused what to call it, “peace talks”, “reconciliation” or “political settlement”?

Since his second term in Arg, President Karzai—whose administration faces serious lack of political mandate and credibility compared to the political popularity after the first Bonn Conference in 2001—has made all-out efforts in this confused process of peacemaking with insurgents under different official programs of reconciliation and reintegration.

We have witnessed that so far nothing has come out of the efforts of Karzai Administration other than a shameful incident when a Taliban imposter and shopkeeper from Quetta deceived the entire intelligence apparatus of the Government taking handsome amount of money back to Quetta. The second blow was recently when a suicide bomber assassinated Ustad Rabbani . President Karzai has only read Fatihas for the martyred Ustad Rabbani on each official political occasions, no initial progress is made in the investigation. The delegation, who were denied visas for Pakistan, could finally go to Islamabad after Turkey persuaded Pakistan to cooperate on this in the Istanbul Summit.

After the tragic assassination of Professor Rabbani, President Karzai announced to halt the “process of talks” with the Taliban. Karzai admitted for the first time that all his efforts had failed and that Taliban had no address. But he changed mind quickly, without any clear vision of direction. The Traditional Loya Jirga of his hand-picked “elders” was staged and asked for “advice” on talks with the Taliban.

The Government has not the capacity and political mandate to be able to succeed in the peace process. The last three years have been ultimate failure. But unfortunately the international community has decided to ignore this. The Bonn Conference should have discussed a UN-led peace process involving regional countries and international stake holders which could be effective, transparent and dynamic.

The Bonn communiqué included nothing significant to undo the mistakes of last 10 years. It once again reiterated the uncertain assurances of the international community to continue supporting Afghanistan from a period of Transition to Transformation Decade of 2015-2025, but not discussed the reasons of slow progress and failure in many areas.

There is an increasing perception in the western media that the military operations have been complete failure. Analysts such as Ahmed Rashid advocate for talks. That has been what the Karzai Administration has desperately tried to do in the last three years, but failed.

The political system and civilian government is a measuring parallel for the success of military operations in Afghanistan. The Administration in Kabul has not only disappointed Afghans, but failed the entire efforts of the international community. The root cause is in the system which was imposed by the international community in Afghanistan focusing on individuals rather than institutions. The Bonn communiqué mentioned the following;

Afghanistan reaffirms that the future of its political system will continue to reflect its pluralistic society and remain firmly founded on the Afghan Constitution.

It was enforced by President Karzai in retaliation to the increasing demand for change in the system. A strongly centralized system of Government has been against the nature of Afghanistan’s political and social order.

During the last 70-80 unstable years of Afghanistan’s history, all regimes and ideologies that tried to impose a highly centralized system, contributed to instability. For turning the international efforts into quantum success before the withdrawal, it is important to bring fundamental changes in the whole system in Afghanistan.

Even analysts like Ahmed Rashid have started realizing this. In his latest article on the Financial Times mentioning the increasing demands for change in the system from a presidential to parliamentary form of government, he says, “these demands come from important segments of all ethnic groups and need to be addressed by the government and the foreign powers before they leave. Failure to do so could lead to civil war.”

I believe unless there are radical changes in our constitution before the international community leaves, Afghanistan will not be on path of stability. We need rapid institutional decentralization of power and change of system from highly centralized presidential to a federal parliamentary government. We need reforms in electoral system, judicial sector and much more. This could be the only recipe for the Taliban peace process, reconciliation or political settlement whatever you name.

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Ally or not Ally

Outlook Afghanistan op-ed Dec 01

The US-Pakistan relations seem to be well on its way of eventual demise after an ISAF airstrike across the border that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last week. In reaction, Pakistan has blocked the NATO supply from Torkham and Chaman, asked the US to vacate the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan and announced to boycott the Bonn Conference next week.

Earlier in May when the SEALs killed Osama bin Ladin in military town of Abottabad, Pakistani officials demanded the US to vacate Shamsi, but this time with the deadline of December 11, the US is reportedly preparing to leave the base. CIA ran the drone operations from there targeting militants in the tribal areas. However, the base is no longer in use as it ceased in April, and the closure will not affect militarily.

Blockade of the NATO supply route might continue for weeks given the extreme Pakistani reaction. Currently, only 48 percent of NATO supplies come through Pakistan, and 52 percent through the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). The US plan is to transit 75 percent of all non-lethal supplies through the NDN. And 30 percent of the supplies, mostly lethal weapons, come by air through Pakistani airspace. They have not placed restrictions of overflights.

Prime Minister Gilani rejected a personal request by President Karzai in a phone call on Tuesday, saying if Afghanistan officially condemned the ISAF airstrike, Islamabad might reconsider the boycott decision on the Bonn II. There is a fuss about this boycott in the international media, calling it a blow to the entire process. The question is what if the ISAF strike had not happened and Pakistan was in Bonn? Would it make the chances of a breakthrough in the peace process with Taliban more plausible? Of course not! The fact that Pakistan has significant influence over the Taliban leaders makes it an important player in the process, but there was no progress in the US efforts to persuade Pakistani military in this regard. Both countries have contrary objectives for the endgame in Afghanistan. Pakistani military is against long-term presence of US troops beyond 2014, which will be approved in a US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, supported by a Traditional Loya Jirga recently.

