Afghan women have long fought for a say in their country's future, but that fight has grown more urgent in the run-up to the Bonn Conference, a gathering charged with laying out a plan for Afghanistan for 2014 and beyond.
So far, women's battle to win a substantive role at Bonn - and any other peace talks that may come to the capital - has gained little traction either at home or abroad. And in the US, those backing women say they face an uphill fight convincing the Obama Administration to speak out more about the need for women's participation.
Afghan women leaders have issued press releases and formal position papers in the run-up to December's meeting demanding that civil society makes up 30 percent of Afghanistan's delegation to the Bonn Conference, with women accounting for half of that group.
The Afghan government has not yet announced its official delegation, but so far one man and one woman from civil society have been invited to Bonn, with the woman getting three minutes to address the plenary. Of the sixteen women attending a separate civil society forum, only one will have access to the official conference, according to the Institute for Inclusive Security, which recently brought Afghan women leaders to Washington to press their case on the Hill and with the Obama Administration.
"We would like to have strong participation in these processes, we would like to know what is being discussed, what is put on the table," says Orzala Ashraf, a peace activist and founder of an Afghan NGO for women and children. "We would like to ensure that these bargaining chips (in any peace process) are not women's rights or our achievements of the past ten years."
With the U.S. and its NATO allies focused on extricating themselves from Afghanistan, the task of laying out the path ahead has assumed extreme urgency for Afghans. "It is of high importance for women's groups and civil society to make sure their voices are included in any road map," says Ashraf, "in any direction that Afghanistan is going to take."
But whether those voices will be heard remains an open question.
As Human Rights Watch noted, "The Afghan government and its international backers say that women's rights are one of their ‘red lines' as they plan for the withdrawal of international forces. If this is the case, why are Afghan women struggling to get a seat at the table in Bonn?"
Those in Washington attribute part of the reason to a White House inner circle that sees the role of women as far removed from the issue of Afghan security. As the Washington Post famously noted earlier this year, women are seen as "pet rocks in our rucksack" that are "taking us down."
"These guys don't get it," said a senior administration official who has argued that women's participation is crucial for Afghanistan's stability, as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell did in 2002. "Ten years on we still have to make the case that women are additive."
As I've written in these pages, it is far from the situation of a decade ago when leaders across Washington fanned out before the cameras to speak about the importance of supporting Afghan women. After five years of Taliban rule, in which women were denied the rights to work and education and to leave their homes, the international community offered its arrival in 2001 as a new start.
Secretary of State Clinton helped women leaders win a speaking role at last year's Kabul Conference and has promised women that "we will not abandon you," but with her departure imminent and 2014 looming, talk of a Taliban return is surging.
Fears of what the Taliban's ascendance would mean for women have only grown stronger with news of the stoning death of a woman and her daughter in Ghazni Province. Assassinations of leading human rights supporters and police officials and attacks on girls schools have skyrocketed in recent years - even as talk of a peace deal with the Taliban has come to be viewed in NATO capitals as the best option for ending the war.
Some American advocates for women say any talk of Taliban negotiations is misplaced, especially given the recent assassination of former President and head of the High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani.
"We don't think anybody should be negotiating with the Taliban," says Esther Hyneman of Women for Afghan Women, which runs family centers and safe homes for abused women across Afghanistan. "If the Taliban wanted a role in the government, why don't they run for parliament in a democratic election? They don't want a role in the Afghan government -- they want the Afghan government."
Women's group leaders say that just like in the 1990s, when they lobbied to stop the Clinton Administration from recognizing the Taliban government, they will not stand by quietly while women half a world away are denied their constitutionally guaranteed rights to work and education. They note that Afghan women are making progress for themselves, pointing to the rising number of girls attending school, as well as female midwives, police officers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, civil society activists, parliamentarians and educators as evidence.
"We will keep the pressure on and support women in any way we can," says Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation, which helped to lead the fight against Washington's recognition of the Taliban in 1996. "There is now a huge network of non-profit organizations within Afghanistan and we are talking to them and they are taking the lead. What we can do is continue to put pressure on the U.S. government not to agree to anything that omits half the population."
Yet some wonder just how committed the White House is to supporting women's participation in their country. The President has not spoken often about Afghanistan - and far less about the country's women.
"Perhaps the tremendous unpopularity of the war puts [President Obama] in an awkward position," says activist Mavis Leno, wife of talk show host Jay Leno and one of the women who put the issue on America's map -- and in PEOPLE Magazine in 1998 -- after the Taliban came to power in 1996. "I don't think he is doing as much as he could."
Hyneman goes further:
"I am at my wit's end at the lack of discussion by the media, by our government, by our president on the issue of women's rights in Afghanistan." Of Obama, Hyneman says, "I am appalled that he has not mentioned Afghan women's rights since his speech on withdrawing US troops."
Women's activists say they are watching closely to see exactly what the Afghan government -- with support from the United States -- agrees to in any peace deal.
"I just don't understand why the fate of these women has to be considered as special pleading," Leno says. "Are we just going to stand back and see this happen again? Women were making it a little way up the hill; can we at least make sure that they don't slide back down again?"
They say they share Americans' desire to end the country's longest war, but that a peace that leaves women out will not last.
"We are in favor of peace, but this is not the road to peace, it is the road to bloodshed and subjugation and civil war, a repeat of the years past," Hyneman says. "Everyone will be sitting in front of their TV sets wringing their hands as we see women brutalized."
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
Last week's Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia was unsurprisingly uneventful. While not a "head of state" summit -- where traditionally big announcements like the decision to allow new members in would be made -- in the lead-up to the meeting there was a flurry of press about a possible enlargement of the group. But aspirant members and current observers India and Pakistan were not made into full members, and Afghanistan was once again not brought any closer into the club. Generally seen by Western observers as a less threatening entity than before, the organization's inability to move forward on expansion highlights its immaturity and should show outsiders the likely limited role that it will be able to play in post-American Afghanistan.
Initially born as a vehicle through which to resolve long-standing border disputes in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the "Shanghai Five" as it was known (made up of China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) formally changed its name in 2001 when it opened up to Uzbekistan and turned into the SCO. Over time, it developed into a forum in which regional players could forge closer links on a variety of issues, including economics, development, infrastructure projects and most recently education.
At the core of its identity, however, remained security concerns, focused on countering what the SCO members describe -- in a clear emulation of the Chinese definition of a threat -- as "terrorism, separatism and extremism." Its biannual "Peace Mission" joint counter-terrorism exercises have been the most visible expressions of this focus, offering opportunities for nations to get together and practice operations usually focused on countering an assault by a small force of well-armed terrorists. In January 2004 it established the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and the next year opened its doors to the leaders of India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan, who all attended the annual summit as "observers." Also present was Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the group agreed to establish the SCO-Afghanistan contact group, "with the purpose of elaborating proposals and recommendations on realization of cooperation between the SCO and Afghanistan on issues of mutual interest." However, since then the Contact Group has done very little, and while further countries have joined the constellation of nations interested in becoming involved in the organization (Belarus and Sri Lanka are now "Dialogue Partners" and Turkey has applied to join this club) no further tangible movement has been made.
Yet it seemed as though this might be changing. Earlier this year, the organization celebrated its ten-year anniversary, and at a high-level conference in Shanghai the question of expansion was brought up repeatedly. However, while Russian participants seemed eager for the organization to allow new members in, the Chinese side seemed hesitant, pushing to deepen the organization's economic focus and develop its international profile through official connections with other international bodies before expanding it further. This was reflected in the public discourse ahead of the St. Petersburg Summit where Russian officials backed the Afghan bid for upgrading the nation to "observer" status and openly supported Pakistan's bid for full-membership. Yet nothing happened, and in his official read-out to journalists on his way back from the Summit, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made absolutely no mention of the possibilities of expansion.
This inaction is somewhat perplexing to outside observers. The organization was fundamentally founded to clarify borders so as to counter a transnational terrorist threat that most would agree has had a regional home in Afghanistan, and yet the SCO has done surprisingly little in direct terms to help the nation. Individual members have given support and money, but the organization itself has not. The idea of membership, or at least "observer" status, would theoretically tie Afghanistan more closely to regional players and bolster the current administration in Kabul. Yet by this same token, admitting Afghanistan to the group would mean taking sides in a conflict whose outcome remains uncertain. No one yet quite understands what the American withdrawal in 2014 will actually look like, and SCO members are unsure whether they want to become too entangled in a nation that has already subdued at least one SCO member in the past (Russia). And atop all of this there is the capacity question: the SCO has no standing forces and controls few direct funds. Consequently, as a diplomat at the Secretariat in Beijing put it to me last year, "what would you have us do?"
Other potential members face different problems: unwilling to take sides, the organization would most likely have to open its doors to both India and Pakistan at the same time -- something that would also have the effect of bringing into the organization all the disagreements they share. The question of upgrading Iran is one that has taken something of a back seat of late following President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's failed attempt to be admitted last year. The reason for this blockage seems to be a general desire amongst SCO members to not overtly antagonize the United States. Mongolia would seem to be a relatively natural member, but given the precedent that letting a nation in would set, it continues to be obliged to sit on the sidelines.
And so the question remains: Why, in the run-up to the St. Petersburg Summit, was there such a flurry of interest in possible expansion? One explanation is that Islamabad has for some time been trying to bolster its regional partnerships in an attempt to counter-balance American anger and perceived fickleness. Russia also appears to be behind a lot of talk of expansion. Concerned about the in-roads China is making in its Central Asian periphery, Moscow perhaps hopes that expanding the SCO, something seen as primarily a Chinese vehicle, might stretch it beyond its ability to function. While the SCO may not have done much yet, it has laid the foundations for a more weighty future -- a long-term vision that accords with China's approach to foreign policymaking.
Whatever the case, the end result is that another high-level SCO Summit passed with little tangible forward movement. Seemingly obvious achievements like upgrading Afghanistan or Turkey continue to be avoided, while outside China there is little evidence that the regional powers are willing to invest too much into the SCO. All of which is welcome news to those who worry about the organization becoming a "NATO of the East," but less positive to those who hope it might be willing to take on a greater role in Afghanistan when the United States makes its move in 2014.
Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and an Associate Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation. His writing can be found at http://www.raffaellopantucci.com.
VLADIMIR RODIONOV/AFP/Getty Images
While regionalism in Europe is under stress due to a monetary crisis, South Asian efforts at regional cooperation are gaining some tentative strength. The seventeenth summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), held in Addu Atoll in the Maldives, concluded last Friday with a greater sense of regional purpose and international approval. The United States sent Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, and, for the first time, China sent a team of observers to the event.
SAARC was established as a permanent organization in 1985, with a secretariat hosted in Kathmandu, Nepal created in 1987, in partial competition with other regional blocks such as The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. Its original seven members: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, also agreed to add Afghanistan as an eighth member in 2007. The addition of Afghanistan was particularly significant because SAARC could thereby act as a forum for India and Pakistan to negotiate their strategic influence over Afghanistan's development path. In Pakistan, there has been recurring suspicion about ulterior motives for the high level of development aid that India has given to Afghanistan. This is believed to be a major cause for the Pakistani security establishment's interference in Afghanistan's political trajectory. Allowing for a transparent exchange on regional development investment in Afghanistan could be an effective means of assuaging some of this mistrust. A glimmer of this prospect was realized at last week's meeting, where Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with both the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers for talks on regional development and security.
