| ||Debating the Failed States Index: Afghanistan|
By M. Ashraf Haidari
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Was this year's ranking of the world's most fragile states on target? Five countries respond
It is no surprise that Afghanistan has fluctuated between the ranks of 6 and 11 atop the Failed States Index since 2005, given that building Afghanistan's previously failed state institutions remains very much a work in progress. What the index does not highlight, however, is the history of interrelated internal, regional, international, and transnational dynamics that have contributed to the challenges facing modern state formation in Afghanistan.
This process effectively began in the 1920s. A landlocked and least-developed country, the young Afghan state lacked the requisite resources to strengthen its institutions so that they could deliver the most basic services to people. For decades, this made Afghanistan dependent on piecemeal foreign aid with strings tied to the competing blocs of the Cold War. Upon the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union's proxy, Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah, in 1992, the United States and its allies also disengaged from the country, completely neglecting Afghanistan's post-Cold War reconstruction and development.
The vacuum left by the West was immediately filled by predatory state and non-state actors. Some countries in the region supported ethnic proxies, vying for influence in stateless Afghanistan, while transnational terrorists and organized criminal networks found a permissive environment in which to operate. The unchecked isolation of Afghanistan as a pariah state eventually allowed al Qaeda to mastermind the tragedy of 9/11.
Since the launch in 2001 of Operation Enduring Freedom -- which ushered in overdue international intervention to restore, reform, and strengthen the Afghan state -- Afghanistan has consistently made progress in delivering basic services to people and protecting them against internal and external security threats. This process is by no means linear: Some state institutions (mostly the army and police) are more capable than others in meeting popular demands. Their capacity to provide services largely depends on how much the international community has invested in them over the past decade, as well as how effectively these institutions are led by Afghans themselves.
Hence, while Afghans will continue to do their part, continued international support for the process of consolidating the Afghan state and its many achievements over the past 10 years is absolutely essential. As the Failed States Index warns, if the international community does not stay the course in Afghanistan, the country will once again face the prospect of state failure and collapse.
Aware of this fact, the international community pledged recently at the NATO summit in Chicago, as well as at the Bonn Conference last December, to help Afghanistan along its long journey toward achieving "positive sovereignty" and sustainable development. This preventive step is backed by bilateral measures, such as the U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, to ensure that Afghanistan will never slide back into the chaos of 1990s.
M. Ashraf Haidari, the deputy assistant national security adviser of Afghanistan, was the chargé d'affaires and deputy ambassador of the Afghan Embassy in Washington, D.C.