Though reconciliation with the Taliban was high on the agenda of Bonn Conference, no breakthrough was expected. Pakistan’s support and cooperation is indeed vital, as the Afghan Government or the US cannot approach militant leaders who are hiding in Pakistan. Rawalpindi has significant influence on the Haqqani Network and Quetta Shura. But they have not indicated to cooperate on this, and mere participation in Bonn will not ensure that.

The conference is not a debate forum to last for days. Agenda and decisions are taken behind the scenes following the Istanbul Summit. Pakistan gains nothing by boycotting a German-hosted and Afghan-chaired conference attended by representatives of about 90 countries to make pledges on the arrangements of post-2014 Afghanistan. Pakistan would rather isolate itself further with this boycott. Instead they could use the forum to raise their concerns.

Let me come back to the airstrike that caused the final blow to a relations based on lies and deceit between two so-called allies. There are conflicting and disputed reports based on claims from both sides. Pakistani military say the airstrike was unprovoked. While ISAF and Afghan officials say they received fire from the Pakistani side first. If there was no firing from the Pakistani side of the border, either insurgents or from the check posts, it would be beyond understanding why Afghan and ISAF commandos would ask for air support. Pentagon has appointed an Air Force Brigadier to investigate the incident. ISAF has said all future engagements on Durand Line have to be approved from their Headquarters in Kabul.

But such incidents are inevitable in future if militant incursions continued from across the border. Militants come to fight in Afghanistan and when the US troops chase, they retreat on the other side. It’s a daily business for them to move back and forth on the border.

Top Pakistani military officials have said they have “no expectation” from the ISAF inquiry. And it is expected that Islamabad will make further blowing decisions to reduce cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan after a joint session of parliament.

Now what?

The closure of Shamsi airbase does not debilitate overall drone operations, as it is based in Afghanistan. It’s likely that the supply routes will be restored. But the US should now increase focus on the Northern Distribution Network.

It is time for the US and Pakistan to put the game of distrust and deceit aside, get honest to each other and put their options clear on the table. There are two scenarios. Pakistan might continue the supply blockade and cease the limited intelligence and military cooperation with NATO. And eventually reduce ties with the US. In this case, we should expect increased suicide bombings in Kabul, and mass incursions of militants from across the border. In scenario two, if the US does not get tough on Rawalpindi, it will be business as usual after more concessions to tone down their overreaction. Pakistani Defense Minister said yesterday the supply routes will be restored if NATO apologizes.

If Pakistan decides to officially uncover the reality of this relation and cease their limited cooperation in the war on terror, the US should stop the military aid—$20 billion since 2001–and strengthen civilian supremacy in Pakistan. A small part of the military aid that the US gives to Pakistan Army could raise a Special Border Force in Afghanistan enough to be deployed all over the Durand Line to fight militant incursions. If insurgents have no Jihadi recruits, and weapon supply from across the border, it will not take long to wipe out the terrorists.

The ‘peace plan’ suggested by Pakistani military for the endgame in Afghanistan is simply not acceptable for Afghans and the international community. They want a big share in power for Haqqanis and Quetta Shura saying militants represent Pashtuns. Pakistan’s main objective is full withdrawal of US troops. They are against the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership agreement that allows presence of US troops long beyond 2014. Pakistani military has its reasons. They fear US military intervention from Afghanistan against their nuclear capabilities.

It’s time for both countries to stop lies and deceit and decide they are allies or not. The US should ensure Pakistani military that their presence in Afghanistan is not a threat. Washington should offer Rawalpindi a vital role in the peace process with Taliban exclusive among the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan should persuade the Taliban to come to table talks and give up violence and help the US and Afghanistan to eliminate those who continue terror. Similarly, the US and Afghanistan should assure Pakistan about their legitimate security and strategic concerns on the endgame in Afghanistan. But for this, General Kayani would have to compromise his current ‘peace plan’.

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Violence Against Women in Afghanistan

Outlook Afghanistan op-ed

25th Nov is marked as the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women. The day was designated by a UN General Assembly resolution on December 17, 1999. It urged governments, international organizations to generate awareness among public and organize events. The day marks brutal assassination of three female political activists in the Dominican Republic in 1960.

UNIFEM says at least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime — with the abuser usually someone known to her. It says violence against women and girls is a universal problem of epidemic proportions.

Human rights organizations mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence from 25th November to 10th December. Activists run campaign and events to fight violence and generate awareness among public in this regard. First day of the 16 Days starts on 25th Nov, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on 10th December, International Human Rights Day. This year’s theme is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World” highlighting the key roles women play in the family and as peacemakers and peacekeepers in war zones.

Afghan women rights activists are also campaigning through public awareness events. In solidarity, those who join are wearing a purple ribbon, which symbolizes the fight against gender-based violence worldwide. Different organizations are airing public awareness messages through electronic and print media.

Afghanistan has worst records of violence against women. It is the worst place on earth to be women. Our extremely conservative male dominated society with radical socio-religious mindset still think of woman as the so-called symbol of honor for men. Domestic violence is so common that it is considered not only legitimate ‘right’ of men, but normal part of the harsh and corrupt culture.

Among the large part of our illiterate population, husbands consider it their natural right to harshly beat their wives over tiny disputes. Women face violence at every stage of their life, in every relation—as a daughter, as a sister, as a wife and even as a mother in some cases that I have personally documented.