The persistent acrimony and nuclear rivalry between India and Pakistan has often hampered substantive progress at regional cooperation. Yet SAARC is evolving into a forum that links civil society and governments in the region through common denominators such as education, the environment and human rights. At this year's summit, "People's SAARC," a parallel initiative to the official SAARC, which was established originally in 1996 as a stakeholder feedback mechanism to regional governments, emerged with a clear "memorandum" that made detailed but practical "demands" on the rights of fishermen in regional waters, migratory populations and communities impacted by climatic changes and disasters.
Today the Afghan government convenes its "traditional Loya Jirga," or grand assembly, despite mounting criticism from members of Parliament, political opponents of the current administration and many Afghan people. Two thousand people were expected to be in Kabul for the assembly.
In the past, the Afghan regimes would call a Loya Jirga over different national issues; however, the new constitution has limited the launch of Loya Jirgas. According to Article 110 of the Constitution, such a meeting is the highest expression of the people of Afghanistan. But based on Article 111, it can be convened only in specific situations: to make decisions on the issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the supreme interests of the country, to amend certain provisions of the Constitution, and to prosecute the President in accordance with Article 69 of the Constitution.
One Afghan lawyer, Sayed Sharif told me, "[The Loya Jirga] is totally against the Constitution. We have an active parliament in place; thus there is no need for a traditional Loya Jirga." He continued, "Due to systemic corruption within the Afghan government, there is an unbridgeable distance between the people and the government. Measures such as holding the Loya Jirga will definitely widen the distrust between the Afghan people and the government."
The main topics for discussion at the Loya Jirga are expected to be Afghanistan's strategic partnership with the United States and possible reconciliation with the country's insurgency. "The Afghan government should have approached Parliament to decide about our strategic partnership," Sharif stated.
Waheed Akbari, a member of the Afghan Women Skill Development Center, a local NGO, agrees. "If the government continues to ignore the role of Parliament, there will be no need for this body [parliament] to exist. Ignoring the role of Parliament means enhancing the establishment of a totalitarian regime," he added. "This so-called traditional Loya Jirga is unconstitutional. The government should be responsible for the expenses of the Loya Jirga and any other possible consequences from it, such as escalation of clashes between the government and the Afghan Parliament and any further tribal conflicts."
While some Afghan officials, such as Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the senior security advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, have argued that the Loya Jirga plays a consultative role (and would thus not be in violation of the Constitution), some analysts -- including Afghan parliamentarians -- have expressed their concerns about the possible executive role of the Jirga.
Ghulam Sarwar Fayez, a member of parliament (MP) from the northern province of Badghis, opposes the Loya Jirga. "I have a strong fear that the government will implement the decisions made by the Jirga," he said."Most members of the Jirga have been selected by government officials both at the provincial and district level; thus it is natural that the members will follow instructions of the government." Fayez added that approval for the strategic partnership between the United States and Afghanistan should occur within the proper legal framework, namely the Parliament, rather than gaining approval from people beholden to or dependent on Karzai and his associates.
Ramatullah Turkistani, the head of the provincial council of the Northern Province of Faryab, also considers the Loya Jirga unconstitutional. According to Turkistani, "The traditional Loya Jirga practically negates the existing Constitution and Afghan Parliament. The government has invited its supporters from across the country, and tends to impose its wishes on them. But any decision of the upcoming Jirga will not be implemented, because it has no legal basis. Thus, not only is it an unconstitutional act, but also waste of time and resources."
Although Turkistani does not support the traditional Jirga, he is strongly in favor of strategic partnership with the U.S. "provided this partnership ensures the national interest of Afghanistan and is approved by the Afghan Parliament -- not through an unconstitutional Loya Jirga."
The relationship between the Parliament and government has been antagonistic from the beginning. In many cases, the government has directly ignored the demands of the MPs, including by introducing the new cabinet ministers; for the past two years, seven Afghan ministries have been led by acting ministers, in violation of the Constitution. And the government has patently ignored the objections of many MPs to tomorrow's Jirga.
Sayed Zaman Hashemi, another Afghan lawyer and political analyst, echoed Turkistani's fears about the makeup and legality of the Jirga. "A large number of the Loya Jirga members will attend from southern Afghanistan, and many of them have sympathy for the insurgents or a similar outlook to the Taliban. What will happen if they demand the immediate withdrawal of international troops?" He concluded that,"such a potential demand will ensure the interests of Iran and Pakistani, who do not want Afghanistan to have a long-term partnership with the United States. This will lead the country to be again under the control of neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan, a country which not only supports insurgents, but also provoke them to sabotage stability in Afghanistan." This concern about the ethnic and geographical dimension of the Jirga is shared by many northerners and non-Pashtuns, who see the Jirga as a Pashtun tradition that could further entrench elements unfriendly to the minorities, or lead to a deal with the mostly Pashtun Taliban that would put the gains made by minorities over the past decade in danger.
Pawiz Kawa, an Afghan reporter and political analyst, told me, "I welcome any initiation through which Afghans are consulted on important national issues like the strategic partnership." But Kawa went on to state his opposition to the Jirga on legal grounds, saying that, "The Afghan people at large will not welcome the outcome of the Loya Jirga. Afghanistan has a functioning Parliament, thus, there is no need to call a Loya Jirga."
Kawa also supports Afghanistan's strategic partnership with the U.S. "My personal expectation of the partnership is to improve and enhance the government's institutions and to ensure the national interest of Afghanistan-not just the national interest of the U.S. Strong Afghan institutions will pave a clear path for proper ‘give and take' for both countries. If we continue to have weak institutions in Afghanistan, the strategic agreement will turn out to be a useless document."
He also asked the international community, particularly the U.S., to focus on interests of the Afghan people-not just the few who hold government positions.
Overall, many Afghans want Afghanistan to sign a strategic partnership with the United States, provided that the national interests of their country are ensured. However, most of those I spoke with want the agreement to be approved by the Afghan parliament, which for all of its problems still represents the Afghan people. It is difficult to predict the outcome of the Loya Jirga, but considering the strong resistance within the Afghan parliament and political opposition of the government, it seems that the upcoming Loya Jirga will negatively impact the fragile democracy and further increase instability in Afghanistan.
Khalid Mafton is an Afghan writer and analyst.
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
On Wednesday, more than 2000 Afghan representatives will meet in Kabul for a "Traditional Loya Jirga" at the request of President Hamid Karzai. The ostensible purpose of the meeting is to gain popular consensus on a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the United States on security cooperation and to reconfirm a commitment by the Afghan people to a peace process with the Taliban.
Both subjects need national support to succeed. But many in Afghanistan are questioning whether a Jirga is a legal means for approving agreements rather than the government or elected representatives. And even if it is legal, is it still wise?
The first question is easier to answer. There is nothing illegal per se for the Afghan President, or others, to convene a "Traditional Loya Jirga" when they want, just as someone may convene a ‘Million Man March' on a given issue in Washington. Jirgas, or councils, have been a common mechanism for community decision making in Afghanistan for centuries. National Loya Jirgas, or grand councils, have been used selectively to decide important matters of state.
Since 2004, however, a Loya Jirga has no binding legal authority unless it complies with formalities of the Constitution -- and the upcoming "traditional Loya Jirga" does not. Article 110 of the Constitution defines a Loya Jirga in very specific terms, stating that its voting members comprise "1. Members of the National Assembly; [and] 2. Presidents of the provincial as well as district assemblies." Most notably, no district council elections have been held, and therefore a proper Constitutional Loya Jirga is currently impossible. Beyond that, many of the delegates that were invited, such as tribal leaders, businessmen, or civil society representatives, do not hold positions authorized by the Constitution to attend an official Loya Jirga -- making quorum rules and voting rights entirely unclear.
A consultative Jirga, on the other hand, can make political statements or send signals to those in Parliament or the country's government about what is acceptable to the people. In 2010 President Karzai convened a "Consultative Peace Jirga" to initiate a peace process with the Taliban, and it endorsed the creation of the High Peace Council that was headed by former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani until he was assassinated in September. Yet the High Peace Council was ultimately formed by President Karzai under his executive powers. As such, it serves as an advisory body and does not set a precedent for consultative Jirgas to pass legislation or otherwise take official state actions.
Those who criticize the legality of the upcoming Loya Jirga have two primary concerns. One is that President Karzai will seek to amend Article 62 of the Constitution, to allow him to run for a third presidential term. This seems unlikely, given the clear legal deficiencies the upcoming Jirga has compared to the Constitutional requirements stated in Article 110. Moreover, any attempt at amending the Constitution would surely encounter strong opposition from democratic opposition leaders and the international community, some of whom have already made their voices heard against Wednesday's Jirga.
The more difficult question is whether the Loya Jirga will be asked to approve a strategic partnership agreement with the United States as a binding agreement in lieu of Parliamentary ratification. Article 90 of the Constitution gives the National Assembly (comprised of both the upper House of Elders and lower House of the People) the duty of "Ratification of international treaties and agreements, or abrogation of membership of Afghanistan in them." The strategic partnership agreement probably would not qualify as a treaty because, among other things, the United States has so far not proposed to present it for Senate ratification under its own Constitution. Whether or not it meets the Constitutional definition of an "international agreement" hinges on its specific terms and definitions under Afghan law that likely have no precedent under the current Constitution.
That legal thicket should be left for another day, however, because the real concerns about Wednesday's Loya Jirga have more to do with political legitimacy than legal fine print. Implicit in the questions from Parliamentarians about the Traditional Loya Jirga's legality or the Taliban's threat to kill Jirga attendees is a fear that the "Traditional Loya Jirga" has more public credibility than they do, and will undermine their authority. Indeed, while the membership of other Loya Jirgas has been criticized as politically manipulated and unrepresentative, the Parliament is seen as little better after the fraud-filled 2010 election. The Taliban's credibility is, by some measures, at even lower ebb.
Ultimately, the merits of the Traditional Loya Jirga rest on whether one sees it as fundamentally democratic or a tool of an exclusive political elite. This, in turn, depends on the Jirga's membership and mandate. In an ideal form, national Jirgas could be seen as a rough equivalent of a referendum as compared to parliamentary legislation. While elected representatives handle everyday matters of law, a referendum's more direct democracy presents an opportunity for ‘the people' to surpass the legislature on matters of particular importance when conducted in accordance with the Constitution.
National jirgas have not been so pure in practice, however. Since the Constitution was ratified in 2004, national jirga representatives have tended to be selected on an ad-hoc basis, largely by the office of the President, without transparency and with clear deficiencies in representation of women, civil society, and other important constituencies.
Given that the "Traditional Loya Jirga" lacks formal requirements to assume constitutional powers, its main authority is political. Therefore, its success will depend on whether President Karzai has chosen members that truly represent diverse constituencies and limit themselves to political outcomes. If instead the delegates are seen as exclusive of key interest groups and attempt to make legally binding decisions that could not be approved otherwise, this Loya Jirga will represent a significant setback for Afghan democracy and could foment greater conflict, rather than pushing forward the priority of peace.
Scott Worden is a Senior Rule of Law Advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He served as a Commissioner on the 2009 Afghanistan Electoral Complaints Commission and was an observer of the 2010 Parliamentary Elections.
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images
Those who argue about the Afghan war on bumper stickers and in sound bites would do well to pay extended attention to the Asia Foundation's annual survey of Afghan public opinion. The results cut both ways, demonstrating more progress than is admitted by the "Afghanistan is hopeless" crowd, while simultaneously calling into question the more extravagant declarations of those who claim a clear path to success. The survey is one of the most careful periodic studies of Afghan opinion. Conducted annually since 2006, this year's survey interviewed 6348 respondents in all 34 of the country's provinces, with sophisticated oversight and training of the pollsters. No survey can wholly correct for the tendency of some people, especially in countries like Afghanistan where the security situation is tenuous, to give the answers they think an outsider wants. The fact that 95 villages originally chosen (out of 876 villages and urban points originally selected for interviewing with a total of 166 later switched for various reasons) had to be replaced by others because of poor security in sampled areas probably slants the results somewhat more toward positive responses. However, it is fair to note that fewer villages were switched for security reasons in 2011 than in 2010 (95 compared to 138 in 2010). Despite these caveats, though, this survey is brim full of important results.
