| ||Regaining Momentum|
By Ali A. Jalali
On the sixth anniversary of the US-led military invasion, Afghanistan is
faced with its worst crisis since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. There
are increasing concerns, both internationally and domestically, that Afghanistan
faces the distinct possibility of sliding back into instability and chaos.
The country is challenged by a revitalized Taliban-led insurgency, record rise
in drug production, deterioration of the rule of law, and weakening national
government in the regions outside the major cities.
These troubles come amidst a changing political and military environment
in and aroundAfghanistan compounding effective responses to the emerging
challenges. Domestically, the political consensus of 2001 has been lost to
disruptive factionalism. Reemerging strongmen and political opportunists linked
to criminal networks have forced the weak central government into political
compromises and tactical tradeoffs. The regional actors who collectively supported
the post-Taliban political transition now have diverging views. Political
changes in the region have strongly influenced the attitudes of a number of the
regional actors. Internationally, the coalition of nations involved in Afghanistan
is divided and does not share a unified vision.Nor have themembers of the coalition
states provided the same level of political and military commitment.
In spite of these troubling developments, there is still hope that the
decline can be reversedwith a newstrategic approach. The significant institutional,
social, and economic achievementsmade during the past six years provide
a solid foundation for building a modern democratic Afghanistan. The
people of Afghanistan overwhelmingly support the transition to democracy.
They are tired of war and strongly determined to achieve peace. They do not
see the Taliban or other nonstate powers as alternatives to the current political
system. The renewed international focus on Afghanistan and pledges of increased
investment for security and reconstruction are reassuring. The major
challenge, however, still remains how to regain the original momentum and
to once again win the trust of the people.
Given the compounded political and security environments, stability
cannot be achieved through traditional means. Nor will any minor, inconsequential
changes or modifications salvage the situation. Major political and
strategic shifts at the national and international levels are required to secureAfghanistan’s
future. Astrategy needs to be formulated by a consensus of domestic
and international actors,who agree upon effective use ofways andmeans to
achieve peace and stability. Implementation will require a “capacity surge,”
both nationally and internationally. This article examines the challenges facing
Afghanistan and recommends ways to achieve stability through institutional,
conceptual, and procedural change.
Sources of Instability and Implications
The drivers of instability include insurgency, chronic weakness of
the Afghan government and state institutions, exploding drug production,
and a weak economy. Uncoordinated military operations by international
forces and shifting political dynamics in the region are additional contributing
factors. These challenges have serious implications for stabilization efforts
and state-building in Afghanistan.
Frustrated by increasing insecurity and the ineffectiveness of security
forces, the government tends tomake tactical deals with corrupt nonstate power
brokers and special-interest groups, parties who benefit from instability. These
relationships evolve into another source for popular disenchantment. The problemwill
only intensify as the nation gets closer to presidential elections in 2009.
Political deals, posturing, and compromises linked to the election could upset a
number of long-termstrategic priorities.Within the government, an ongoing destructive
blame-game, with its attendant accusations and rhetoric populism, job
insecurity, and mutual fear, continues to impair morale and effectiveness. This
situation breeds suspicion within the ruling elite and generatesmistrust between the executive and legislative branches.The lack of trust has also tainted relations
between the Afghan government and its foreign partners.
The perception of impending failure drives domestic interest groups
and neighboring nations to hedge their bets. Traditionally, nonstate power networks
thrive as the central government loses effectiveness. There are often
signs of revival and rearming of subnational networks by former militia commanders
and local power holders.1 Moreover, latent and potential spoilers
(nonstate power brokers and government officials) try to reach out to insurgent
elements and their foreign supporters in an effort to negotiate individual deals.
Despite a significant growth of the economy and sociopolitical developments,
increased insecurity and poor governance have blunted the public’s enthusiasm,
even in relatively stable areas.As a result, people are losing confidence in
the government and hope for a peaceful future.
Within the region, doubts about the future of Afghanistan have driven
neighboring countries to once again look for proxies and spheres of political
influence. This is particularly noticeable in the attitudes of the governments of
Iran andPakistan. The initial international coalition formed to stabilizeAfghanistan
(including Iran, Russia, and CentralAsian countries) has been riven bywidening
cracks,which impede regional cooperation in efforts countering terrorism
and insurgency. At the August 2007 Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested
that the SCO should host an international conference on Afghanistan to boost
stability in the country and the region.2Within the international community, the
involvement of additional actors and expanding resources has further complicated
coordination. An uneven level of commitment among donor nations and
the accompanying operational constraints inhibit strategic coordination required
to successfully counter the insurgency and form state institutions.