The horrible state of affairs is not limited to the generally considered “normal” domestic violence which is part of life of many Afghan women across the country, but much more. Honor killings are illegal under the Elimination of Violence against Women law enacted by the Government in 2009. But its rarely implemented despite dozens of reported cases of ‘honor killing’. The law criminalizes child marriage, forced marriage, selling and buying women for the purpose or under the pretext of marriage, giving away women/girls to settle a dispute and 17 other acts of violence against women. The very word of “honor killing” shows the collective psychology of our sick society, where killing a woman for “honor” is part of a corrupt medieval cultural practice common today.

According to a report by UNAMA and UNHCR last week, the Government of Afghanistan has failed to succeed in applying the law to the vast majority of cases of violence against women. The report says “there is a very long way to go before Afghan women are fully protected from violence and their equality is properly supported through this important law.”

According to the report, about 290 cases were filed under the law. But the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan has documented 2299 cases of violence against women that are defined as crimes under the EVAW law from March 2010 to March 2011.

During a research study conducted for ActionAid the past summer in Northern and Central Afghanistan, I documented dozens of cases of violence against women such as murder (honor killing) and rape, that had not only gone unreported, but deliberately ignored by local prosecutors. During the interviews and visits in Balkh and Jawzjan provinces, I documented dozens of cases of extreme violence against women which had been “resolved” through the “informal justice” mechanisms of traditional dispute resolution. Such mechanisms do not give a damn to the law of Elimination of Violence against Women. Part of my research will be published under the theme of women rights with documented cases in a book form soon by ActionAid, an anti-poverty and human rights organization working in about 50 countries.

According to the UN report, many cases of serious crimes under the EVAW law were being prosecuted under the Penal Code or Sharia law. Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA says,

“ensuring rights for Afghan women – such as their participation in public life, including in the peace and reconciliation process and equal opportunities in education and employment – requires not only legal safeguards on paper, but speedy and full enforcement of the EVAW law.”

UNAMA and UNHCR have recommended necessary efforts to raise awareness about the law among Afghan women and men, and that all relevant authorities must apply the law.

We have to admit that violence against women and abuse of their basic human rights is part of our corrupt culture and social behavior. It needs a very effective public awareness campaign and strict implementation of EVAW law by the Government, and intensive media discussions. Every year there are dozens of cases of honor killing documented by human rights groups. But hundreds of such cases never make its news out of the village. In my recent research, I heard stories from women rights activists in districts of Jawzjan and its capital Shiberghan city, where local officials and warlords who are involved in crimes such as rape and forced marriages suppress the cases to get out of the village. I met people who were afraid to talk because of the threats by the very people who are assigned from Kabul to protect rights of those villagers and provide them justice.

In our sick society, women are considered the property of men in their family.  Women are considered as sex tool or bearing machine created for serving their man. I was told about horrible cases and documented some, where young girls were sold or picked up on gun points by warlords. Women are considered as a commodity that can be exchanged, bought and sold in our society.

According to Government statistics, more than 50 percent of Afghan girls are married in early age, 99 percent of family violence cases go unreported. The Government has done nothing in reducing violence against women and improving their rights. Nowadays some friends on internet are campaigning through an online petition for the release of Gulnaz and her daughter from Badambagh prison. As the story has been reported in media, in 2009, 18-year old Gulnaz was raped by her cousin’s husband and impregnated. Later she was charged for adultery. She along with her baby daughter, who was born in prison, have been imprisoned for almost two years. The petitioners call for immediate release of Gulnaz and her daughter from prison. Hope President Karzai will take notice.

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Jirga Resolution and Strategic Partnership Agreement with the US

My op-ed on Outlook Afghanistan Nov 23

The Traditional Loya Jirga has issued a 72-article resolution with recommendations regarding the US-Afghanistan strategic partnership agreement and talks with insurgents. There is nothing new or unexpected in the long resolution than what President Karzai has already said. As discussed in my previous op-ed on this page, President Karzai’s inauguration speech made it clear what the Jirga resolution will look like. Overall, they have unanimously supported presence of American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. It comes to the utter displeasure of Tehran and Rawalpindi, who are against the strategic partnership between Afghanistan and the US. Pro-Tehran elements in Kabul have launched an intense media propaganda campaign to influence public opinion against the presence of US troops beyond 2014. One could see the Iranian displeasure in the way their media reported the Jirga resolution.

Though most of the Jirga demands are repetition of the “conditions” declared by President Karzai in his inauguration speech, some recommendations need to be debated, not because they come from the illegitimate and staged Traditional Loya Jirga (TLJ), but since these points are making the rounds in media as “Afghanistan’s demands” from the US regarding the strategic partnership agreement.

The conditions called “Afghanistan’s demands” by Karzai Administration, without any consultation in the parliament or a debate on it in the TLJ, need to be thoroughly debated in the Lower House and Senate. What seems to be the top of these demands is the call for end to night raids. How practical is it? Though the TLJ mentions it conditionally saying night operations should be “Afghan-led”, the question is, if insurgents continue attacking civilians, target Afghan and international security forces beyond 2014, and a peace process fails to make a breakthrough by then, why to end the night-raids? If night-raids do not cause civilian deaths, but eliminates terrorists in the surprise of the night, it should continue. Osama bin Ladin was killed in a night-raid. Many important militant leaders have been killed or captured in operations conducted at night. Afghan Special Forces could be trained to join the US troops for such night-raids.

Some of the conditions are in contradiction to other demands. For instance, President Karzai in his inauguration speech said the US should pursue terrorists in their safe havens and hideouts outside our borders–clearly referring to Pakistan. But at the same time, they demand that the agreement must mention that the US forces take no action outside borders of Afghanistan.

