| ||Former Afghan Official Says Country Lacks Adequate Security, Governance|
Scripps Howard Foundation
By Sayed Zafar Hashemi
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Ali Ahmad Jalali served as interior minister of Afghanistan from January 2003 until September 2005. When he stepped down, he announced that it was because he was moving back to the United States to continue his academic research.
He joined the National Defense University faculty as distinguished professor in the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, focusing on Afghanistan, Central and South Asian reconstruction, stabilization and peacekeeping issues.
He immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became a U.S. citizen. Jalali, 65, served as the director of the Afghanistan National Radio Network Initiative and chief of the Pashto Service at the Voice of America in Washington.
Jalali - a Dari, Pashto and English writer - is the author of numerous books and articles on political, military and security issues in Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia. He has taught at institutions of higher education in Afghanistan and lectured extensively at U.S. and English army institutions.
He talked with Scripps Howard Foundation reporter Sayed Zafar Hashemi, who is also from Afghanistan, in his office in Southwest Washington this week. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview.
Q. How do you define security?
A. Let me take a minute or two to look at the notion of security in a conflict-ridden society such as Afghanistan where the people have been facing a variety of security threats, including terrorism, insurgency, factional fighting, criminality, warlordism and official corruption and suppression.
Security in such an environment finds its meaning in the notion of human security, which ensures freedom from fear and freedom from want. Providing human security requires more than building the state security forces. It entails the development of good governance, social security, economic development and protection of human and political rights of the citizens.
The Afghanistan Compact, adopted in London in 2006, which is a joint commitment between the international community and the Afghan government, defines security as a multifaceted process and an integration of all pillars of Afghan development.
The definition of security in the Afghanistan Compact is, "Security cannot be provided by military means alone. It requires good governance, justice and the rule of law, reinforced by reconstruction and development."
Q. How do you assess the security situation in Afghanistan?
A. Everybody knows that the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. If you compare today with a year back, you see negative changes. Example includes the increasing number of suicide attacks. In 2006, it nearly reached 140, in the year 2005 there were 17, while 2004 had five attempts and 2003 only two. And in the year 2001, there was only one case of suicide that assassinated Ahmad Shah Massod, the Northern Alliance commander.
The Taliban were removed from power but not defeated. The intentional community had taken no actions about their potential of return. They were pushed back and expelled from power but not from Afghanistan and they found safe havens in Pakistan.
The Iraq invasion shifted the focus from South Asia to Iraq, and the extremist elements had the opportunity to regroup as the insurgent Taliban. Also, other groups that eventually had deep ties with al-Qaida started regrouping.
Q. Why is the deterioration in an increasing rate?
A. After the 2001 invasions, the people of Afghanistan kept hopes and expectations. The people saw no major change in their lives, lack of governance increased and in many occasions, absence of central government in their communities made people distrust the government, or at least not stand with it. On the other hand, the spoilers who find peace and stability against their factional and personal interest found an opportunity to participate the in the insurgency efforts. During the civil war in Afghanistan and the breakdown of central government, local strongmen who were well powered with access to local and foreign resources and weapons established a kind of influence in certain areas across the country.
The operation against the Taliban was conducted in a way that reinforced the power of these regional strongmen, and they became allies in the war against terror. During the past five years, the Afghan government succeeded in removing some of the strongmen from power in Kabul. However, their networks will remains in the regions until the government provides people with good governance, security, protection and positive changes in their lives.
These networks, now, in order to survive, conduct illegal activities that include drug trafficking, organized crimes, smuggling, taxing people, extortion, seizing public property and even illegal export of the country's natural resources.
The U.S. intervention in Afghanistan was driven by two contradictory concepts: From one point, it was considered as a main battlefield against the war on international terrorism, and from the other angle, there were concerns among NATO members that deployment of forces in huge numbers may cause resistance in the country. Afghanistan's experience of resistance against the Soviets was behind this notion, though the situation has changed as Afghans suffered for decades. It took several months until, finally, NATO succeeded in expanding its international security assistance forces outside Kabul. Even after a long length of time, due to the resistance notion, the forces entered provinces as provincial reconstruction teams.
The investment was another problem, despite Afghanistan receiving very low aid compared to other post-conflict nations. As the government of Afghanistan did not have the ability to use the resources in implementation of reconstruction and restoration projects, the funds were channeled though the U.N., non-governmental organizations and international contractors.
These organizations took big chunks of the money as overhead. What actually hit the valleys of Afghanistan was not even 25 percent of the money, and there was waste of resources.