On the positive side, and at a time when many Americans have an undifferentiated view that everything Afghan is sliding downwards, nearly half the Afghans surveyed believe their country is moving in the right direction, a trend that has held up since 2008. The numbers who are optimistic about the country's economic future has risen since last year's survey. The survey also shows continued high esteem for the Afghan Army, the most highly respected institution in Afghanistan by a sizable margin (though those wanting to replicate the Iraq "awakening" example should note that the least respected institution are local militias). Confidence in local government shows improvement, particularly at provincial and district levels, although in this as in every aspect there are wide ethnic and regional differences that merit close attention.
There is strong support for a negotiated peace, although the regional differences evident in the survey results suggest great concern that a badly designed peace might bring the Taliban back to power. This fear of civil war if the Taliban returns to power is one I heard much about when I visited Afghanistan in March. The survey indicates that such fears are particularly wide spread among ethnic minorities, so the kind of peace we pursue matters, in order to prevent a move toward armed conflict from populations who are most concerned about a Taliban return. Support for the Taliban has declined, and there is clearly an increased revulsion among Afghans against the civilian casualties caused by the insurgents. Afghan respondents also show increasing awareness of improvements in health and education. In short, there is progress. But there is also a great deal about which to be concerned.
Afghan fears about security are growing, and now overshadow complaints about corruption (still a major problem). Afghans in the areas of heavy combat in the southwest, south and east show much lower levels of confidence in security than their counterparts in other parts of the country. Suicide bombers are increasingly rattling the confidence of city dwellers, who have more negative views of security than do villagers. More than half of the respondents say they fear for the safety of themselves and their families, a statistic that would presumably be higher if some of the excluded sample points had been included. More worrisome still, the number of respondents showing such fear has not declined from 2010 to 2011, and in eastern Afghanistan, where the Haqqani Network is predominant, such fear is rising.
There are also growing concerns about freedom of expression in the country -- a concern that reflects somewhat negatively on the Afghan government and warlords, but is specifically linked by many respondents to poor security and fears of the Taliban. The survey lays bare the great deal of doubt that Afghans see about the Taliban being rolled back, even in the areas where direct confrontations with U.S. and international forces have diminished substantially. Concerns about and resentment of the behavior of foreign troops are also a growing problem. There are wide variations on these views even in different districts within provinces, so it is a mistake to say the survey flatly challenges NATO views of success -- but counterinsurgency is as much about psychology as about statistics. These perceptions are a cause for concern that military analysts need to consider.
Ultimately, for all of the negatives in this survey, there are many areas of optimism as well. America has twice ignored Afghanistan, after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union and after our initial success in 2001. And twice we have paid substantially in blood for our loss of attention. Before we give up and declare everything hopeless, we need to look closely at how much has been achieved in the eyes of Afghans, and what that means in terms of the possibilities that still exist to succeed. But we need to look equally clearly at the negatives, the places where Afghans remain or have grown more skeptical, and think of corrective actions, even as international forces redeploy within Afghanistan and eventually withdraw. In doing so, the Asia Foundation survey is an important document, but only if we are willing to think in terms more complicated than slogans.
Neumann was the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan 2005-07 and is the author of The Other War:
winning and losing in Afghanistan. He is
president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, but the views expressed here are his own.
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
In less than a month, world leaders will once again convene in Bonn, Germany to lay out a roadmap for Afghanistan's fledgling democracy and its future beyond 2014. Chaired by the Afghan government, "Bonn+10," as it is now known, is expected to include representatives from dozens of countries and international organizations. It aims to devise an effective plan for the ongoing security transition to Afghan control, accelerate the contentious Afghan reconciliation process, and delineate long-term regional and international engagement of Afghanistan beyond 2014.
In anticipation of the meeting, the second phase of shifting security responsibilities to Afghan security forces was decided upon at an international conference in Istanbul on November 2. The Afghan government and twelve regional countries signed the Istanbul Declaration whereby the leaders of those countries, including Pakistan, India, China, Iran, Russia and some Central Asian Republics, expressed their support for Afghanistan and committed to cooperate in the Afghan reconciliation process and combat terrorism and insurgency. However, many Afghans view these developments with skepticism. They worry about the country's uncertain future as the U.S.-led coalition prepares to withdraw some troops and move the remainder into support roles ahead of the 2014 deadline. These fears are even more intense within Afghan civil society, excluded from both the upcoming gathering and the ongoing Afghan peace talks.
Many Afghans believe that another major conference alone will not serve as a panacea, or bring any tangible solutions to their problems, especially when President Hamid Karzai will select most of the participants with only nominal civil society representation, including NGOs and traditional local and tribal leaders. Such concerns were further escalated after Karzai asked to convene a traditional Loya Jirga (grand assembly) that would guarantee the primacy of his inner clique in the gathering, and hence a continuation of the present dysfunctional political system. The five-day Loya Jirga is scheduled to begin in Kabul on November 16, and will bring together around 2,000 influential Afghan political figures, warlords, former anti-Soviet mujahideen and jihadi leaders, local and tribal leaders, and civil society representatives to discuss the upcoming conference and the much-anticipated U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership. These doubts were intensified most recently when the Taliban published a 27-page document it claimed to be the official security plan for the so-called "slave jirga." If the document is proven to be authentic, it would represent a clear blow to the Afghan government, particularly the security apparatus, and would show the Taliban's ability to infiltrate even the most highly secured areas of government. The jirga's promise appeared further threatened when key Afghan opposition figures, including Abdullah Abdullah called it "illegal" and "unconstitutional," and said he will not partake.
Additionally, concerns abound across Afghanistan that President Karzai may abuse his executive powers to alter the Afghan Constitution and remain in office after ending his current term in 2014, despite his recent statements to the contrary. This potential move by Karzai is widely seen and construed, mostly by members of Afghanistan's United National Front, as a safeguard of his power in the case of waning support in his native south or a political gridlock in Kabul.
of violence over the past few months has further magnified some Afghans' doubts
about the U.S. strategy of trying to reconcile with the Taliban. Many Afghans
are concerned that next month's conference may well set in motion ten years or
more of yet another dysfunctional and corrupt governance for Afghanistan and
that planning for the future will be pointless and trivial without security and
stability on the ground. However, others fear that "Bonn+10" will fail to bring
any tangible change to Afghanistan because the focus of the meeting will not be
on reconciling with the Taliban. Many Afghans, as well as
non-Afghans, think it was a mistake to exclude representatives of armed
insurgent groups, including the Taliban, from the last Bonn meeting in 2001,
ignoring even those who reconciled, and that the likely reoccurrence next month
will inexorably mean failure for the conference.
They believe the Taliban's
exclusion from the conference means the meeting will be merely for show
and not for a political settlement. Worse still, the Taliban's exclusion may
well result in their challenging the outcomes of the conference just as they
did after the first Bonn meeting in 2001.
The various Bonn participants have expressed divergent views on the Taliban's presence at the upcoming conference. President Karzai has repeatedly stated that he will not participate in the meeting without the Taliban, and the United States and its NATO allies appear to have left the decision up to the Afghan government. However, the U.S. envoy in Kabul, Ryan Crocker, has categorically stated that there is no chance for the Taliban to participate in the conference. While the Taliban has rejected nearly every attempted negotiation, operating with such lack of coordination, transparency and leadership on an issue of national and international priority sends mixed and confusing messages to the Taliban leadership. This lack of unified voice has further complicated the already fragile peace process.
There are many contradictory views and misconceptions about the reconciliation process, and whether and to what degree to engage the Taliban as the United States assumes a non-combat and/or support role. While Afghanistan's reconciliation and reintegration process, ostensibly led by the High Peace Council, provides an official address for peace talks, it lacks the inclusiveness and national support necessary for successful implementation. The High Peace Council has become a talk show of incompetent representatives picked personally by President Karzai and has been largely unsuccessful in addressing the fears of most Afghans. While the reconciliation process is meant to achieve a timely and constructive peace deal with the Taliban, it also plays a crucial role in the transition process and supports the responsibility of both Afghan security forces and leadership. Afghanistan's current transition process is designed to produce better governance, catalyze economic development, and institutionalize the rule of law ahead of the 2014 U.S. withdrawal deadline. If the reconciliation with the Taliban does not materialize or fails, there will be no successful security transition.
Another impediment and an apparent challenge to the peace talks at Bonn next month is the realignment of anti-Taliban constituencies in the north of Afghanistan. This opposition includes primarily non-Pashtuns - Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras - who all fought against the Taliban under the umbrella of the Northern Alliance in the 1990s. Vigorous critics of both President Karzai and the Taliban, these elements believe they have the most to lose from any negotiated peace deal and strongly oppose any talks with the Taliban. It is widely believed that these groups will put together a unified voice to oppose and challenge the current reconciliation process in next month's conference. This belief was solidified last Friday after the former Afghan Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud - a younger brother of the late anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud - announced the formation a new political movement known as Jabha-e Milli-e Afghanistan (the National Front of Afghanistan). The movement that includes several key leaders of different minority groups has already taken a potent stance against the current Afghan government by denouncing and boycotting the upcoming Jirga.
Many Afghans also doubt that the conference can elicit increased or perhaps "sincere" regional support and commitment from neighboring countries. While the 2001 Bonn conference was successful in bringing together a large alliance and laying out a plan and groundwork for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, one of the mistakes it made was ignoring regional countries and not curtailing their interference in Afghanistan. This gave Pakistan (and other external elements) a free hand to continue covertly supporting and providing sanctuary to subversive groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan, resulting in the killing of many Afghan, American and NATO soldiers. The Bonn conference next month is a good opportunity to garner and ensure such kinds of regional pledges and commitments with sticks and carrots.
In light of the difficulties and looming uncertainties ahead, it is unclear whether another Bonn conference will help Afghanistan positively shape its future. While there is no silver bullet for Afghanistan's ills, next month's meeting will at least provide an opportunity for the United States and NATO to lay out a functional roadmap ahead of and beyond 2014 for a successful political, security and economic transition, good governance, peace and reconciliation, and rule of law. There is also still time to ensure that the conference is truly representative of all Afghans, including different ethnic and social groups, to decide their uncertain future. It is equally important for Bonn+10 to ensure an authentic political will and sincere commitment to peace building in Afghanistan, and for Afghans to constructively engage in nation building process in the years to come.
Javid Ahmad, a native of Kabul, is Program Coordinator with the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, DC.
ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images
On the holiest day of the Muslim calendar, Eid al-Adha, a suicide bomber blew himself up among worshippers as they were leaving a mosque in a village in Baghlan province. One commander from the Afghan Local Police was reported killed, along with at least three civilians and four others, with a further eighteen civilians wounded. Although not claimed by the Taliban, the bombing fitted in with their normal pattern of attacks. This would hardly have been breaking news, except that two days previously, the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, in his Eid message to the nation, had given the clearest orders yet to Taliban fighters on civilian casualties, telling them to take every step to "protect the lives, wealth and honor of ordinary people." The attack left many people wondering whether Omar's message had been pure propaganda, or evidence of the leadership's limited control over its fighters.