In article 19 of the Jirga resolution, it is recommended that the strategic partnership agreement between the US and Afghanistan should be “registered with the United Nations”. These conditions make it sound as if Afghanistan is gaining nothing and all goes to the US. It is more in the interest of Afghanistan that the US troops remain in our country than that of America’s. Why our geniuses of the Jirga think it’s important to make the UN privy of the agreement between the two countries? It’s not an strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and the world.

However, the TLJ was very specific in its recommendations on talks with militants. After all-out efforts of President Karzai to reach to Taliban, he finally admitted failure after assassination of Ustad Rabbani. His statement to stop the peace process had made quite a thunder, but as usual, he changed the rhetoric a week later. Stuck in his failed attempts that has led to nowhere, President Karzai particularly emphasized on “advice” and “recommendations” about the peace process from the TLJ, something that he did not mention regarding the agreement with the US, and declared the conditions in his inauguration speech before the Jirga participants know what they were supposed to talk about. The TLJ resolution has detailed articles on peace talks with militants. Following are the important lines:

  • In order to get durable peace and solve problems in Afghanistan and the region, the Afghan Government should seriously talk with Pakistan.
  • There should be clear definition of friends, opponents and enemies so that the process will be implemented accordingly.
  • Negotiations should take place with those individuals who have Afghan identity, their address is clear and who want political solution in the country through a legitimate political process.
  • All know that insurgent leaders live in Pakistan and specific networks [read it ISI] have close relations with them. There is a need for peace efforts in Afghanistan and for honest cooperation of Pakistan in this regard. Jirga members ask Pakistan to change its policy towards Afghanistan and honestly cooperate in eliminating security challenges.

The recommendations of the TLJ cannot be referred to the parliament because TLJ is not a legitimate body with constitutional status. President Karzai wanted to give the decision of strategic agreement with the US a cover of national support, which he could easily get through the parliament, but a show of the Jirga was staged for reasons beyond getting popular support. It was a sideshow of the political bargaining and agenda of setting ground for future manipulations.

Insurgents, who tried their best to disrupt the Jirga with attacks, have rejected the TLJ, saying presence of foreign troops will provoke regional sensitivities. In their statements, the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami said the Jirga was not representative of Afghans. Now those who destroy their motherland under the patronage of regional intelligence agencies are talking about “regional sensitivity”. It clearly shows where their support comes from.

Meanwhile, there was a protest demonstration by students of the Islamic University in Nangarhar chanting slogans against the endorsement of the agreement with the US. In their resolution, they were calling for Jihad against all foreign forces in Afghanistan. It has been this democratic system that ensures their right to protest, they could not dare to do such a thing under the Taliban regime. It’s more than obvious that a huge majority of our nation support the agreement with the US about presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Even if major political opposition groups were against a manipulated Jirga, they support the strategic partnership agreement with the US. All the three major groups in the opposition block—National Front, Hope and Change and the newly found Right and Justice Party—support it. There is an overwhelming support in the parliament as well. The Senate has already welcomed the resolutions of the TLJ.

To the utter surprise of those students, many Mullahs of Kabul mosques in their Friday sermons discussed the Jirga resolutions positively saying the agreement with the US is in the national interest of Afghanistan. One even said, “The greatest Islamic country Saudi Arabia has also signed agreements with the US”. Though I am glad some Mullahs of the mosques are enthusiastic and supportive about the agreement, it would be better for Afghanistan if they remained limited to their religious guidance of the people, rather than political commentary in Friday sermons. It should be the job of politicians.

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The Loya Lion in the Jungle

my Outlook op-ed published on Nov 19

Much has been said in media about the ‘Traditional Loya Jirga’ (TLJ) going on. I got to know two new things; that we were a nation of ‘lions’ living in a ‘jungle’, and that the ‘pimp number’ 39 has plagued the minds of our elders too. President Karzai started his speech with the controversy about the TLJ itself, given the serious questions raised by opposition groups as well as media regarding the ‘legitimacy’ of the Jirga. The President said Jirga was a “historic and desirable” tradition of Afghanistan. He mentioned a book titled ‘National Jirgas of Afghanistan‘ by Muhammad Alam Faizad, who represented Takhar Province in the Lower House of Parliament during Zahir Shah, and recommended the delegates to read it.

The history and tradition of the Loya Jirga is a broad topic to be discussed here. For my Afghan readers, you can check a latest article about it on BBC Persian’s Afghanistan page by an Afghan academic from Essex University in UK. What the Government has been doing is an obvious manipulation. Despite the fact that organizers of the TLJ says it has no legal authority, but just a ‘consultative/advisory’ Jirga, the question is, what is the legal base for calling a ‘consultative or traditional’ Jirga? The Constitution has one whole chapter (6) titled ‘the Loya Jirga’, in which, Article 110 says, “Loya Jirga is the highest manifestation of the people of Afghanistan. It consists of the following:

  • Members of the National Assembly [Lower House and Senate]
  • Chairpersons of the Provincial and district councils
  • Cabinet members, Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court (without voting rights)

The decisions of this constitutional Loya Jirga become law. But the constitution does not mention any Jirga with ‘consultative’ ‘traditional’ and all other words invented in this regard. Even if the TDL is not a legal body, the Karzai Administration can call it an ‘advisory meeting with elders’, why to create confusions with Loya Jirga? Well, who cares about the political implications of such mess in future. There are other ambitions behind such deliberate manipulations. Even the term ‘traditional’ is very vague to use. But they are mixing it all even in the official documentations of the Jirgas called by President Karzai, probably more in the last 10 years than all Jirgas during the entire period from King Amanullah to Zahir Shah.