In order for Afghanistan and its international partners to reverse
these negative trends, a thorough and realistic assessment of the situation
needs to be conducted along with the creation of a strategic action plan addressing
immediate and long-termsecurity challenges. Compared to one year
ago, there has been an acknowledged shift toward security as themost important
thing Afghans desire to improve their quality of life.3 Security cannot be
achieved, however, without an integrated effort to build effective governance,
fight the illicit drug trade, and defeat the insurgency.
Building Effective Government
Afghanistan has made major strides in its political transition to democracy
and in rebuilding state institutions. The government’s legitimacy
has been supported by the political participation of all the domestic stakeholders
in adopting the constitution and holding fair presidential and legislative elections. Yet the inability of the government to deliver services and
exert influence throughout the country has eroded its institutional legitimacy.
The issue of legitimacy has figured prominently in the country’s development
during the past three turbulent decades. Since 1978 the unsuccessful
struggle by successive governments to establish legitimacy became amajor factor
in destabilizing the state. The bloody Communist coup of 1978 sparked a crisis
that haunted the country’s political infrastructure for decades. None of the
ruling powers that succeeded the old regime managed to gain long-term legitimacy.
All, including the Communists (1978-92), Mujahedin (1992-96), and
Taliban (1996-2001) based their political authority on ideology enforced bymilitary
power—a process alien tomainstreamAfghan values. The regimes’efforts
were challenged by religious and cultural resistance and hampered by factional
divides, structural deficiency, economic failure, and foreign interference.
None of these ideologies were able to escape the factional splits that
eroded its legitimacy. Intraparty friction and ideological fragmentation were
particularly pronounced at the subnational level, where ethnic, linguistic, and
sectarian differences undermined ideological solidarity. Successive governments
failed to create the viable political, social, and economic institutions
needed to solidify power. In their zeal to promote political agendas through
ideology, leaders failed to set concrete objectives or to establish the concomitant
programs required. These governments used ideological rhetoric to mobilize
supporters and undermine opponents. This lack of structural legitimacy
contributed directly to the failures of the ideological approach. Viewed in a
broader context, this was what Max Weber labeled as “rational-legal authority,”
only obtainable when rules, supported by institutions to enforce them, underpin
popular acceptance of government.4
The structural legitimacy of the current Afghan government suffers
froma lack of capacity, particularly at the subnational level, where the vacuum
is filled by insurgents, militia commanders, combined with local criminal
gangs, all of whom undermine human security, local governance, democratic
values, and the delivery of basic services.5 The destabilizing effects of rapidly
expanding insurgencies in the north, northeast, and west will only amplify this
cascading process by providing a conducive environment for crime.6 All of
these factors, coupled with the insurgency-related violence in the south and
southeast and the inability of security forces to counter local criminals and
drug lords, has led to a tremendous loss of public confidence.7
Although a series of new state-building projects opted for a “topdown”
approach, the real political and military influence in the country remained
a “bottom-up” trend. As the political process continued, the failure to
build the institutional power of the central government perpetuated the influence
of regional factions. This situation could once again result in a fragmentation of power, similar to that which dominated the political scene during the
civilwar.As theUnitedNations Secretary-General recentlywarned the Security
Council, security, institution-building, and development gains made
since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban might “stall or even be reversed.”8
Building effective governance at the provincial and district levels is the
key to legitimacy and stabilization. Currently, subnational institutionsmandated
by the constitution are only partially established. The introduction of district,
village, andmunicipal councils has been delayed indefinitely.Elected provincial
councils are in place but are fraught with confusion regarding their roles and responsibility.
The resulting institutional vacuuminhibits the democratic process.
The situation further complicates the coordination of sustained services to the
local populace. Even the security-driven projects run by Provincial Reconstruction
Teams (PRT)9 and other groups sometimes conflict with the objectives of
government institutions and processes, undermining their effectiveness.10
According to a recentWorld Bank report, Service Delivery and Governance
at the Sub-National Level, the key constraints to strengthening
subnational systems in Afghanistan are, first and foremost, the absence of a
clear policy framework regarding a desired institutional structure and a strategy
to implement it.11 Highly centralized ministries are responsible for delivery
of most of the key services in the country. The report is extremely critical
of the fact that national ministries tend to be overcentralized, with offices in
Kabul retaining functions that could be performed much more efficiently at
lower levels of government. While the Interim Afghanistan National Development
Strategy provides for the emergence of a representative and effective
systemof governance, detailed plans as to how best to achieve these goals are
not clear. There are three major issues that need to be addressed before an effective
government can be established at the subnational level:
- The role of each level of government in the delivery of services.