The Baghlan attack was already dubious under the Taliban Code of Conduct, (see the text and an analysis here). Issued in May 2010, it orders Taliban fighters to, "with all their power... be careful with regard to the lives of the common people and their property." Under the fresh orders given in Mullah Omar's Eid message the attack is indefensible. He devotes about a quarter of his message to outlining new orders that are far more comprehensive and detailed than anything issued by the Taliban on civilian casualties to date. Unlike the Code of Conduct, which was aimed at field commanders and distributed in some areas more than others, Omar's Eid message was delivered very publicly -- a fact that may also help put pressure on the Taliban to enforce them.
GUL RAHIM/AFP/Getty Images
On 5 October 2001, the London Evening Standard reported that a veteran commander of the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad was calling for then-U.S. President George W. Bush's imminent bombing campaign of Afghanistan to be delayed. The commander, whose name was Abdul Haq, needed time, he said, to implement his plan for an internal, peaceful toppling of the Taliban.
‘Every time I meet commanders who cross the mountains in darkness to brief me,' he said, ‘they are part of the Taliban forces, but they no longer support them. These men will join us and there are many of them. When the time is right they and others will rise up and this Taliban Government will be swept aside.'
Haq went on to add: "The people are starving, they are already against [the Taliban]."
But his voice, so authoritative when visiting President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to call for more support to the mujahideen during the Soviet war, was barely heard in the aftermath of September 11. The bombing started, and Abdul Haq began his perilous mission. Two weeks later, on 25 October 2001, he was dead.
In November 2001, after his death, Abdul Haq's obituaries were dismissive, even overtly condemning. Not only was the manner of his death questioned, but so too was his life and, implicit to that, his ‘value.' When the New York Times described him demeaningly as "a middle aged man on a mule" or a "privately financed freelancer trying to overthrow the Taliban" the implication was that there should be nothing to regret about his loss. In London, an unattributed piece in Private Eye added snidely, "Like so many erstwhile terrorists, Haq managed to reinvent himself as a ‘moderate' and a ‘peacemaker' -- so successfully that his murderous exploits were entirely omitted from every single obituary."
Other pieces begged to differ and one, written by a cultural anthropologist and former U.S. Diplomat to Afghanistan, had a different take on the story:
To hear them talk in Washington and Islamabad, you'd think there was some doubt. In fact, you'd think his death no great loss. Listen carefully. It's scared talk, the kind of stuff you hear from bureaucrats whose backsides are exposed.
Abdul Haq, they rush to insist, was on a mission of his own. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. Either way, it's shameful to demean him.
There is some doubt about how the man died and where and when. We know he was ‘questioned' and then executed. But was it by hanging with his body then used for swaying small-arms target practice, or was he shot in cold blood in a prison courtyard? It was in eastern Afghanistan -- but Jalalabad or Kabul? It was two weeks ago -- but late Thursday or early Friday? There's some doubt about who sent him and who betrayed him. There could even be confusion about his name were it not so well known:
‘Born Hamayoun Arsala 44 years ago, he became "Abdul Haq" -- Servant of Justice -- in the crucible of our Cold War's most decisive battleground.'
Kabul, January 2004
Towards the end of January 2004, I finally met the Taliban's Deputy Interior Minister, Mullah Khaksar. It was his boss, the Taliban Interior Minister, Mullah Razzaq, who had apparently given the orders for Haq to be killed.
The family told me that Khaksar had visited Haq in Peshawar after September 11 and helped him with his plan to overthrow the Taliban, intending to work with Haq in forming a broad-based government. The plan was for Khaksar to work with Khan Mir, another of Haq's jihadi commanders, in Kabul as Haq went into Afghanistan from the East on his mission. The two would work on turning over several divisions of the Interior Ministry. In the event though, Haq had been killed and captured before the fall of Kabul.
Khaksar had apparently turned himself over to the Karzai government following the routing of the Taliban and was now hiding out in a "safe house." At this stage there was still no Taliban Reconciliation Program.
I hooked up with my interpreter, Hanif and we headed in the direction of Khair Khana on a cold January day, the air thick with a winter freeze. Eventually we arrived at a rundown suburban house, stepped into a concrete hallway and were shown into a curtained room. The Mullah sat there alone. He had a shaggy dark beard, a voluminous dark grey turban and dark, spaniel-shaped eyes. I could see my breath in the cold air and was relieved when a young man arrived to stoke the bukhari stove heater and bring us green tea and nuts.
Khaksar's dark looks were utterly incongruous with his quiet, high-pitched voice and the phone which periodically jingled ‘happy birthday' from inside his salwar kameez. After some explanations of who I was, I asked whether, given the current situation, it might have been better for many members of the Taliban if Haq had not been killed?
Khaksar replied, "At the last days the friends of Abdul Haq in the Interior Ministry practically began a war. We were ready to act" he said, telling me Haq had wanted a broad-based government, like himself. Later, he had stayed at the Arsala house in Peshawar and spoken with Haq's brothers Haji din Mohammad and Haji Qadir. He told me that he had known the regime would collapse two years before it did. I asked why Mullah Razzaq had wanted Haq dead and Khaksar said:
He used his competence as it was an emergency situation. But he also said that, at this time, the Taliban still did not believe they would lose their power. They thought, rather naively, that Afghans would rise up against the foreign invaders in their support. They executed [Haq] as they thought the USA would rescue him and then he'd stand against the Taliban again. But the act [of killing Haq] was against human rights law and [Islamic] law. As he was killed without a fight and without a trial.
As to why the Taliban had killed Haq so fast, he said:
If he was alive and his programme had been a success, then from my point of view he would now be President of Afghanistan...If they had put him in jail the people would have been rising up and pushing for a revolution.
Again, his phone tinkled ‘happy birthday' from somewhere deep within his salwar kameez. Fixing me with his bottomless dark eyes he added, "A lot of people supported his plan, even in Khost, Paktia, Gardez and throughout Afghanistan."
These were the same places one of Haq's British supporters, nobleman and famed Afghan war photographer Sir John Gunston, had mentioned as being the backbone of the Taliban's hold over the south: the places which had fallen due to Haq's commanders and the willingness of the people who were fed up with the regime. Not due to some ‘secret deals' made by MI6 -- as asserted in the British press -- who had been nowhere to be seen when help was needed.
His comments echoed Gunston's assessment of the sad irony that, in Kabul, Abdul Haq had been deemed a threat to the Taliban, yet in Washington and London, those charged with knowing better were just blithely unaware. I asked Khaksar if it was too late to include moderate Taliban in the government. "Yes of course," he snapped. "But if not 100 percent fruitful, it could be 20 percent at least." It was a short interview. He had people to see, but he agreed to meet again the next day to talk more about the circumstances surrounding Haq's death.
Lucy Morgan Edwards is a former Political Advisor to the EU Ambassador in Kabul and author of The Afghan Solution: The Inside Story of Abdul Haq, the CIA and How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan, from which the above passages are derived.
MICHEL PORRO/AFP/Getty Images
Assuming for a moment that many of Afghanistan's security problems originate outside the country's borders, the upcoming international conference on Afghanistan to be held in Istanbul on November 2 could be a unique occasion to address the many obstacles inhibiting a just and durable peace in the country. But the possibility of obtaining any tangible result from Istanbul is more remote than some may expect. Under the veneer of diplomatic nicety and rhetoric lies a set of mini-Great Game maneuvers that will put to the test the current efforts to bring about Afghan reconciliation, transition, sovereignty, and a sustainable paradigm shift in regional relations.
The Turkish initiative, backed by Afghanistan and major Western donors, will bring together a core group of leaders from 14 nations that form the "Heart of Asia" consortium, along with observers from the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, Japan and others, to try to improve region-wide security and cooperation prospects through confidence-building measures and economic integration initiatives, such as the "New Silk Road" project.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, explained that the United States and others are working in forums such as the Istanbul meeting to help secure commitments from regional countries "to respect Afghan sovereignty and territorial integrity and to support Afghan reconciliation." Another aim of the gathering is to smooth the way for December's much larger conference to be held in Bonn, Germany, where decisions will be made for the post-2014 international engagement and long-term Afghan aid strategy.
MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images
As we pass the 10-year anniversary of the US-led war in Afghanistan, most attention has been focused on how much longer the United States intends to stay in the region. But a question that has not been addressed is who is going to be putting the pieces together afterwards. The European Union (EU) and the United States are clearly at the end of their tether, while Russia, India and other nearby powers continue to lack the capacity or means to dominate the region. Other rising regional power China may continue to be wary of becoming involved in any foreign entanglements, but as a friend put it in a meeting in Beijing the other day, China may not have broken the teapot of Afghanistan, but it is one that sits firmly on their borders.
And there is some evidence that this reality is sinking in at Zhongnanhai in Beijing. Chinese firms have made substantial investments in Afghanistan. The Aynak copper mine has been joined by an investment in oil fields in northern Afghanistan. And while Chinese firms in the end did not invest in the Bamiyan iron mines they have still cast their lot in terms of developing Afghan infrastructure - pouring money into telecoms, road-building and train lines linking Afghanistan to the rest of the region.
But this has not been supported by any large-scale investment in Afghan security. For that, China continues to look to NATO on the ground and more implicit protection from her close ally in Islamabad. As one senior Afghan put it to me, a reason that was often given for why the Chinese had gotten some of these deals was that it was known how close they were to Pakistan. The assumption was that if the deal went to China then the site would be protected in some way and the development would proceed.
While unclear to what degree this was the determining factor, the story plays into what seems to be China's main foreign policy factor when considering Afghanistan, and that is Pakistan. The Sino-Pak relationship is one of the closest in the world, spanning trade, nuclear weapons, counter-terrorism and regional hedging against India. As both sides characterize it publicly, it is "higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel, sweeter than honey, and dearer than eyesight." And into this fits Afghanistan, a troublesome country that borders both and is the source of regional instability. China, still a hesitant foreign policy actor, is unwilling to do too much to assert her authority in the region and is more than happy to let eager Pakistan take the lead.
And this approach is something that has worked for China for many years now. Unwilling to become involved in a conflict that could force it to take sides in a conflict in which it could be painted as part of some alliance against Islam and potentially support actors who would encourage separatists in the restive Xinjiang province, China has hesitated to do much in Afghanistan in support of NATO efforts in the country. For some in China, there was a sense that NATO's loss in Afghanistan was China's gain and that the potential encirclement that might result from NATO success on their borders would be to China's detriment, while for others there was a sense that this was a lost cause anyway and that Afghanistan was the "graveyard of empires."
Instead, China focused on investing in things that seemed like a good idea. A large copper mine at Aynak sits close to China's borders and consequently seemed a wise investment to first bid for it and then offer a whole package of deals including a local power station and train line to provide the backdrop to make the deal work for the Chinese firm. All of this would help supply China's need for copper, as well as develop a part of the country that was close to China and would therefore potentially have a knock-on effect in improving prosperity in neighboring underdeveloped Chinese province Xinjiang. Similarly with the deal to secure the oil fields in Amu Darya - China's unslakable thirst for hydrocarbons means it will reach out anywhere to get them, and when they are so close to home, all the better.
But while none of this disagrees with western policy in Afghanistan, there is no sense that China is willing to buy into any active policy supporting western goals in the region. China continues to be the ultimate hedging power in Afghanistan - while it seems clear that they are willing to support western aims in the country, there continues to be a lack of any clear evidence that they are as willing to expend political capital or effort to advance their goals actively in the country. This is not to say they are indolent in advancing their interests, but that they are wary of becoming entangled in a country that has repeatedly shown a capacity to reject foreign influence.