The President calls it a ‘consultative’ or ‘traditional’ Loya Jirga, but all of more than 2000 delegates did not know what they were supposed to ‘advice’ about, before Karzai’s inauguration speech saying it was to discuss the agreement of strategic partnership with the US and talks with Taliban. The incomplete draft of the agreement distributed among the delegates to discuss does not include specifics of the pact.

The President only mentioned ‘advice’ from the delegates regarding talks with insurgents following the assassination of Ustad Rabbani. He explained, what sounded like his ‘demands’ from Americans regarding the agreement, and did not mention whether any advice or suggestion from the Jirga delegates will be considered. He declared following demands:

  • The US and NATO should stop searching Afghan homes
  • We cannot tolerate night raids of our homes
  • We do not want foreign parallel structures to run alongside the Afghan Government institutions.
  • We want our national sovereignty recognized by all means and from today!

Then the President declared, “these are the conditions of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is ready to sign strategic agreement with the United States, which is to our benefit.” If you have decided the conditions, why to bother with the Jirga? It’s a show staged for political bargaining and setting the ground for future manipulations.

In some parts of his speech, President Karzai sounded defensive about what the Taliban call his administration a “puppet”, by counting the tales of success during the last 10 years, saying his government made relations with the world. He used the line “Afghanistan [his Administration] has acted independently” repeatedly.Rest of the speech was an amalgamation of emotions and confusion. He asked questions and replied himself,

Can we, ourselves, protect this land? We certainly can. Can we ourselves defend this country? Undoubtedly we can! With our own means? Surely, with our own means. Will we need more assistance? Absolutely!”

After praise and brotherly talk about Pakistan and Iran, he said the Afghan land will not be allowed to be used against any other country. Then in contradiction, but not clearly, he added, “the war on terror cannot be pursued in the villages of Afghanistan, but rather in its sanctuaries and safe havens.” Though not naming, President Karzai was obviously referring to Pakistan. Talking of Iran, he said Tehran was “more reasonable” than Washington in relations with us and understanding our needs.

The following statement was particularly confusing.

After 9/11 -2001, the West returned to Afghanistan since their interest was threatened. They (United States) will not remain without reason. They too have their interests, and nobody will stay here for our sake alone. Now that they are seeking to maintain relations with us, it is not for our sake. They have their own interests, which is reasonable.

If you don’t allow them to arrest “anyone”, conduct any operation, why would the US need to stay in Afghanistan? I have been skeptical of the peace process and still believe it will not make any breakthrough with the Taliban by 2014. If insurgents continue the attacks, not only on Afghan forces and government installations, but also the US troops after 2014, how would we expect them not to make arrests or conduct operations at night?

Then came his comments after which Kabulis are calling each other lion, and Afghan online forums are hit with jokes and cartoons about it. President Karzai compared Afghans with an old, sick and feeble lion. Following are his exact words:

“Even if old, sick and feeble, a lion is still a lion! Other animals in the jungle are afraid of even a sick lion and stay away from him. We are lions, the United States should treat us as lions, and we want nothing less than that. We therefore are prepared to enter into a strategic agreement between a lion and America. A lion hates a stranger entering his home; a lion dislikes a stranger trespassing its space, a lion does not want his off-springs taken away at night. The lion does not allow parallel structures to operate, the lion is the king of his territory and he governs his own territory. The lion has nothing to do with others in the jungle.”

After this ridiculous comment, President Karzai with his emotional flow spoke something which I cannot make any sense about. He said his concerns are “non-interference in our home and internal affairs; our traditions, religion, customs, marriages, joys and sorrows and the like are our own affairs.” Who has interfered with our traditions, religion, customs? Expecting your Jirga to approve the strategic agreement, and giving such remarks goes in line with the propaganda of Taliban who say of such ‘invasion’ on our culture, traditions and religion. The international community and the US in particular have brought us democracy and universal values, there has been no interference in our culture, traditions and religion.

Then he continued the lion analogy getting more ridiculous,

“They [US presence] bring us money; train our soldiers and police, and provide security for the home of the lion. The lion does not have leisure time to do all these things. They should protect his surroundings but should not touch the lion’s home. They should protect the four boundaries of the jungle.”

I won’t comment about the jungle and loins. Then he moved on to the talks with Taliban. The President pointed particular emphasis on this and repeatedly asked the delegates for advice, a word which he did not mention at all during his comments about the US-Afghan strategic partnership. He praised efforts by Turkey and Saudi Arabia regarding the peace process and asked for more “transparency and clarity” on the US part. Then the President ended his speech saying he would talk to the delegates in the last day of the Jirga. For ordinary Afghans who were making remarks about the two days of the Jirga so far, it was about the lion analogy by President Karzai on day one; and the pimp story on day second.