- The level of capacity required for planning.
- The relationship between elected and appointed government
Removal of existing perceptional and managerial divides between
Kabul and the outlying regions is essential for defragmenting the current administration.
The key to obtaining this objective is bringing about a balance
between the creation of a strong and effective central government and the assurance
of a degree of decentralization in an effort to secure some semblance
of equal distribution and participation.
From the vantage point of the international community, the upsurge of
violence in the spring of 2006 caughtmany by surprise. The “Afghanistan Compact”
was focused primarily on social-economic development, and based on the
assumption that security had improved.13With the deterioration of security in the south, however, the focus was shifted to military operations at the expense of
programs designed to develop and improve governance. Now, it is imperative
that a balance be struck betweenmilitary operations and development projects.
Security and the Rule of Law
The rule of law is at the heart of any government’s legitimacy and a
prerequisite for human security. Unfortunately, in the case of Afghanistan,
there has been a failure by the international community to place a high priority
on reforming the law enforcement and justice sectors; failures with severe
consequences. The focus on security demands in such an unstable environment
has led to excessive emphasis on security at the expense of the rule of
law. This approach subordinates justice to security considerations and turns
police into a force primarily used in combating insurgents instead of protecting
the populace and supporting law and order. Obviously, in conflict-ridden
conditions there is a need to meet security threats head-on; however, such an
approach cannot compromise the administration of justice. It is, after all, the
rule of law that contributes directly to the security of the nation and its people.
Security capacity in Afghanistan is limited, diverse, and fragmented.
TheAfghanNationalArmy (ANA), currently about 47,000 strong, has achieved
significant progress. But it is seen operationally more as an extension of Coalition
forces than a national entity. Despite the vehicles, small arms, and other
equipment supplied by the United States in the 2005-07 period, the ANAsuffers
from a lack of firepower, indigenous air support, and the absence of a selfsustaining
budget. The 82,000-strong Afghan National Police is three years behind
its development schedule.Despite some improvement in several urban centers,
the police lack the capacity to enforce the rule of law. At the same time, the
challenge of a growing insurgency is driving the police to the front lines of the
counterinsurgency. There have been 1,150 police officers killed in the last 18
months alone, more than double ANAlosses.14 As an International Crisis Group
report indicates, “President Karzai’s government still lacks the political will to
tackle a culture of impunity and to end political interference in the appointment
and operations of police.”15
The decline of the security situation in Afghanistan is often attributed
to a lack of capacity required to respond to threats fromdomestic and external
sources. Officials and observers cite the slow development of the
Afghan security forces (army and police), poor infrastructure, and inadequate
numbers of US and NATO forces as reasons for the violence and instability.
While all this is relevant, a much greater factor is the absence of strong and
unified leadership. This absence combinedwith the lack of a shared vision capable
of directing the efforts of all the various actors is a formula for failure.
TheAfghan national security strategy is only found on paper. The operational
procedures of various security elements are dissimilar, their rules of engagement
varied, and their capabilities uneven. In the absence of any unifying
mechanism, operations by these organizations are not only devoid of synergy,
they are often working at cross-purposes. For example, when ANAsucceeds in
securing a conflict-afflicted area the police lack the capacity to hold it. Similarly,
government institutions do not have the ability to establish a workable administration
or foster reconstruction in secured areas. Meanwhile, the absence of a
strategic or operational focus for the various intelligence agencies, their institutional
fragmentation, and poor coordination with other security entities hinders
the planning and execution required for successful security operations.
Finally, fighting corruption is amajor challenge hindering emergence
of Afghanistan as a viable nation-state. According to the annual survey (2007)
by the Berlin-based Transparency International, Afghanistan ranks 172 out of
180 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index.16 In its effort to counter this
corruption Afghanistanwill ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption and
will adopt related legislation by the end of 2007. Part of these actions requires
the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to oversee implementation currently
scheduled for completion by the end of 2008. There are no simple and
quick answers to the myriad of problems. But making the decisions to fight
poverty, offer better salaries to law-enforcement officers and civil servants,
depoliticize the appointment of law-enforcement officials, and adopt a zerotolerance
policy toward corrupt government officials will all contribute markedly
to achieving the nation’s long-term, anticorruption goals.
The Drug Problem
Three major hurdles hamper any counternarcotics campaign in Afghanistan.