From a Chinese perspective, the answer to Afghanistan is clear. The tribes need to fight it out amongst each other - to paraphrase what one expert told me in Beijing, this is a country with "lots of big powerful men who need to be kept happy" and outsiders do not really stand much of chance moderating this. Ultimately, the country is poor, will clearly need investment going forward, and China will be there to support it. With deep pockets and no conditions, this support can be funneled to whomever is in charge and to whomever has the power of the provinces where China has direct interests. When it comes to border threats, China seems to have managed to secure strong intelligence links and is able to keep a quite firm lid on any potential threats from extremist groups with links to networks in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
China's play in Afghanistan has been very hesitant so far. The reason for this is a lack of certainty in Beijing about what Washington's game plan is. In the meantime, they have continued to make careful strategic investments with a view to the long game. And while from a western analysis this should mean a greater Chinese interest in stabilizing the current government, from Beijing's perspective it is far better to let things play themselves out while focusing on specific interests. This will not necessarily help western aims to re-shape Afghanistan, but it will strengthen China's hand when the west finally leaves.
Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and an Associate Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation. He blogs at http://www.raffaellopantucci.com.
Feng Li/Getty Images
Countries that have experienced decades of conflict and political turmoil, and have historically featured persistent executive-judicial disputes tend to have less judicial autonomy. Afghanistan epitomizes this. The country has not only lacked comprehensive, integrated laws for much of its history, but what laws existed were culturally dictated and enforced, and in most cases, still are.
As an Afghan, articles about the emergence of the rule of law in the West make me think about the intersection of culture and law in Afghanistan and its challenges. Even before its formal establishment as a nation, the United States began to create common law by using centuries-old written precedents from Great Britain, and applying American notions of reason and justice. Since there is little written tradition in Afghanistan, it does not have such a heritage, nor common law texts, as a starting point. Its starting point is a religious text, the Quran, written in Arabic, a language understood by only a small number of Afghans, the oral history of past decisions, and "felt necessities of the time," as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. characterized one aspect of the development of the common law in the United States.
The Afghan idea of a justice system is also defined by Pashtunwali, a social code of conduct and way of life that predates the Anglo-Saxon common law. Pashtunwali defines the fundamentals of the Afghan culture, identity and, above all, personal honor. What distinguishes the practice of Pashtunwali is its emphasis on using influential local and tribal leaders (Maliks, Khans and mullahs), or respected outsiders chosen arbitrarily by the conflicting parties, to act as fact-finders and decision-makers. Furthermore, decisions must be seen as arbitrary and impartial, not compelled by any of the players in the conflict. This is one of the key reasons people in rural Afghanistan have historically opted to use customary shuras (councils) and jirgas (assemblies) as the primary decision-making forums in which to resolve their disputes. Over the course of Afghan history, the ideals of Pashtunwali have driven and influenced local decisions and rulings, primarily in rural Afghanistan, though the ethos of the system may be seen in all Pashtuns. The few attempts by the central legal authorities to supplant this indigenous centuries-long system of beliefs have been, and may continue to be, largely unsuccessful.
Laws in the United States made by federal, state and local representatives are designed to supersede and override the common law, while in the absence of a statute (or the Constitution), the common law prevails. Although broad policy objectives are not well mapped by use of the common law, it is a filler of necessity and provides an indispensable resource for judicial decisions in the absence of legislative guidance. By contrast, Afghans are usually handed oral, extemporized rulings influenced heavily by village elders, local and tribal leaders, Khans and mullahs, through the long-practiced shura and jirga system. Shuras and jirgas are said to be more efficient, accessible, cost-effective, less corrupt and more trusted by the Afghans than the formal state justice institutions. But these rulings often occur without reference to - mostly because of a lack of knowledge of, indifference to or defiance of - the Afghan Constitution, statutory laws or any other written records. Instead, these leaders rely on their understanding of the Quran, oral histories of past decisions known to them and to their people, Pashtunwali, and their "felt necessity."
Thus, there is no cohesive thread connecting these oral decisions across villages and tribes to any common national public policy objectives. Afghans who have experienced both the formal and non-formal justice systems find the latter more in line and in compliance with local norms, customs and traditions, including the promotion and encouragement of consensus and avoiding a culture of impunity. Ignorance of and disregard for the country's written law , as well as prevalent corruption, mean that people have little confidence in the laws and low expectations of justice brought through the formal court system. A report released last year by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) notes that in 2009 alone, Afghans paid an estimated $2.5 billion in bribes, equivalent to 23 percent of Afghanistan's GDP, and that judicial officials topped the list of those who received the bribes. By contrast, judges in the United States use a more consistent process and look to the written precedents in common and statutory law, as well as publications of scholars and retired judges when they do not have written precedents in their own jurisdiction to guide them. This reduces the incidence of corruption, since wide departures from these precedents would bring critical attention to anomalous decisions.
So what happens in Afghanistan? The disparate sense of "felt necessity," guided by various interpretations of a religious text many cannot read and many misunderstand - together with flawed oral histories of past judgments - drive local decisions, creating a confusing and conflicting hodgepodge of rulings devoid of broad public policy considerations. A key point to note here is that a lack of nationally accepted laws permits subversive elements such as the Taliban and leaders who may be unaware of the formal justice system or distrust government institutions, to intuit and then adopt the most draconian of these incongruent decisions. These actors then form "public policy" based on their interpretations, and enforce it in the areas that they control with attribution to the Quran and use of brutal penalties for non-compliance.
The solution, it seems, would be for Afghan scholars and those with legal education and background in Afghanistan to go to village and tribal leaders across the country and record the background and results of recent their rulings and judgments. These scholars could then tease out common public policy threads from dispute resolutions that were build on factors ranging from the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad to local conditions and "felt necessities." Having distilled the core essence of such decisions, a "Restatement of the Law of Afghanistan" could be written, similar to the one that exists in the United States, which would set out the main principles of a developing Afghan common law. It would have no legal power, but it would provide a starting point of the type the founding fathers of the United States received from Great Britain. Through this mechanism, the future decisions of village and tribal leaders in Afghanistan would be guided but not bound by the past. They would at last be put into writing, further developing coherent and better reasoned guides for Afghanistan's judicial system and a foundation against which ill-conceived and corrupt decisions can be measured and criticized.
It would be these written decisions of village and tribal leaders that would begin the long process of codifying the actual common law of Afghanistan, providing a place to look back for precedent and forward for the common threads of a rule of law.
There are no effective alternative power centers in Afghanistan that could create incentives for the people to take their disputes and disagreements to courts. Indeed, there are only a few courts now in existence and most are distrusted and discredited. However, codifying the actual common law of Afghanistan and applying it in the formal court system could create an incentive for the Afghan people to more formally and habitually refer their disputes and problems to the justice system.
Javid Ahmad, a native of Kabul, is Program Coordinator with the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington DC.
MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images
It was ten years ago this month that Operation Enduring Freedom began in Afghanistan. Now, with the United States preparing to draw down its military forces and other NATO coalition member troops already gone, the focus is shifting to what an exit strategy from that country might look like. And a key component of the security hand-over to Afghan National Security Forces is the establishment of community defense forces, known as the Afghan Local Police (ALP).
The ALP was launched last year by the Afghan government to recruit local units to defend remote, insecure areas of the country against insurgent threats and attacks. Recruits are nominated by a local shura council, then vetted by Afghan intelligence and trained for up to three weeks by U.S. forces. General David Petraeus, the former ISAF Commander in Afghanistan, touts the ALP as successfully thwarting the insurgency.
But this narrative is very different from the one Refugees International discovered on a recent visit to the country. In May, we traveled to Afghanistan to conduct an assessment of the humanitarian situation in the country, in light of the increasing displacement caused by conflict. During the course of our 16-day mission, we conducted over 50 interviews with displaced Afghans, local organizations, UN officials, aid workers, human rights researchers, government officials, security analysts, and journalists in Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, and surrounding areas. To our surprise, the rapid rollout of the ALP program was widely criticized by Afghans and humanitarian actors. Almost every single one of our interviewees highlighted the growth of the ALP and the simultaneous rise of other pro-government militias as their top concern for the security of civilians and stability in the country, particularly in the north.
Many told stories of ALP forces using their newly gained power and guns - furnished by the U.S. - to harass, intimidate, and perpetrate crimes against the very civilians they were recruited, trained, and paid to protect. Some even reported that powerful warlords were pressuring local leaders to formalize pre-existing militias into the ALP - often around tribal, ethnic or political lines - to avenge personal disputes or strengthen their influence.
But despite the fact that some ALP units have been implicated in murder, rape, beatings, arbitrary detention, abductions, forcible land grabs, and illegal raids, U.S. forces are under pressure to quickly help recruit and stand up ALP units - with the goal of adding another 23,000 men to the existing force of 7,000 at sites across the country. In our June report we called on the Obama administration to pressure the Afghan government to halt further expansion of the ALP and address its shortfalls immediately.
Since returning from Afghanistan, we have met with Pentagon officials and congressional offices to raise Refugees International's concerns with the ALP initiative. By and large, the reaction from the Hill and Administration officials has been reserved, if not partial to the positive news coming out of the Congressional visits to "model" ALP sites and bi-annual Pentagon reports. Also, for many, it seems that the underlying assumption is that if the ALP program is halted, U.S. troops might not be able to depart from Afghanistan as rapidly as planned or expected, or that somehow Americans might be asked to spend more on this war.
This is a false choice: without a clear U.S. strategy to address the shortcomings of this program, abusive ALP units will only continue to spread fear, fuel tribal and ethnic tensions, and further destabilize the country. Moreover, left unchecked the ALP will become a catalyst for the insurgency.
Refugees International is calling on the Pentagon to take immediate steps to improve the vetting, training, oversight, and accountability of ALP forces. Furthermore, Congress can and should exercise its oversight responsibility by requiring the Pentagon to outline in detail how the U.S. is supporting the Afghan government's roll-out of the ALP program, as well as the Afghan government's capacity and efforts to effectively oversee and investigate allegations of abuse by ALP units or individuals and hold them accountable.
Similarly, the Afghan government should create an independent panel, including government officials and Afghan civil society representatives such as the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), to evaluate the program's recruitment, vetting, oversight, and accountability policies and practices, and provide recommendations to the Government and its implementing partners.
Lynn Yoshikawa and Matt Pennington are advocates for Refugees International, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that seeks to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. In May, Lynn and Matt traveled to Kabul, as well as Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, and surrounding areas to assess the needs of internally displaced people in Afghanistan.
MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images
On October 4, 2011, the day that India and Afghanistan signed an agreement on strategic partnership, I traveled from Kabul to Kandahar, getting what was for me a rare glimpse of the average Afghan's perception of Indian developmental activity in his country. What was striking was the widespread support I saw in the Pashtun heartland for an even greater Indian role in rebuilding the Afghan economy and society. There is demand in Kandahar for India to add to the lone refrigeration facility it built, as Afghan goods are otherwise sold to the Pakistanis, who keep them in their own refrigeration facilities and then sell them back to the Afghans at much higher prices.
In the Arghandab Valley, traditionally known for its pomegranates, locals seek help in establishing storage, processing and transit facilities. The airport manager at the Kandahar International airport, Ahmedullah Faizi, highlighted the need for more cargo flights to export pomegranates and dry fruits. On direct flights from Kandahar to Delhi, there has been a notable increase in the number of visitors to India for health care, tourism and education. Women who had been queuing up with their young children since 5 o'clock in the morning at an Indian medical facility in Kandahar expressed appreciation for India's assistance. In discussions with Shah Wali Karzai, Qayoom Karzai and Mehmood Karzai in Kandaharthe day after the agreement was signed, the Karzai brothers were clear on their desire for India to invest in cement factories, irrigation and power projects, road and canal building, and an increase the number of scholarships for Afghan students to study professional courses like management and public administration in India.