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New Political Alliances

My Outlook op-ed published on Nov 14

Months of active meetings and discussions among political heavyweights and mid-level players in the ‘opposition block’ of Afghan political scene has produced two new coalitions last week. Hizb Haq wa Edalat (Right and Justice Party) was launched declaring itself as a ‘reformist’ and ‘opposition’ party. Made up of politicians, former MPs and intellectuals from different backgrounds, mostly former leftists, and including a former Talib, Haq wa Adalat calls itself a ‘reformist’ party, which sounds very vague, considering the fact that despite 14 months of preparations, a 2-days conference of its 420 founders, their 4 spokesmen did not have any manifesto or clear policy guidelines to present to public during its launching ceremony.

It was quite confusing to see the lack of common understanding among its founders on the day of launching when many of them did not agree to what four spokesmen told while responding to different questions from journalists. After such intense preparations and meetings, I had expected a very clear agenda, policy guideline or rather a manifesto by Haq wa Adalat, which calls itself an ‘opposition’ party, but offers no debate or agenda different than those of the Karzai Administration.

The other addition in the political scene was announcement of a new ‘coalition’ National Front among three heavyweights, former Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud, leader of Junbish Abdur Rashid Dostum, and head of Hizb-e-Wahdat Muhammad Muhaqiq. Meetings for a consensus and coalition among major opposition ‘figures’ of the former Northern Alliance were going on for several months. In my previous op-eds on this page, I had expressed doubts about the possibility of a grand alliance with the Hope and Change of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. With initial announcement, there was a rumor in media about former NDS Chief Amrullah Saleh to be part of the new coalition, but he was not in the press conference. It’s not confirmed whether he will be part of the coalition or not, however he had actively attended the meetings prior to the announcement, but has left the country for some conferences abroad. He might confirm or deny it later if he is part of the National Front or not.

The official launching of Right and Justice Party and the National Front coalition a week before the traditional Loya Jirga called by President Karzai is not a coincidence. The new political alignments before the coming Bonn Conference in December want to show their presence and have a say in the process. The traditional Loya Jirga this week is to ‘recommend’ about the strategic partnership agreement between the US and Afghanistan. Though Haq wa Adalat said they are not opposed to the Jirga, but National Front calls the gathering ‘illegal’ and in violation of the constitution.

While National Front is a coalition of politicians with ethnic vote-bank and clear previous electoral performances, Right and Justice Party is made up of former MPs and political activists with uncertain electoral popular support. National Front is a coalition made of three heavyweights of former Northern Alliance, without any major representation from Pashtuns. But Right and Justice is more of a multi-ethnic centrist party, without a known vote-bank and popular support.

Contrary to the lack of a clear policy guideline at the launching ceremony of Haq wa Adalat, National Front had a clear agenda announced. Following were the main points in the National Front declaration announced;

  • NF calls the national and international stakeholders in Afghanistan to reassess the current problems with an alternative administrative system.
  • NF calls for ‘radical change’, decentralization of power from a Presidential to parliamentary system
  • NF called the traditional Loya Jirga unconstitutional saying it will not attend the gathering, asking Afghans not to participate.
  • NF supports reconciliation with the Taliban.
  • NF emphasized on the “need” for “longer presence” of international community “within a mutually defined framework”.
  • NF called for a change in the electoral system from Single Non-Transferable Vote to Proportional Representation
  • NF calls for “radical reforms” in the judicial sector and its “independence from the Executive”.

Though its ethnic diversity gives a more positive perception about the Right and Justice Party, but I am doubtful if the newborn alliance of politicians and activists from varied backgrounds and opinions will emerge as a strong political group, or even exist for too long. During the last ten years, we have been witness to many new political parties and groups, but none has proved as a strong, influential and persistent political force on the national stage.

Haq wa Adalat calls itself an ‘opposition’ party, but does not offer a program very different from the policies of Karzai Administration. I am confused over their “reformist” self-description without offering any program or agenda of reforms. Haq wa Adalat clearly distinguished itself from the Hope and Change of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and the new National Front of Massoud-Dostum-Muhaqiq alliance who are with a clearer agenda of ‘reform’ calling for a fundamental change in the administrative system.

Right and Justice Party said it supports the current system and that the traditional Loya Jirga is a “constitutional right” of the President, while in fact the Afghan Constitution has no such ‘constitutional’ right for the President. The only major demand/agenda of Haq wa Adalat common with Change and Hope and the National Front is a call for reforms in the electoral system. Also, all the three coalitions support the US-Afghanistan strategic partnership agreement. However, the coming months will decide the fate of Rights and Justice Party during its campaign for mass support in provinces and districts.

Afghan political activist and former chief of staff of the Foreign Ministry, Wahid Monawar says the new parties lack clear agenda. He says,

“communicating one’s platform is a vital part of any political party or campaign in order to succeed. While, critique of Karzai administration is a departing point, it’s fundamentally important to communicate one’s platform. I was hoping to read some ideas on how to influence policies that are different than Karzai’s”.

Women rights activist Wazhma Frogh is hopeful of the new political parties. She says,

“seeing those who were once part of a civil war into a civil movement, is of a new hope for Afghanistan’s future”.

Similarly, National Front is also not a strong opposition block since it failed to make a grand alliance with Hope and Change of Dr. Abdullah and other smaller groups. Its early to say if their coalition is more of an alliance for the coming elections, or gathering of like-minded ‘figures’ to come with a united-stance on particular issues and events like the Bonn Conference and withdrawal of foreign troops.

