Reconstruction and Afghanistan

Daily: The Nation
Date: 27.04.04

Androphobia means an irrational fear of man. For the central authority in Kabul, it is
tantamount to Taliban-cum-al Qaeda men, as it seems so especially in the light of the
recent remarks of the US Ambassador, Khalilzad, in Kabul blaming Pakistan for Afghanistan’
s troubles in this regard. After having showered the daisy cutter and oxygen suction bombs,
even now if a fear of unknown haunts Kabul, it is nothing else but an obsession with the
aforementioned one particular idea. The same is called Monomania.

One of the reasons of frustration on part of the central Transitional Afghan Authority may
be the constraint to postpone elections for September 2004. This is not a new phenomenon
(as the same happened in the wake of the Peshawar Accord and the Islamabad Accord) in
Afghanistan. In this case, by that time, the voters have to be got registered with the UN.
Subsequently, the elections will be held and both parliament and president will be elected.
Here stands an important question. If a parliament of the Pushtoon majority is formed
coupled with a Pushtoon President, under supposedly free and fair elections, as per the
given numerical majority on the basis of one vote one person, will the resultant government
be acceptable to the ‘brought in and installed’ interest groups like the Northern Alliance as
well as the international players like the US and UK?

The second reason of its displeasure may be the impending failure of Disarmament,
Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme. They were actually Talibans who
performed their version of the DDR during their tenure, in the Southern two-third of
Afghanistan. However, now, at the hands of the Northern Alliance, the DDR seems difficult
and rather may provide an impetus to emergence of Armament, Mobilization and
Reintegration (AMR) programme of the Southern Pushtoon militia to form a neo-Taliban
grouping. That is why, perhaps, both Khalilzad and General Barno have advocated the
policy of engagement of the former Talibans under the pretext of  ‘moderate Talibans’ in
the central authority. Moreover, attached with it is the fate of the efforts of the Provincial
Reconstruction Team (PRT).

The third reason of its disappointment may be a failure to control the ever-increasing
production of Opium. For the same, there was raised a loud voice in the recent 60 nation
Berlin Conference—the second initiative organised by Germany since the fall of the Taliban
regime in December 2001. Through the conference, additional funds were sought and
resultantly pledged by the international donors to provide the alternative economic
resource to the people.

The fourth reason of its annoyance may be the failure to find Osama bin Laden in
Afghanistan even after arrival of an additional 2000 troops for ‘hammer-anvil fatigue’ by the
US. The fatigue that can suck energy out of the election campaign of Bush, before the
November head-on with the Vietnam war veteran, John Kerry. Both the capture and the
election success seem to get intertwined like Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

As a whole, behind the aforementioned four credible irritants, there stand two main
reasons. First the weak central authority and second is the internecine war of the warlords.
The same is predominantly a post-Soviet withdraw phenomena coupled with the fall of Najib’
s communist regime. That is, the Afghan war (1979-1989) empowered the Afghan warlords
on regional and ethnic lines. The supply of both men and material resources made them to
enter in power hunger strife. Resultantly, the blood of several warlords and their aides was
shed on the soil of Pakistan and Afghanistan alike. In its essence, it was Hikmatyar-Masood
Dostum conflict supported by Hazara and Ismaeli militia to the latter. In other words, the
cleavage remained Pushtoon-Tajik Uzbek in nature. The same stands true even today,
except in the capital.

Presently, beneath both of the aforementioned reasons there is laying only one reason:
Pushtoon exclusion, in spite of their demographic sway. In retrospect, Taliban government
(Pushtoon ethnically) was not recognised by the UN by passing a Security Council
Resolution (1214) on 8 December 1998 calling for, among others, to form a broad-based
government in Kabul. Consequently, Taliban became isolated internationally. Now, the
central Transitional Authority (composed mainly of the Northern Alliance dominated by
Tajiks rather than a broad base) is revising the same. However, this time the international
community has turned its blind eye to that very fact of exclusion of the Pushtoon. Further, if
not internationally, the central authority has become isolated in Afghanistan—even if the
whole world recognise it.

The central authority has become so weak that Karzai is demanding now presence of
foreign troops for another ten years. NATO has decided to extend the mandate of
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) formed under the UNSC Resolution 1386.
The ISAF is for the central authority and its writ has been confined to Kabul. It has failed to
constitute an effective Afghan Security Force and Armed Forces that could provide in turn
security and peace to the common Afghans.

This is quite evident that absence of democratic institutions; unfamiliarity with the western
style of democracy; the rampant illiteracy; and the widespread poverty, are the main
impediments on the road to democracy. Moreover, one of the main reasons of the weak
central authority is nothing but the Pushtoon segregation. Hence, the problems are
indigenous and not because of Pakistan. To add further, as per the given trends, further
postponement of election will not be unexpected.

During Taliban tenure (1998-2001), as a comparison, the central authority was stronger;
internecine war was over; law and order situation was under control; and poppy cultivation
was at the lowest ebb. Hence, only two other demands of the international community, as
per the aforementioned UNSC Resolution 1214, had been left untouched: first,
discrimination against women and second, shielding the international terrorists.  

Had half of the economic aid ($8.2 billion), what has been pledged to Karzai in Berlin, given
to Taliban for reconstruction, both the remaining two aforementioned frictions between the
international community and Taliban could have been settled amicably.

Taliban remained unlucky that their religious rigidity was portrayed as religious extremism.
Out of that rigidity whatever they practised, even in good faith, was depicted as ‘Taliban-
brand Islam’. Moreover, they were not engaged politically (constructive engagement) at
international level rather they remained a victim of consistent condemnation and
castigation. Further, both friend and foe alike shunned them in their hour of trial because of
one reason or another.

In this backdrop, the offer of Karzai to include Taliban (Pushtoon) in the interim setup is a
welcome move. However, still to be seen are their numerical strength and the resultant
effectiveness in the decision making process, if the offer is accepted. In fact, this long-
awaited offer holds potential to pull Afghanistan out of the troubled waters as well as to
allay the resultant frustration and fear of the central authority and international players.  

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