They include a record production of opium, consolidation of the drug
trade into a network of politicians and traffickers, and disagreement over any
counterdrug strategy by representatives of the international community.With a
34 percent increase this year, opium production has peaked to 8,200 metric
tons.17Anewgeographic trend indicates that opiumcultivation inAfghanistan is
no longer associatedwith poverty, but ismore closely linked to greed and the insurgency.
The major difference in this year’s poppy cultivation has been the
growing divide between the north and south, with significant poppy reductions
in northern provinces and substantial increases in the south. Seventy percent of
the opium was produced in five troubled southern provinces where insurgency
has intensified, giving credence to the belief that counterinsurgencymissions are
also counternarcotic efforts.18
The Afghanistan National Drug Control Strategy aims to achieve a
sustainable decrease in the cultivation, production, trafficking, and consumption of illicit drugs with a goal of complete elimination. Its four priorities are disrupting
the trafficking network, providing alternative livelihood for farmers, reducing
demand, and building institutions.19 The strategy is endorsed by contributing
nations, but there is a chronic disagreement among some international partners
overwho to target first: traffickers or farmers. TheUnited States favors spraying
poppy fields with pesticides from the air, but the Afghan government has concerns
that spraying might estrange poor farmers and drive them into the arms of
the Taliban. The UnitedNations andNATO oppose sprayingwithNATOrefusing
to get involved in fighting traffickers or destroying drug labs and markets.
Meanwhile, the lack of a decisive campaign by the Afghan government against
the traffickers has permitted them to consolidate their trade into networks with
significant political backing—a possible prelude to a narco-state. Efforts to disrupt
drug networks are stymied by the absence of political will, protection of
traffickers by government officials, poor investigative capacity, and corruption
within the police and judicial system.
Given themultidimensional nature of opium production in Afghanistan,
counternarcotic efforts should be integrated into every aspect of development:
security, economic growth, and governance. There are no quick or
simple solutions. Attempts to simplify the problem, in order to make it manageable
and compatible with the domestic policies of donor countries, seldom lead to sustained progress.
Fighting the Insurgency
The Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan is waged in a highly volatile
sociopolitical environment.What drives people to fight is notmerely the
ideology, but rather the unstable environment and the influence of existing
networks of tribes, clans, criminal networks, and transnational organizations.
There are many independent but interlinked actors challenging the Afghan
government and its international allies for various reasons. It is quite different
from the insurgency of the 1980s, when a multifactional Afghan resistance
against the Soviet occupation was operationally fragmented, yet all
groups fought for a common cause with uncompromising determination.
The new insurgents are an assortment of ideologically motivated
Afghan and foreignmilitants, disillusioned tribal communities, foreign intelligence
operatives, drug traffickers, militia commanders, disenchanted and unemployed
youth, and self-interested spoilers. The insurgency is more of a
political alliance of convenience than an ideologicalmovement. The challenge
in dealing with this insurgency is to separate the insurgents from the terroristminded
militants. This can only be achieved by an integrated strategy of military
and civil operations.
Three different models of an insurgency are present in Afghanistan.
Numerous disenchanted and aggrieved communities and tribes exercise the
traditional-historicalmodel of defying governmental organizations; suchmovements
are normally local, defensive, and nonideological in nature. Their struggle
is aimed at reestablishing an equilibrium that has been disrupted on the local
level, or to returning to a previous political and social arrangement that had become
compromised. The second model pursued by the neo-Taliban (and some
other groups including Gulboddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e Islami militants and
JalaluddinHaqani’s tribal network) appears as a classic insurgency. It is national
and strategic in scope and ideological in nature. It fights in an effort to seize control
of the state and introduce an ideological political system. This group has a
political identity; it champions a cause and thrives in safe havens. Its tactics
include political mobilization, guerrilla warfare, and the use of terrorism. These
techniques and strategies are all attributes of a “proto-insurgency.”20The Taliban
have recently unveiled a shadow constitution outlining an alternative government
in Afghanistan based on strict interpretation of sharia (Islamic religious
law). The constitution of this organization, the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,”
bans “un-Islamic thought” and ignores human rights that are not compatible
with “the teaching of Islam.”21 The thirdmodel (adopted bymilitants such as
al Qaeda and its associates) is based on the waging of a transnational, terroristcentric,
and ideological war against the US-backed Afghan government and its
Opinion surveys indicate that despite the rise of violence the overwhelming
majority of the people view the Taliban negatively and do not favor
their return.22 Ayear ago, the number of Taliban sympathizers in the south was
estimated at only 11 percent.23 There is a strong inverse correlation between the
strength of the government presence and the strength of support for the
Taliban.24 With increased violence, however, the trend is changing and people
are losing confidence in the government. The number of undecidedAfghans is
rising. General David Richards, former commander of NATO forces in southern
Afghanistan, estimated in mid-February 2007 that only ten percent of the
south’s population supports the Taliban, 20 percent does not, and the remaining
70 percent will attach themselves to whomever they consider to be themost effective
at providing security, income, and better living conditions.25
Support for the Taliban tends to increase either out of a desire for security
or froma combination of religious views and a nationalist, anti-foreigner
sentiment.Moreover, people in the combat zones detest civilian casualties and
the tactics used by some of the international forces. It goes without saying that
few hearts and minds are won by breaking down doors and threatening the privacy
and integrity of an individual’s home. But still, in areas where the US and
international forces are believed strong, opinions of themare high even if security is not necessarily the best. In locations where international forces are
deemed weak, they are less popular, even if security is adequate.