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Istanbul Summit and the end-game in Afghanistan

My Outlook Afghanistan op-ed Nov 02

Leaders and top representatives from 14 regional countries and 13 western countries involved in Afghanistan are attending the Istanbul Summit today. The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton cancelled her participation at the last minute due to her mother’s illness, who passed away on Monday night. Iran, which has not attended the previous such summits about Afghanistan, has sent their Deputy Foreign Minister Muhammad Fatullahi. India was excluded from previous Turkish-hosted summits due to Pakistan’s opposition, but this time Foreign Minister Krishna is also attending. Representatives from other ‘regional countries’ include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

The Afghan delegation led by President Karzai left Kabul on Monday. Yesterday there was a trilateral meeting among Turkish President Abdullah Gul, President Karzai and President Zardari. General Kayani and Gen Karimi also met. It’s the first meeting between Afghan and Pakistani leaders after a new wave of allegations started following the death of former Peace Council Chief Burhanuddin Rabbani. President Karzai raised the issue of his assassination and cross- border rocket attacks with his Pakistani counterpart, which was also discussed by Gen Karimi.

The Afghan delegation which was supposed to visit Pakistan for investigation of Rabbani’s assassination has not gone yet due to cold behavior from Islamabad. Despite public statements from Pakistani Foreign Office and their Embassy in Kabul to support such an investigation, members of the delegation were denied visa in Kabul.

The issue of rocket-attacks might not have been what their Turk hosts wanted the leaders from both sides to discuss, and build confidence. Istanbul is also encouraging Afghanistan and Pakistan to sign new cooperation agreements during the sidelines of this summit, including proposals for joint military exercises. After the trilateral meeting on Monday, the only achievement seemed to be an agreement of ‘cooperation’ between Afghanistan and Pakistan about the investigation of Rabbani’s assassination.

Many hopes are tied to this important summit ahead of the decisive Bonn Conference on December 05. But what objectives the meeting in Istanbul can produce are uncertain. The US and NATO sponsors of the summit want a regional structure for security and economic cooperation to assure non-interference in Afghanistan and support for the transition process, reconciliation and development of Afghan economy. But Pakistan, China and Russia are against such a new forum.

The conference is being called “Security and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia”. The outcome intended by the US and NATO sponsors include a unanimous agreement on establishment of a regional cooperation structure. But it’s less likely to expect a joint declaration and decision on this agreed by the participants.

To summarize the purpose of range of meetings recently in Kabul and other capitals for a broad support on this proposal, the US wants to ensure greater involvement of regional countries with the end-game, where Pakistan is not going to have a monopolization of political solution and role in the process of reconciliation ahead of 2014 transition.

This process of establishing a mechanism to ensure regional support for Afghanistan is part of President Obama’s larger revision of his Afghan strategy, that includes mounting the military pressure on the Haqqani Network, but also offering them the option of talks.

Recently the CIA drone strikes targeted hideouts in Miran Shah, capital of the notorious terrorist hub in North Waziristan, which was avoided previously. Besides this, the US military has increased deployment along the border in Eastern Afghanistan to mount the military pressure against the Haqqanis. The drone attacks are not based on intelligence sharing between the US and Pakistani intelligence agencies, which is in a deadlock, but due to the arrest of a senior Haqqani Network commander, Mali Khan, who was arrested by NATO forces recently. The death of Jan Baz Zadran in Miran Shah in a recent drone strike has been a blow to the Haqqani Network

However, under the revised Obama strategy, Pakistan has been offered important role in ‘negotiations’ after curbing their support to insurgents. But the US military officials say drone strikes will continue aggressively. The hit at Miram Shah has been a message to Pakistan for what the the alternative is. A meeting of the US National Security Council a couple of weeks ago has also reportedly discussed a possible US raid in Waziristan to attack Haqqani Network elements. It seems the options have been put down for Rawalpindi very clearly; kill the Haqqani Network commanders, help the US to kill them, or persuade them for negotiations.

However, as a report on the New York Times yesterday said, it’s easy for Haqqani’s, who make frequent travels around Islamabad and Rawalpindi, to go to other cities, where CIA drones cannot reach them. And the game will continue.

The Istanbul Summit’s agenda of regional cooperation and support for the end-game in Afghanistan will only produce the desired objectives when the primary players, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Taliban and the US make their terms and conditions clear. If the Obama Administration persuades Pakistan to play honest, end their support for the Afghan insurgents, pressurize militants to come on negotiation table, there won’t be the need of a regional structure and headaches such as the agenda of Istanbul Summit. Otherwise, if Rawalpindi, which has already opposed the proposals being discussed today in Istanbul, continues the same game they have been playing for the last ten years, no positive outcomes of such summits should be expected.

Another important factor that seems to be totally out of considerations is essence of the support of Afghan society for the so-called ‘political settlement’. No matter what unanimous support and cooperation of regional countries and international players are assured, ignoring the domestic stakeholders of the conflict in Afghanistan is no good. If the US and NATO fails to recognize and understand this, even the unanimous regional support cannot produce a desired ‘end-game’ in Afghanistan, but another era of crisis and chaos.

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Our Mobocracy

My op-ed on Outlook Afghanistan Oct 18

It is now more than a year, but the parliamentary elections crises still produce a new chapter each time the older drama reaches its drop-scene. The latest victim of this manipulation is female MP Simin Barakzai. She was among the nine MP’s replaced by the IEC decision after Karzai’s decree. Ms Barakzai went on hunger strike after her plea, asking President Karzai to order review of her case, was ignored. She set up a tent camp near the parliament building. After ten days without food, Health Ministry officials declared her health was in severe condition and she could suffer kidney failure.