The agreement came on the heels of the killing of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and the subsequent suspension of reconciliation talks with the Taliban, leading many to conclude that it was signed in order to isolate Pakistan. What these critics have missed is that the agreement was more than five months in the making, designed to address the long-standing demands of the Afghan people. A series of official visits and private deliberations since January of this year culminated in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement in May of the two countries' plans for a strategic partnership. During an interview in Kabul in the days following the establishment of the pact, former Interior Minister Ali Jalali said he "recognizes the agreement as a document officializing [sic] the close ties that already exist between the two countries." Shah Mahmood Miakhel, former Deputy Minister of Interior, strongly supported the agreement as "useful for reconstruction and stability of Afghanistan to prevent civil war or proxy war."
This development should silence the critics of India's aid-only policy. Some senior Indian officials and former diplomats I have spoken to warned that India could get caught in a "reputation trap," where it is overstretched economically in a country of "negative security interests." The agreement is an affirmation of India's maturing foreign policy in the region. It is also a natural corollary of the constructive role India has played in Afghan development efforts thus far. In the last ten years, India has contributed close to $2 billion in aid, making it Afghanistan's fifth largest bilateral donor, and garnering much appreciation from the local population. The success of development efforts in Afghanistan is clearly a key aspect of achieving stability there. Thus, the Afghan-Indian strategic agreement may be seen as the consolidation of gains made by India's soft power approach, as well as an expansion of India's plans to secure its national security interests. A strong, stable and democratic Afghanistan would reduce the dangers of the return of extremist forces to the seats of power, and the potential spillover of radicalism and violence that would destabilize the entire region.
The agreement is important in that it touches on a wide range of issues that are critical to sustaining progress in Afghanistan. India's decision to expand the training of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), particularly the Afghan National Police (ANP), is a significant step toward building local capacity for providing security. The trade and economic agreements in the pact are a reiteration of India's commitment to Afghanistan's economic growth, and its role as a "bridge" between South Asia and Central Asia. The emphasis on "regional economic cooperation" in the ASP indicates India's vision of binding the countries in the region through a mutually beneficial cooperative framework. Finally, the agreement's capacity building and educational initiatives are a pledge from India to invest in the future leadership of Afghanistan.
India is indeed looking beyond merely engaging the Karzai government, or indulging one ethnic or political faction. The strategic agreement ensures the continuity of India's initiatives by making them free from the politics, whims and personal fancies of future leaders. Assertions that India's foreign policy does not usually have a long-term vision no longer apply in the case of Afghanistan. An institutional mechanism for continued engagement in Afghanistan in the form of this agreement is bound to cultivate a broad range of stakeholders in that country, preventing a complete reversal later of the gains it makes in the short term.
New Delhi and Kabul have insisted on multiple occasions that they are willing to accommodate Pakistani interests in Afghanistan. President Karzai said after the signing of the agreement that the new partnership with India was not meant as a form of aggression toward Pakistan. One hopes that in spite of the criticisms the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued of the strategic pact, the country will see reason in adopting a mature and rational Afghan policy. As one Afghan political leader in Kandahar said to me, "if Pakistan has to compete with India in gaining good will among the Afghans, it has to be on the plank of reconstruction and development, and not acts of subversion and selective assassinations or providing sanctuaries [to militants]."
No commentary on Indian-Afghan relations would be complete without addressing the most pressing question: Can India sustain or even expand its activities in Afghanistan beyond the NATO withdrawal date in 2014? The strategic agreement has provided a much-needed mechanism for a continued relationship beyond this deadline, without being subjected to the vagaries of future governments in Kabul or New Delhi, or to the prevailing regional security environment. For Afghans it is surely a sign that India is a reliable partner who has stepped in firmly when the West seems to be in a hurry to quit.
Dr. Shanthie Mariet D'Souza is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), an autonomous institute at the National University of Singapore (NUS). She can be reached at email@example.com. The views reflected in the paper are those of the author and not of the Institute.
AHMAD MASOOD/AFP/Getty Images
Last May I asked Major General Niaz Muhammad Khan Khattak, the Deputy Director of the ISI, Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, about his organization's links with the Haqqani Network. "If you always focus on the mosaic," he said, pointing to the Afghan rug in his sumptuous office, "that's all you'll see." Today it doesn't matter how Washington looks at this mosaic - as transnational terrorism or as Pakistan's anti-India partner in Afghanistan - one thing is certain: elements within the ISI help fighters belonging to the Haqqani Network who kill American soldiers. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship is a tinderbox, one spark - U.S. soldiers on Pakistani territory or the Haqqanis killing dozens of American troops - could ignite war.
That spark may be more plausible than we think. Recent détente is encouraging but only a Band-Aid over a gaping wound. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked the ISI to facilitate talks between Washington and reconcilable Haqqanis, and yet warned of "dire consequences" for Islamabad if the Pakistani military did not take action against the Haqqanis who are unwilling to negotiate. The Pakistani response was "yes" to talks, but "no" to military operations. Today, thousands of American troops are in the Haqqani Network's crosshairs in eastern Afghanistan during efforts to root out Haqqani militants, such as Operation Steel Rain in Khowst. Unless Pakistani generals act against the Haqqani Network's sanctuary in North Waziristan, which they have refused to do so far, American casualties will increase. In that case, there will be tremendous pressure on Congress and the White House to act unilaterally, quite possibly by putting boots on the ground.
What will happen if helicopters carrying American Seals are shot down in North Waziristan? How will America respond to a major attack that kills 100 troops in Afghanistan, like the September attack that wounded 77 soldiers in east Kabul? What if the perpetrators escape to Karachi, beyond the range of drones? What if American boots trigger a mutiny in the Pakistani army, leading to civil war? How will Washington secure Pakistani nuclear weapons?
Unfortunately, many of these dangerous scenarios are increasingly likely. A Pakistani official has told me that American-supplied Pakistani F-16 fighters are on high alert against a probable US raid. In March, Pakistani Air Force had orders to shoot down US predator and reaper drones. Last year, Islamabad shut down NATO's largest supply line for days, and three years ago, General Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistani military, ordered fire on a US helicopter carrying U.S. Special Forces that had crossed into North Waziristan. The Pakistani parliament, political parties and the media are supportive of the army's sentiments against the United States, but not against the Haqqanis. Anti-Americanism, always high, has reached unprecedented levels within the military's ranks, especially amongst junior officers. This is because most young officers are unaware of the past deals their generals have made with the Americans, and some may act independently in the name of national pride against an American incursion into Pakistan to target militants.
The United States is failing to change Pakistani public opinion because many Pakistanis are oblivious to American good will, and ambivalent about American aid as well as reconciliation with the insurgents. They hear about aid cuts and Americans talking to the same insurgents Pakistanis are asked to kill. Pakistani generals and politicians support such public confusion and often blame Washington for Pakistan's problems in order to cover up their own incompetence and corruption. More than 10 years and $20 billion worth of military and civilian aid has bought Washington the heads of top al-Qaeda leaders, the elimination of critical safe havens (Swat valley and South Waziristan), but not the Quetta Shura in Balochistan or the Haqqanis in North Waziristan.
At the same time, since 9/11 more than 30,000 Pakistanis have been victims of terrorism, of which 6,000 were soldiers and policemen. The city of Karachi, which contributes half of Pakistan's national income, is home to a brutal ethnic war, and resurgent Balochi militants and Sindhi flood victims are overstretching the military and an incompetent civilian government. Hyperinflation of food and energy prices, water shortages, massive floods, proliferating terrorists groups, and a fast-growing nuclear program are fast making Pakistan a threat to itself and the world.
To make matters worse, the Pakistan-based Haqqanis are killing American soldiers and disrupting the Afghan peace process, with what the United States says is support from the ISI. Clearly, US military aid cuts have done little to alter the ISI's support for the Haqqanis. Instead, General Kayani is rallying troops and political parties against expected U.S. raids into North Waziristan. He is pressing Washington's weakest point: threatening to close crucial supply routes to Afghanistan, without which there would be massive NATO fuel and ammunition shortages. It would take months, and improbable negotiations with the Russians, to get a viable alternative to the "Northern Supply Network."
It is not just a matter of Pakistani will, but also Pakistani capabilities. There is great need for American helicopters and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and yes, some American boots on the ground in the form of trainers and advisers. Even if Pakistani generals decide to attack the Haqqanis, they no longer have resources to clear and hold North Waziristan, and contain the blowback that could come in the form of a national suicide bombing wave.
In 2009, suicide attacks increased by 220 percent from the previous year (from ten to 32), targeting major cities: Peshawar, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi. This placed massive strains on poorly equipped national police forces. The same year, riding on an anti-insurgent public opinion wave, Pakistani commandoes, Frontier Scouts and 11th Corps infantry men - many trained and equipped by the United States - broke the insurgents' back in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan. Today the Pakistani Army has no public support for a military operation against the Haqqanis. Furthermore, the population's opposition to the Pakistani Taliban - public enemy no. 1 in 2009 - is fading.
That was not always the case. In the summer of 2010, Pakistan's Commanding General for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations, told me, "like Swat and South Waziristan [in 2009] with the help of the Pakistani public we will clean out North Waziristan this winter ." However, Pakistani intransigence regarding the Haqqanis, devastating floods, the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and the killing of two Pakistanis in Lahore by an American spy made the operation in North Waziristan impossible.
To renew ties we must start by replicating the 2009 conditions. American development dollars, weapons and trainers were flying in and al-Qaeda members were flying out or shot dead. U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, who rightly chides Pakistan today, said referring to the Pakistani surge against Pakistani Taliban that he "couldn't give the Pakistani Army anything but an 'A'." But absent a national narrative against the Haqqanis that unites Pakistanis, carved out of a transparent partnership with the United States, both countries may slip into war. Time is running out.
Haider Ali Hussein Mullick is the author of Pakistan's Security Paradox: Countering & Fomenting Insurgencies. Mullick advised General (r) David H. Petraeus on Pakistan in 2009 and 2010. He is currently pursuing graduate studies at Georgetown University's Security Studies Program.(www.haidermullick.com)
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
With U.S. relations in Pakistan at a low point and the two countries' strategic disagreement over priorities in Afghanistan on full display, it is time to review U.S. strategic options. One that deserves a close look is a grand bargain: give Pakistan what it wants in Afghanistan - but on two conditions: Pakistan assumes responsibility for preventing terrorism out of Afghanistan, and Pakistan agrees to settle Kashmir along the present geographic lines. This is not a panacea, nor would it be easy to execute. But it addresses the principal stumbling block to the current U.S. strategy, and provides an incentive to settle the region's longest-running dispute.
For the past decade, U.S. policy has been based on the assumption that the United States and Pakistan shared the strategic goal of extirpating from the leadership of Afghanistan the Taliban and allied terrorist forces. This objective was at the heart of the partnership struck after 9/11. As with the two previous major U.S.-Pakistan partnerships, in the 1950s/60s and in the 1980s, the assumption of strategic agreement was at best only half true, and the differences between the two countries' goals have become increasingly difficult to paper over. This time, Pakistan's desire to ensure what its army chief has referred to as "a friendly government" in Kabul - meaning a government deferential to Pakistan and impervious to Indian influence - has intensified, especially since the beginning of 2011. During that time, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship was devastated by the aftereffects of the shooting of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis and his subsequent arrest, by the raid that killed Osama bin Ladin, and by the harsh public criticism of Pakistan by retiring U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen.