As the result of having suffered heavy losses, to include dozens of
mid-level and even a few senior commanders last year, the insurgents have been
staging fewer conventional attacks this year on NATO and Afghan forces.26 Insurgents
have come to rely more on suicide attacks, improvised explosive devices,
assassinations, intimidations, and abductions. A recent UN report says
that suicide attacks employed by the Taliban as amilitary technique have had littlemilitary
success inAfghanistan and have instead caused an increase in public
According to the report, 80 percent of suicide bombers came from
Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).27 The majority of the
suicide bombers were Pakistani Pashtuns from FATA, while others were from
Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and a few were Afghan Pashtuns from
refugee camps in Pakistan.28 “The Afghan suicide attacker is not crazed, fanatical
or brainwashed. Some are recruited in madrassas, butmany are not. Of those
we’ve seen most are young, poor, uneducated, and easily influenced,” said UN
Special Representative Tom Koenigs.29 Afghanistan has found that individuals
(including children) are being coerced or duped into carrying out these attacks.30
But the insurgents are hardlymoved by public resentment against suicide attacks
since their aim is to intimidate people, undermine government legitimacy, and
erode public support for the Afghanistan mission in NATO capitals.
Consequently, support for the Taliban’s tactics has steadily eroded as
suicide bombings increased. The greatest impact of suicide bombing has been on
innocent civilian bystanders and the general population. Atotal of 183Afghans,
121 ofwhomwere civilians (65 percent),were killed in 100 suicide bombings in
the first six months of 2007.31 Attacks on civilians, schools, and infrastructure
have also led to a decrease in the popularity of the Taliban. Additionally, as
Taliban attacks have slowed progress on reconstruction projects, the lives of
many in the general population haveworsened, further alienating the populace.
The Taliban’s tactical defeats, however, have had little impact on the
strategic situation sincemost military actions by Afghan and NATOforces are
conducted at the tactical and operational levels and do not necessarily translate
into strategic gains. The real challenge for the government of Afghanistan and
its allies is how to prevail strategically in the campaign. Obviously, there is no
entirely military solution to any insurgency, although a counterinsurgency effort
can readily be defeatedwithout adequatemilitary support. Similarly, political
legitimacy alone cannot end the insurgency unless it is seen as capable of
providing protection and services to the people. Development brings positive
changes in people’s lives if it is linked to good governance and the rule of law.
The current counterinsurgency strategy needs to deal with the different
elements of insurgency in an integrated way. Military action should target terrorists and insurgent organizations in an effort to dissuade, deter, and defeat
thembymeans of direct combat. Nonmilitary action needs to be focused on assuring,
persuading, and influencing the local populace, through the provision
of security, humanitarian assistance, providing basic services, establishing infrastructure,
institution-building, and support for the rule of law. These two
strategies for defeating the insurgency in Afghanistan are not currently being
coordinated. NATO, commanding some 40,000 troops in Afghanistan, sees itself
responsible for the military action in counterinsurgency efforts, but often
onlywhen andwhere it can utilize firepower as a substitute for its limited number
of forces. The resulting collateral damage and civilian casualties have often
contributed to feelings of insecurity and resentment among the local populace
that are exploited by the enemy. Counterterrorism operations by the international
coalition of about 12,000 troops have caused similar resentment as a result
of what many believe to be unwarranted arrests and mistreatment of
peaceful villagers suspected of aiding the insurgents. Adding to the confusion
is the appearance that no particular organization is in charge of a wide range of
nonmilitary counterinsurgency efforts. These nonmilitary efforts are conducted
in whatmany believe is a “free for all” sphere of action, spawning additional
problems and adding to the feelings of insecurity.