On the 12th day of her strike, on October 14, Afghan Police in the dark of night dragged her out of the tent, beating supporters, and took Ms Barakzai to Daud Khan Hospital. Some others who had joined her in the strike were arrested and kept in police station for a night.

The Karzai Administration has had two tactics throughout this crises, bribe and use of force. When they saw people flocking in the tent of Ms Barakzai and other MP’s joining her hunger strike, the geniuses in the Palace came with a new tactic. The Ulema Council issued a statement condemning hunger strike as Haram. They said, “It’s forbidden in Islam to reject drinking and eating. If anyone dies because of hunger strike, they will go to hell. Hunger strike is un-Islamic.”

The Ulema Council should be ashamed. They are selling out the little respect left for clerics in the hearts of Afghans. They have never been so quick and active in condemning suicide bombings and slaughter of civilians by Taliban, but a Fatwa against hunger-strike of a female is all a bunch of cowards can do. They are afraid of Taliban intimidation, and none dare to come on TV talk shows to denounce Taliban violence. Isn’t suicide attack Haram in Islam? How about using children for suicide bombing, and killing innocent civilians? How Islamic is that? The Ulema Council needs to look into their conscience. Independent religious scholars should come out to denounce this trend set by Karzai’s Fatwa Factory using the name of Ulema. This Council has become all, but a blackmailing tool of President Karzai being used for his political aims.

Bribing MP’s to form the Coalition of Reformists, or escorting the new ones into the parliament building with help of security forces has been common throughout, but asking the Ulema Council to issue Fatwas about democratic rights is a hit at the core of our crippled democracy and Government’s political cowardice at its lowest.

And that too against a female MP, whose last option was hunger strike, not for a seat in the parliament, which is not worth, but against the manipulation of this system at the hands of those who are in power for the sake of ruling, without any vision and agenda for this country. They could not dare to change a big-shot or any warlord; else we would see how they would threaten to take up arms.

As expected, Daud Sultanzoy did not come late with cheap comments about Ms Barakzai’s strike. He said she is doing it all for publicity. There you go. Someone refuses to eat, announces her will and is ready to embrace death for a cause. For Sultanzoy, it’s all about publicity. It is obviously his own agenda. He wants to get back to the parliament somehow, despite the fact that several reviews by the IEC and ECC could not find any vote rigging in his constituency. He is better off flying an aircraft, not the shameless self-promotion declaring himself as the pioneer intellectual of the nation in a TV talk show. We have not yet forgotten the farce in this ridiculous process of manipulation, when he declared Special Tribunal’s verdict as a Sharia law. Probably Sultanzoy shares the views of Karzai’s Ulema Council on hunger strike being Haram.

I am not arguing whether Ms Barakzai’s disqualification is right or wrong. But she deserves our support because she is setting an example of non-violent political activism by raising voice against a system that is being run with manipulations and force. Something that we have never seen in this country.

The mess started from the day first. President Karzai should have accepted the first ‘final’ decision of Independent Election Commission after the reviews from Election Complaints Commission. We would not have to see the parliamentary deadlock for one year, and crises between the legislature, government and judiciary, setting an example of a system founded with manipulations.

Ms Barakzai’s activism exposes the core problem with our society. We don’t hear about her on media after the tent was removed. Today she is on 17th day of her hunger strike going without food at Daud Khan Hospital. She has not stopped, despite forceful attempts of Government officials to feed her. However, the government should not have feared her. Even if Ms Barakzai dies—God forbidden—it will not make any difference to the dead collective conscience and reaction of our society.

The much gloried Afghan nang and ghairat might tremble, and mark a new example of non-violent resistance in the political history of our country where power struggles have always led to bloodbath. It might fasten the flow of blood in veins of those who still hold their hopes for the future of this country.

Watching the video of Ms Barakzai’s tent being removed amid screams of children, it reminds me of the statement by Rafi Firdous Adviser of Government Media Center who had compared the standoff between President Karzai and the parliament with the tussle between the US Congress and White House. He had said, “It shows the ‘beauty’ of our ‘democracy’.” Some folks have already compared Ms Barakzai’s hunger strike with the recent anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare in India. It’s all ridiculous. Ours is not a democracy, it is mobocracy, where rulers have no respect for rule of law and rights.

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What is needed for success in Afghanistan?

CNN.com asked five people — either Afghans or Afghanistan experts — to explain what they think is the most important thing needed for a successful Afghanistan, not only about the current war, but long-term stability and future of Afghanistan. Here is what i told them:

Afghanistan is a war-ravaged country that has gone through three decades of crisis and chaos.

For all those years, governance has been nonexistent. There has also been a lack of socioeconomic structures. So Afghanistan cannot become a model society overnight.

Of course, peace and security are the utmost requirement to Afghanistan’s future success, but there are other major factors to consider.

We have not had a stable political system for the entire history of Afghanistan. We have never had a peaceful transition to power, just bloody coups and assassinations. During our entire history, the strongest rulers in Kabul have never had control over all parts of Afghanistan.

We need a viable alternative, decentralized power and a continued movement toward a democratic system that assures long-term political stability in the country.

Only a stable and democratic system can ensure good governance and socioeconomic development, which is the remedy for most of Afghanistan’s problems. Religious fanaticism, a root cause of militant extremism, is a product of ignorance and illiteracy. It can be fought through education.

Read the full report here at CNN.com

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