Today, with the deterioration of security in the country, the government is looking for short-term solutions and compromise with local commanders. The government does not have powerful and skilled teams and parties. This factor undermines the security of Afghan citizens.
Q. Does the insurgency have any external links too?
A. The problem in Afghanistan is not rooted only in domestic factors. It also has external dimensions, which need the international community's efforts and wider approach in the region, in particular the countries with an interest in Afghanistan. Examples include Pakistan, India and others.
Q. How are the capacity and ability of Afghan security forces?
A. There has been some good progress in building Afghanistan security forces. The Afghan national army was organized and trained by the U.S. Today the 35,000 or 40,000 troops in the national army are better than the militias that Afghanistan had before. However, a strong army is not possible to build in one year. It takes decades to build a powerful army to be able to independently respond to security challenges. The Afghan army has good training and structure, while it does not have sufficient fire power in air support. Therefore, their operation is dependent on international forces.
Police is different from the army. It is not to go in the battlefield and fight the enemy, while it is to support law enforcement and protect societies and it is an element of law enforcement. Less attention was paid in training. A major problem is that the police has been used as another counter-insurgency force and fighting insurgents was a priority for police, not protection of the local community. Police is a subset of law. In Afghanistan, it is different; the rule of law has become a subset of security.
Based on the standard norms of one police officer for 500 people, the international community set the number of Afghan national police at 50,000 and a 70,000-troop national army. In 2002, the population of Afghanistan was estimated to be 25 million. In this calculation, no other facts - such as security situation, level of recruits' education and mobility - were taken into consideration. The government of Afghanistan accepted the numbers provided to build a strong police force with full sustainability, including good pay, training and equipment.
But today, the poorly trained police are more a problem in the country than an asset, and the same is with the army. The government and international community should pay the security forces well and equip them with needed equipment, and the present army will have an efficient performance. The number is not important.
Q. Do you think there will be intensified operations by the insurgents in the spring?
A. Spring is always the time for the insurgents to become more active because of warm weather, possibilities of hiding in mountains, etc. This year, three major factors make the spring offensive a source of concern. As a result of attacks and operations the Taliban conducted last year, they increased their morale and showed their presence in the eyes of the international community. The ability to seize and control some the districts in the country gave them operational techniques and advantages. Lack of development and insecurity created disenchantment in the local communities in the South.
Q. How will the government of Afghanistan and international forces respond?
A. The international forces and government are better prepared. More British, Canadian and Dutch forces are deployed in the southern areas compared to last year. The government deployed more security troops and created the auxiliary police forces to support responding to the challenges.
But the bottom line is that governance was neglected in the last years. Now, the most important aspect to defeat the insurgency is to develop governance because now development will not help any more. Even if you provide funds to develop the areas without governance, it will not have a positive impact. The Taliban are only promising security and protection and, thus, they are getting calls from people. Even if the people do not support the Taliban or their political vision, they at least will not stand with the weak central government.
Q. Is that the only reason?
A. No, this insurgency has also external sources. The Taliban have safe havens, training camps and logistical support across the border in Pakistan. They also enjoy support and funds from international terrorism networks.
Q. How should this be resolved?
A. The international community should have a regional approach by addressing the legitimate concerns between Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as the disputes over Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
The international community should also help develop poorly urbanized areas along the Pak-Afghan borders. Bringing some democratic changes in Pakistan is also one of the necessary measures to be taken.
Q. How do you asses the Afghanistan and Pakistan diplomatic relationship?
A. The reality is that there is no substitute for close cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan. As long as Pakistan is unwilling or is unable to deal with Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, these areas will be always used by insurgents and border- crossing attacks to Afghanistan.
As long as Pakistan has the Kashmir dispute unresolved with India, it will try to have some political influence in Afghanistan.
With the deterioration of security and lack of the international community's commitment in rebuilding and securing Afghanistan, Pakistan is unsure of a stabilized Afghanistan. Even after operations to arrest and eliminate al-Qaida members, Pakistan sees a future for the Taliban, and therefore it keeps its choices open.
Pakistan for many years cultivated, created and built a network of extremist parties through which it outsourced the fighting in Kashmir and Afghanistan. The parties have strong ties in the Pakistani government, and it is far from possible to overcome that overnight.
Pakistan is also concerned about the Durand Line, and it tries to keep leverage in Afghanistan.
[The Durand Line is the 1,500 mile border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was agreed upon in a treaty signed Nov. 12, 1893, in Kabul, by Sir Mortimer Durand, representing British India, and Abdul Rahman, the Amir of Afghanistan.]