One of the major challenges is how to consolidate military gains by
maintaining security in the areas cleared of insurgents. A long-term security
presence is critical to the reestablishment of governance and the continuation of
reconstruction projects.32 NATO commanders claimto lack the forces needed to
consolidate success. Once they clear a district of insurgents the Afghan security
forces and allied contingents do not have sufficient forces to hold the ground, facilitate
governance, and protect the population.33 This situation hinders efforts to
isolate the population from the insurgents and win hearts and minds of the people.
The campaign needs to target both “hearts,” through political legitimacy,
and “minds,” through a visible capacity to prevail. The Afghans simply want to
see greater security with less brutality against the civilian population, as well as
some tangible improvement in their daily lives. Strengthening legitimacy in the
eyes of the people requires the government to address corruption from within
and to seek ways to improve the economy and provide public services.
There is also an urgent need to develop a consensus among the domestic
and international partners based on a unified strategy and campaign
plan. Implementation of such a strategy will require a major “surge” of
forces, equipment, and funding if Afghanistan is to achieve any semblance of
support for a cohesive, long-term, integrated military and civil effort. This
may also require bringing the NATO-International Security Assistance Force
and US-led Operation Enduring Freedom forces under a unified command
capable of executing both combat and stabilization-peacekeeping operations.The key to the success of such a strategy is to legitimize the campaignwith demonstrable
Afghan government ownership.
Negotiating with Insurgents
President Hamid Karzai has signaled an increased interest in negotiating
with the Taliban. He recently went so far as to show his willingness to meet
personally with Taliban leaderMullahMohammad Omar and to even give militants
a position in the government in exchange for peace. Not all domestic and
international participants concurwith President Karzai’s approach of a dialogue
with the Taliban, nor has the Afghan government officially articulated a welldefined
policy to govern such talks.34 The Taliban have responded by saying the
militia would never negotiate as long as international soldiers are stationed or
present in Afghanistan.35 Reaction from the international community has been
mixed.Although there iswide support for peace talkswith elements of the insurgency
that renounce violence and join the legitimate political process, theUnited
Nations insists that Omar and other top insurgents remain on a UN “blacklist.”
This insistence and a number of other initiatives are considered nonnegotiable,
this includes attempts to amend the Afghanistan constitution.36 More importantly,
the United States rejects all-inclusive negotiations with the Taliban. As
long as instability persists in the south,Kabulwill remain in thisweak position of
not being able to achieve favorable outcomes through negotiations. There is real
concern that the confusion surrounding the proposed peace talks can demoralize
anti-Taliban supporters, increase the Taliban’s activities, and cause certain local
networks to consider rearming.
Negotiations with foreign-supported militants who want to overthrow
the government and turn Afghanistan into a safe haven for global terrorism
are out of the question. These militants need to either modify their beliefs
or face the probability of being destroyed. The majority of insurgents, most of
whom are not against the political system as an entity, but are opposed to the
government, can be won over through a continuing process of national reconciliation.
This will only be possible if these insurgents can be successfully isolated
and protected from the radical elements within the insurgency.
Throughout history few insurgencies have survived without safe havens
abroad.As long as the insurgentsmaintain a sanctuary in Pakistan itwill be
difficult to defeat themin Afghanistan. The upsurge of violence in Pakistan and
the Talibanization of the tribal areas aggravate the impact of regional influence
on Afghan developments. The Taliban have safe-havens in Pakistan and receive
technical and operational assistance fromtransnational extremists located there.
Although a US ally in the war on terrorism, Pakistan views such threats in the
context of its own domestic and regional interests. Pakistan’s lack of decisiveness
in containing the Taliban has contributed to the instability in Afghanistan,
while its deals with militants inWaziristan have aided al Qaeda and the Taliban
in their efforts to regroup and expand their influence across borders. FATAis becoming
increasingly Talibanized, a fact that is helping al Qaeda to reorganize
and acquire secure footholds.37 A July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate assesses
that al Qaeda has regenerated “safe haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered
Tribal Areas.”38 This comes at a time of political unrest in Pakistan
that has forced Islamabad to scale back its operations against the militants.