The two governments have been trying to salvage some working elements of partnership. However, their ability to work together toward a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, badly strained by conflicting goals, was for practical purposes ended by the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Karzai government's designated representative for peace initiatives toward the Afghan Taliban. This was not the first time Pakistan's insistence on controlling negotiations inside Afghanistan had trumped its stated policy of supporting the Afghan government's negotiating role, but this incident has brought tentative peace feelers, already rickety, to a virtual halt.
Washington's response to this situation has been to seek a stronger basis for working with Pakistan. This reflects U.S. recognition of Pakistan's critical importance to peace in the region and to Afghanistan's future - as well as the major U.S. stake in nuclear-armed Pakistan's own political and economic health. These are indeed important considerations - but it does not follow that the U.S. should continue on essentially the same path that has repeatedly come up short.
There are two other strategic options: treat Pakistan as a hostile power, and try to impose an acceptable solution in Afghanistan in the teeth of Pakistani efforts to control the process; or build a strategy that allows Pakistan to have the major say in Afghanistan, but on conditions that protect U.S. strategic interests and give Pakistan a strong incentive to respect them. We believe that forcing an acceptable solution is almost certain to fail. It would depend, unrealistically, on the effectiveness of an intra-Afghan negotiating process and of the government that would follow. It would also presuppose, equally implausibly, that Afghanistan would remain able to withstand the Pakistani effort to upset the settlement that would surely follow.
The strategic alternative that remains is a grand bargain, initially between Pakistan and the United States, but eventually involving India. The major elements would be:
A deal along these lines would hand Pakistan one of its primary strategic objectives, but at a price Pakistanis would find very hard to swallow. Kashmir has a much tighter hold on the national heartstrings than Afghanistan. However, in practice Pakistan has lost its chance of gaining Kashmir, and many Pakistanis privately acknowledge this. They are well aware that for years, Pakistan's efforts have done nothing to remove India's hold on the state, and have succeeded only in deepening hostility and making the region less secure for everyone, including Pakistan.
Securing Pakistan against its military leaders' nightmare of an Indian threat from both east and west provides a strategic gain, especially when coupled with a possible Kashmir agreement that could lay the groundwork for transforming the hostile relationship with India into one that was merely chilly but improving. The bigger problem may be how to ensure that these gains are maintained. Afghanistan has never had sustained good relations with Pakistan, and may once again look to India as a balancer - an all too willing one - when it tires of being guided by Pakistan. And on the Kashmir side, even if the Pakistan government and its army agree to negotiate peace with India - by no means a sure bet - the militant movement in Pakistan includes many spoilers who will try to stir up trouble in Kashmir or elsewhere in India, providing acute temptation to the army to join in.
These difficulties make the grand bargain described here a long shot. Using military and economic aid as leverage might increase Pakistan's motivation to keep the bargain, though this is a tactic that has only worked for short periods in the past, and has never succeeded in dissuading Pakistan from following major strategic interests. To improve the odds, the United States would need to seek other international support, appealing to the desire of Pakistan's international friends to improve Pakistan's long term economic and security prospects. Bringing China at least tacitly on board would be the ideal. Other players would be the European aid donors, and some of Pakistan's Arab benefactors. The United States would also have to expend some diplomatic capital to dissuade India from trying to upset the balance in Afghanistan, noting that the U.S. had promoted a Kashmir settlement on terms quite favorable to India, and that reducing India's profile in Afghanistan had to be seen in that context.
But considering the results of ten years of engagement, and the tremendous risks flowing from a "hostile Pakistan" strategy, the long shot starts to look like the best available strategic bet.
Teresita Schaffer is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Howard Schaffer is Senior Counselor at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University. Both are retired U.S. ambassadors with long experience in South Asia. They are co-directors of http://southasiahand.com.
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
It is a month since a man claiming to be a peace envoy from the Taleban leadership council (the Quetta Shura) managed to see and kill the former president of Afghanistan and head of the High Peace Council (HPC), Burhanuddin Rabbani. The killing has had major repercussions, with the most senior Afghan officials, including President Hamid Karzai, directly or indirectly accusing the Quetta Shura and Pakistan of being behind the attack, consequently halting talks with the Taleban and cooling bilateral relations. Yet the Afghan government has not produced any evidence to back up these claims. Indeed, the investigation into Rabbani's murder has resulted in no real clues as to the identity of the plotters, who ordered the killing or how leading members of the High Peace Council, as well as President Karzai, were so easily fooled.
The bare bones of the Rabbani assassination plot have now emerged, following the release by the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), of a tranche of documents and video testimony, including that of two key people who were arrested after the killing: HPC member and former Taleb, Rahmatullah Wahidyar (whom NDS has said is not suspected of being part of the conspiracy), and the go-between, Hamidullah Akhundzada, who introduced the killer to Wahidyar and Rabbani.
The tale began with Wahidyar, who is a former Taleban deputy minister and former minister in Rabbani's mujahedin government from the 1990s, being asked by the HPC leadership to drum up contacts in the Quetta Shura with a view to starting peace talks. He made contact with a man called Abdul Satar, whom Wahidyar described as "a former Taleban official" (no other details provided), who in turn introduced him to a "former Taleban commander" called Hamidullah Akhundzada. Both Abdul Satar and Hamidullah visited Kabul and met Wahidyar, Massum Stanekzai (the Secretary of the HPC) and Rabbani.
According to Wahidyar, over the next four months, Hamidullah actively reported back on the progress he was making in firming up contacts with the Quetta Shura (although Hamidullah himself makes no mention of any such reporting in his testimony). A week before the killing, he telephoned Wahidyar and said the Quetta Shura would be sending an envoy (although probably not himself) to Kabul in order to discuss opening direct talks with the Afghan government. The man who was sent, Esmatullah, came to Kabul with a letter and two audio messages, one for the HPC and one for Rabbani's ears only.
President Karzai was told about the envoy and saw the letter and heard one of the audio messages. The envoy's letter, a copy of which was released to Tolo TV, is weak. Afghans can negotiate peace, it says, but unless the international military fully leaves, the Afghan struggle against colonialism and for independence will continue (this is pretty well what the Taleban say publicly). One of the audio messages has also been released by NDS and is even thinner on substance; it is basically a series of rhetorical questions for the "honoured teacher", Ustad Rabbani, on whether Afghanistan today is better than the Taleban-era.
All sources say it was Karzai who ordered Rabbani back to Kabul (he was in Iran at a conference where, it was reported, an official Taleban delegation was present). Rabbani cut short his trip, returned to Kabul and within a few hours of landing, received Wahidyar, Stanekzai and the ‘envoy', Esmatullah in his home. He blew himself up in the very moment he greeted Rabbani, killing them both.
NDS arrested Wahidyar and Hamidullah and later handed out their videoed statements to journalists, along with the testimony of the manager of the HPC guesthouse where the killer had stayed and one of the audio messages he had brought.
In his confession, Hamidullah gives his name, father's name and tribe (Zadran) and says he is from Kandahar. He looks to be in his 50s. Wahidyar has said that Hamidullah was a "former Taleban commander" and a "resident of Kandahar". NDS spokesman Lutfullah Mashal has said he appeared to be "an ordinary Taleb, living in Quetta, with no known position during the Emirate and possibly, he is Achikzai." One man who met Hamidullah briefly on one of his earlier visits to Kabul, HPC member and former Taleban ambassador to Islamabad and Saudi Arabia, Habibullah Fowzi, described him as uneducated, not a mullah, and a "former mujahed," rather than an "original Taleb." Fawzi said that, although it is difficult to size a man up in 20 minutes, Hamidullah appeared to be "an ordinary man, not a special man to have for such a mission."
Indeed, in Hamidullah's videoed confession, he comes over as more feckless, than master conspirator. Despite saying he was told about the turban bombing plot in advance, after introducing the killer, Esmatullah, to Wahidyar, he not only accompanied him to Kabul, but also brought his own family along for the trip. Even after seeing news of the assassination on television, he stayed in Kabul. He was clearly not versed in phone security - the NDS arrested him almost immediately after it traced the assassin's final phone calls.
The bottom line of all this is that we are still no nearer to understanding who Hamidullah, the person who established the link to the HPC and Rabbani, ‘is' - his tribe, political background, what he and his family did during the jihad and Emirate, in other words, all the normal questions which everyone always asks in Afghanistan to identify and position an unknown person - and which should have been answered, one would have thought, when the HPC officials first made contact with him.
As to the identity of the killer, Esmatullah, even less is known. He appeared to have been allowed into Rabbani's home, un-vetted, not searched and with no-one even knowing for sure his father's name.
Such appears to have been the very thin thread on which hopes for peace talks with the Taleban were hung. From the evidence released, it remains unfathomable why Wahidyar, Stanekzai, Rabbani and the President himself trusted these men. After the debacle of the shopkeeper impersonating Mullah Mansur (the probable third in command in the Quetta Shura) who managed to get into the Presidential Palace in November 2010 and was given large sums of money, maybe it should not come as a surprise how easily everyone was gulled. However, is difficult to argue with the assessment of the former EU and UN envoy Fransesc Vendrell, that President Karzai set up a way of conducting peace talks which appears to have been inherently problematic and unprofessional, and left the participants vulnerable to trickery and attack.
None of the evidence released so far indicates who ordered the killing and when the Hamidullah-HPC conduit became toxic - was it a plot from the start or, as Hamidullah contends, infiltrated? And if so, by whom?
Nothing, apart from the assumption that the plot appears to have been hatched in Quetta on Pakistani soil, would appear to justify pointing the finger of blame at the Taleban leadership or the ISI - although there is no evidence, either, that they are innocent. However, Karzai's decision to blame Pakistan worked beautifully to dampen anger domestically, calming Rabbani's allies who were against talking to the Taleban in the first place and are ultra-hostile to Pakistan. Possibly Karzai's move also indicates that he himself was never too enamoured of talking to the Taleban either. There has been fall out, however, in the souring of bilateral relations with Pakistan and the shelving of the policy of talking to the Taleban.
The Taleban have hardly made things easier. This assassination was carried out by a man who was, or purported to be, a Taleban envoy. According to the movement's own rules, set out in their code of conduct, suicide bombings must be authorised. Yet spokesmen have neither accepted nor denied responsibility and have, in a gesture of unprecedented evasiveness, largely kept their phones switched off during the last four weeks.
If this assassination was authorised, it would be a clear message that the Taleban leadership does not want a negotiated end to the war. (And in this case, it would not matter whether anyone viewed the HPC or Rabbani as a viable means of negotiation). If it was a rogue operation, then the Taleban has severe command and control problems within its ranks. If it was carried out by a group other than the Taleban, the silence seems only explicable if the Taleban assumed (or knew) it was done with ISI assistance (bearing in mind that the leadership has covered up for the ISI in the past). Whatever the case, the likely aim of killing Rabbani - scuppering the very idea of peace talks - appears to have been very successfully carried out.
Kate Clark is a senior analyst with the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
Phil Goodwin/Getty Images
Every night throughout Afghanistan, international forces launch kill/capture raids on Afghan homes. Over the past two years, the use of night raids, particularly by U.S. Special Operations Forces, has skyrocketed-increasing at least five-fold since February 2009, indicating an important tactical shift by U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. With the withdrawal of international forces approaching, this shift likely foreshadows the future of military operations in Afghanistan. But these operations continue to be marred by weak accountability and transparency, secrecy in targeting, and substantial popular backlash, which will have significant long-term consequences should the United States and its allies remain so reliant on such raids.