In August 2007, the long-awaited Afghan-Pakistan tribal peace jirga
was held in Kabul, bringing together 350 delegates fromeach country. The aim
of the assembly was to forge a consensus in dealing with the growing Taliban
and al Qaeda. The jirga’s final declaration, unfortunately, was mainly focused
on generalities recognizing the link between the narcotics trade and terrorism
and pledging to jointly combat both. It mandated a smaller, 50-member jirga,
whose members would be equally appointed by both governments. This body
will have the responsibility for negotiating with the Taliban. In a sharp departure
from Pakistan’s repeated denials of providing sanctuary to the Taliban,
President Musharraf for the first time acknowledged that there is support for
the Taliban in the tribal areas of Pakistan.39
Although the meeting was seen as a positive step in defusing tensions
betweenKabul and Islamabad, the absence of the Taliban and tribal representation
fromnorth and southWaziristan (the hotbed of Pakistani Taliban)
devolved the assembly into a meeting between handpicked delegates of their
respective governments. The impact of this jirga remains to be seen.
Removal of sources of the insurgency in Pakistan requires a new regional
approach combining the military and political efforts of the United
States, NATO, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. This revitalized approach needs to
address a number of legitimate concerns of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Among themost compelling of these concerns are the development and education
of the populace in the rural tribal areas on both sides of the border, promotion
of democratic values within Pakistan, enhancement of governance in
Afghanistan, and the political integration of Pakistan’s Federally Administered
TribalAreas. In the broader context, reducing the sources of transnational
militancy and religious extremism in South Asia and the economic integration
of the entire region needs to be an integral part of this new approach.
Unless dramatic actions are taken the situation in Afghanistan can
rapidly spiral out of control. Delays in a response on the part of allies and regional partners will only compound the myriad of challenges facing Afghanistan:
the expansion of militancy in Pakistan, the possible transfer of
jihadists to South Asia following the reduction of US forces in Iraq, and
various uncertainties associated with Iran. Responding to these ongoing
challenges requires the rebuilding of a strong consensus on the part of international
and domestic actors, each having a shared vision, strategy, and implementing
mechanisms. A revised Afghanistan National Development
Strategy can serve as a framework for this undertaking. Implementationwill
require the establishment of a strong Afghan National Security and Economic
Council with the capacity to plan, coordinate, and lead the implementation
of the strategy and associated programs. The strategy needs to
encompass all the components associated with stability operations (security,
governance, rule of law, and economic development). The council
should also closely coordinate strategic issues with international stakeholders
in and outside of Afghanistan.
Finally, there is a critical need for the creation of an international coordination
mechanism headed by a senior international representative in
Kabul. To have any sense of legitimacy this organization should bemandated
by the international community to make decisions, establish priorities, and
oversee implementation. This coordinating body will also develop processes
to maximize the utilization of domestic and international means under the
overarching umbrella of an effective partnership.
Ali Ahmad Jalali was the Interior Minister of Afghanistan from January 2003 to
September 2005. He now serves as a Distinguished Professor at the Near East South Asia
Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University. He is a former colonel in the
Afghan army and was a topmilitary planner with the Afghan resistance following the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan. Mr. Jalali is the author of several books, including a three-volume military history of Afghanistan. His most recent book, The Other Side oftheMountain, coauthored with Lester Grau, is an analytical review of theMujahedinwar
with Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
1. The Senlis Council Afghanistan, Countering the Insurgency in Afghanistan: Losing Friends and
Making Enemies (London:MF Publishing, 2007), 32. Prices of weapons in the south have largely gone up. The
steepest rise is seen in ammunition and heavy weapons.
2. Ash Narain Roy, “Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Towards New Dynamism,” Mainstream
Weekly, 45 (15 September 2007).
3.AfghanNationalDevelopment Poll, ANDP5: Security and ANSFPerceptions, 16 September 2007, 38.
4.MaxWeber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1947),
130-32, cited in James Bill and Robert Springborg, Politics in theMiddle East (New York: Harper Collins Publishers,
5. See Afghanistan NGO Safety Office Report, ANSO Quarterly Data Report Dec 22, 2006 - June 30,
2007. The report states that the impunity of local power-brokers (predominantly former combatants but also religious
and ethnic leaders)will continue to combinewith limited law enforcement capacity to create an environment
in which NGOs will continue to suffer criminally related fatalities going into 2008.
7. See, for example, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, Northern Afghanistan: The EnemyWithin, Afghan Recovery
Report No. 265, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 13 September 2007.
8. Agence France-Presse, “UN Chief Calls for New Afghan Strategy Against Insurgents,” 26 September
9. There are currently 25 PRTs in Afghanistan led by 13 countries including 12 by the United States
(Farah, Qalat, Ghazni, Sharana, Khost, Gardez, Parwan, Mehtar-e Lam, Jalalabad, Assadabad, Nuristan, and
Panjsher), two by Germany (Faizabad and Kundoz), and one each by New Zealand (Bamian), Lithuania
(Cheghcheran), Italy (Heart), Canada (Kandahar), the United Kingdom (Lashkargah), Norway (Maymana),
Sweden (Mazar-e Sharif),Hungary (Pul-e Khomri), Spain (Qala-e Naw), the Netherlands (Tirin Kot), and Turkey
10.World Bank, ServiceDelivery andGovernance at the Sub-national Level in Afghanistan (Washington,
11. World Bank, “Strengthening the Role of Government at Provincial, District and Community Levels
Vital to Delivering Services, Says World Bank Report,” news release, 18 July 2007.
12. For more details see Sarah Lester and Hamish Nixon, Provincial Governance Structure in Afghanistan:
From Confusion to Vision? Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, May 2006, 3-11.
13. The five-year “Afghanistan Compact” adopted on 31 January 2006 in London pledges continued international
assistance to Afghanistan in the context of Afghanistan’s Interim National Development Strategy
(I-ANDS). The I-ANDS is the strategic framework for development over the next five years. It aims to enhance
security, governance, the rule of law, human rights, and economic and social development. It also identifies efforts
to eliminate the narcotics industry as a vital and cross cutting area of work.
14. Bruce Campion-Smith, “Death Rate for Afghan Police Force Staggering,” Toronto Star, 1 October
15. International Crisis Group, Reforming Afghanistan’s Police, 30 August 2007, 1.
16. Transparency International, 2007 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, http://
17. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007, Executive Summary,
(Vienna: August 2007), 1-5.
19. Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, National Drug Control Strategy (Kabul: Ministry of Counter-
Narcotics, January 2006), 17.
20. See Daniel Byman, Understanding Proto-Insurgencies, RAND Counter-Insurgency Study Paper 3
(Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 2007), 3-6.
21. Isambard Wilkinson and Ashraf Ali, “Taliban Unveils Hardline Afghan Constitution,” Daily Telegraph
(London), 29 September 2007.
22. Afghan Public Opinion Amidst Rising Violence, aWorldPublicOpinion.org Poll, 14 December 2006,
fielded by D3 Systems and Afghan Center for Social and Opinion Research in Kabul, 2-3.
23. Charney Research and ABC News Poll, October 2006, cited in United States Institute of Peace Briefing,
Rachel Ray Steele and J. Alexander Thier,Hearts andMinds: Afghan Opinion on the Taliban, the Government and
the International Forces, 16 August 2007, http://www.usip.org/pubs/usipeace_briefings
25. Seema Patel and StevenRoss, Breaking Point:MeasuringProgress in Afghanistan (Washington: Center
for Strategic and International Studies, March 2007), 4.
26. According to an Associated Press count of insurgency-related deaths, out of 5,086 people killed in the
first nine months of 2007, 3,500 weremilitants. Jason Straziuso, “U.N. Says Afghan ViolenceRises 30 Percent;
AP Account of Insurgency-Related Deaths Passes 5,000,” Associated Press, 3 October 2007.
27. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan are composed of seven agencies bordering Afghanistan.
They are from north to south the Bajaur,Mohmand, Khyber, Kurum, Orakzai, NorthWaziristan, and
28. B. Raman, Pashtun Suicide Terrorism – An Update: International Terrorism Monitor, South Asia
Analysis Group, Paper No. 282, http://www.saag.org/papers24/paper2379.html.
29. UNNews Service, “‘MartyrdomCulture’NotMajorCause ofAfghan SuicideAttacks,” 10 September
30. United Nations AssistanceMission toAfghanistan, “UNAMAStudy Finds Afghan SuicideAttackers
Often Duped, Coerced,” press release, Kabul, 9 September 2007.
31. United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan (2001-2007), 1
32. BBC News, “UK’s Afghan Gains May Be Lost,” 28 September 2007.
33. Paul Ames, “Challenges Mount in Afghanistan,” Associated Press, 4 September 2007.
34. “Afghan PresidentOffers Taliban a Place inGovernment for PeaceDeal.” AssociatedPress,Kabul, 29
35. ABC News, “Taliban Refuses Government Talks until Troops Withdraw,” 30 September 2007.
36. Agence France-Presse, Kabul, “Taliban Leader to Remain on U.N. Black List,” 1 October 2007.
37.Hassan Abbas, “Increasing Talibanization in Pakistan’s Seven TribalAgencies,” TerrorMonitor, 5 (27
38. National Intelligence Council, National Intelligence Estimate, The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland,
39. Ashfaq Yusufzai, “Pakistan-Afghanistan: Kabul Peace Jirga Falls Short,” Inter Press Service,
Peshawar, 14 August 2007. ]