My organization, Open Society Foundations (OSF), in partnership with the Afghan organization The Liaison Office (TLO), recently released a report that examines the impact night raids have had on Afghan civilians. We found that International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) reforms, primarily through two tactical directives, have one the one hand resulted in significant improvements in how the raids are planned and executed, resulting in reduced risk of civilian casualties, greater accuracy in selecting targets, reduced property damage, increased use of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and more respectful treatment of women during operations.
But our report also found that despite these reforms, improvements have not won much support from Afghans, because they've been overshadowed by the dramatic surge in the number of night raids and perceptions among many Afghans that abuses go unpunished.
Speaking with victims of night raids, a major complaint continues to be accountability. Despite some improvements, ISAF responsiveness to claims of civilian harm from night raids remains weak. Because the vast majority of raids are carried out by U.S. Special Operations Forces -- the least transparent forces operating in Afghanistan -- it's exceedingly difficult to follow up on specific cases of civilian casualties or wrongful detention. In many cases, a strong presumption on the part of ISAF and U.S. officials that night raids are accurate often means that allegations of civilian casualties and targeting mistakes are simply not trusted. Investigations are infrequent, findings are not typically made public, and compensation for victims is, based on our interviews with officials and Afghan civilians, uncommon.
What may in part explain the dismissal of such allegations of civilian harm in night raids is the definition of who can be targeted in such operations. Our report on night raids documents a substantial "widening of the net," which has resulted in the detention of significant numbers of civilians.
In a single three-month period earlier this year 1,900 individuals were detained, most of whom were eventually released, raising questions about whether they should have been detained in the first place. We also documented a number of large-scale detention or "clearance" operations in which multiple compounds or entire villages were cordoned off, and male civilians indiscriminately rounded up for screening and questioning. In October 2010, for example, U.S. Special Operations Forces raided Otmenzey village in Kunduz and detained 80-100 men and boys overnight in a mosque. According to witnesses, they used masked informants and indicators such as beards to pick out individuals for further questioning at a Special Operations detention facility. All were eventually released. To the Afghans we interviewed, this makes night raids look more like indiscriminate intimidation, not specifically targeted, intelligence-driven actions. While intelligence gathering is critical, using night raids to arrest and interrogate civilians without clear justification often causes unnecessary harm or trauma, provoking backlash and undermining international forces' legitimacy.
Targeting policies and practices have profound implications for civilians in Afghanistan. Throughout the country, militants can exercise significant control over people's lives. Many have little choice but to interact with militants, provide food, water or shelter to insurgents living in or passing through their villages. As one man from Kandahar told us, "Our entire district is controlled by the Taliban. There is no government or Americans here. We have to have contacts with the Taliban...they come to our homes and take lunch and dinner by force." But such incidental and often coerced contact with insurgents does not convert civilians into combatants or justify targeting and detaining them in military operations.
This blending no doubt presents international forces with an immense challenge in distinguishing civilians from fighters; yet this difficulty is precisely why a workable, clear, and legally sound definition of who is targetable in operations like night raids is so necessary. But secrecy continues to shroud how precisely targeting works in night raids -- and how individuals are ultimately singled out for detention or death.
There are also serious legal concerns raised by expanded use of night raids, particularly those that detain individuals for intelligence-gathering purposes. Given that night raids are military operations, not law enforcement actions, under international law such force should generally only be used against combatants-not against civilians who aren't members of the insurgency or directly participating in hostilities. Intelligence value alone is not generally sufficient grounds to detain individuals and certainly not justification for launching military attacks on their homes and endangering their lives. This does not mean that the U.S. military cannot detain people, or question those who may have valuable information. However, where those individuals are not clearly combatants, the kind of force used in military operations and applicable Rules of Engagement (ROE) are inappropriate. Instead, law enforcement-style operations and rules of force should apply.
There is also evidence that insufficient consideration is given to alternatives to night raids, such as conducting raids in daytime hours or simply requesting individuals to voluntarily submit to questioning. With Special Forces and intelligence personnel increasingly in the lead, night raids may be a strongly preferred tactic not because of a lack of feasible alternatives, but because it is what these forces are good at. The availability and particular expertise of Special Forces, as well as their relationship to intelligence officials, biases commanders in favor of this tool-leading to an over-reliance on such raids and underestimation of their true costs.
As targeting and detentions broaden, we also found that many view raids as increasingly indiscriminate, arbitrary, and unjust, contributing to popular backlash that is readily exploited by militant groups. Such blowback, especially as it accrues and is inevitably politicized over time, also imperils the legitimacy and credibility of U.S. and international forces, as well as longer-term peace building efforts. Among political leaders in Afghanistan, this blowback exacts an enormous toll on diplomatic relations, undermining progress on key issues like the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership, which will govern U.S. forces' involvement beyond the 2014 pull-out date.
There is a disturbing parallel between these concerns and those surrounding drone strikes across the border in Pakistan, which have also increased dramatically in recent years. Like night raids, drone strikes are conducted largely in secret by intelligence forces, with little to no accountability and transparency, and making use of an ill-defined, potentially overbroad basis for targeting. Popular and political backlash, most evident in Pakistan, undermine U.S. development efforts and seriously diminish its legitimacy and political capital. As with night raids, recent short-term successes as well as the rapidly developed capacity of the CIA and U.S. military's drone programs may bias decision-makers and lead to systematic underestimation of these kinds of longer-term costs and consequences.
The dramatically expanded use of both night raids and drone strikes foreshadows a troubling, dangerous future for U.S. counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. These tactics bring the conflict directly into the homes of more and more civilians, and as our report on night raids documents, efforts to improve conduct are often overshadowed by the sheer increase in the number of operations as well as continued perceptions of impunity. Despite the fact that violence against civilians is still disproportionately carried out by the Taliban, expanded night raids will almost certainly have an outsized impact on Afghan feelings toward foreign forces. Without stronger accountability, less secrecy, and more creative thinking about how to effectively engage and protect civilians, the long-term impact of such operations will more likely than not undo any short-term tactical gains.
Chris Rogers is a human rights lawyer for the Open Society Foundations specializing in human rights and conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
JOHN D MCHUGH/AFP/Getty Images
Last year, Qasim, a construction worker from eastern Afghanistan, was detained in a joint US-Afghan raid on his home in Kabul. He eventually ended up in the hands of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence agency. For over a week, Qasim was hung by his arms, taken down only to go the bathroom and pray. Several times a night he was beaten with pipes and electrical cables, his head bashed into walls, and threatened with much worse. After a week and a half, he could no longer walk, not even to bring himself to the bathroom. My organization, Open Society Foundations, and its Afghan partners have interviewed many other Afghans who, like Qasim, have suffered acts of torture at the hands of the NDS, ranging from beatings, and burns, to electric shock, and sexual abuse.
In a ground-breaking report released yesterday by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the true scope and severity of such abuse is made clear. The UN found evidence of torture and mistreatment in 16 Afghan detention facilities, including electric shocks, hanging detainees from ceilings, beatings, and threat of sexual assault. As a result of the report, the Afghan government dismissed several NDS officials implicated in the report, though it unclear whether there will be any criminal prosecutions. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has temporarily halted the transfer of ISAF detainees to the 16 facilities.
ISAF's halting of transfers to facilities identified in the UN report is an important first step. The Afghan government's initial response was certainly less positive, but will hopefully improve following now that the report has been publicly released. Looking forward, however, there is real concern that the ISAF and Afghan government responses will prove rather superficial, and ultimately fail to fully grapple with the depths of the problem.
One area that the Afghan government and ISAF should prioritize is accountability. Though perhaps politically difficult, accountability for abuses is key, and must be pursued vigorously and publicly. The UN report is an opportunity for the right signals to be sent, both within the Afghan justice system as well as to the Afghan public.
Without sustained efforts on this front, it's likely that even if those Afghan officials who are responsible for abuse are removed, they will only re-emerge elsewhere in the justice system or government. Shuffling the problem around only sows the seeds for future abuse, and reinforces perceptions of impunity that are at the heart of the Afghan government's struggle for legitimacy.
An independent, external body should be empowered to monitor facilities, receive complaints, and investigate allegations of abuse, with findings and remedial actions made public. Full, unfettered access should also be granted to outside monitors, including Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, ICRC, and UNAMA. Those responsible for abuse should not only be removed from their positions, but also subject to criminal prosecution and civil liability.
The international community can play an important role in ensuring those responsible are truly held to account. Governments should not only apply conventional diplomatic pressure, but should think creatively and ambitiously about how to strengthen accountability. Funding, training, as well as military and intelligence relationships with the Afghan government and security forces should all be utilized to ensure those responsible for abuse are held accountable. The US is prohibited by the Leahy Law from supporting foreign security forces which engage in gross violations of human rights.
The pervasive lack of due process also leaves detainees vulnerable to abuse. Detainees and defense lawyers we have interviewed consistently decry Afghan authorities' denial of legal counsel, in addition to preventing family notification or contact. In some cases we documented, defense lawyers have themselves been arrested or harassed simply for contacting their clients. The Afghan Government should implement measures to ensure detainees' access to legal counsel, and adopt strict rules regarding family notification (just as the Afghan government advocates for in ISAF detentions), while international donors should provide funding to Afghan legal aid organizations to represent conflict-related detainees. Ensuring detainees have their most basic due process rights respected while in detention provides an additional, necessary check on Afghan authorities' power and strengthens transparency and accountability.
For their part, international forces must acknowledge that there are no
quick fixes for detainee abuse in Afghanistan. Detainee monitoring, for
example, is too
often posited as the solution to abuse, although it only focuses on
detainees transferred by international forces, not the wider prison population.
While monitoring is a potentially important part of protecting detainee rights,
international forces must be honest about its practical limitations, and
confront the fact that, in the current context, monitoring alone cannot satisfy
their legal obligations to prevent torture.
Indeed, the fact that the UN has documented abuses despite the existence of various ISAF countries' monitoring mechanisms and oversight by organizations like the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) speaks to the insufficiency of such measures. Given the sheer number of facilities and detainees, logistical and security challenges, and detainees' fears of reprisals for disclosing abuse, even the most well-designed monitoring mechanisms may in practice be incapable of ensuring detainees are free from torture.
International forces must also grapple with the problem of torture beyond the narrow issue of transfers, not least because they have been working so closely with the Afghan intelligence authorities, including using intelligence that may very well have been extracted through the use of torture. Appropriate assessment of the risk of torture will also always have to take into account treatment of all detainees at a particular Afghan facility-not just those transferred from international custody. Conceiving of the problem as one of detainee transfer also biases policy solutions towards bureaucratic box checking in order to resume detainee transfers-not actually halting abuse.
To be sure, there are real dilemmas and constraints facing the Afghan government and ISAF. There is a lack of professional capacity at every level of the Afghan justice system, from guards to judges to prosecutors. The sheer number of persons detained in connection with the conflict means the system is under severe strain, burdened further by the military as opposed to law enforcement nature of operations. But the Afghan government and all ISAF nations have strict legal obligations to refrain from and prevent torture, and as the UN report lays bare, they have fallen well short.
The looming troop drawdown and transition only give greater urgency to this issue. With more and more responsibility for security being shifted to Afghans, the strategic risk and political liability posed by abusive detention practices will only grow. Right now the US and other ISAF nations have the most leverage to shape the Afghan justice system and leave behind institutions, laws, and mechanisms that uphold the rule of law and protect Afghans from torture. As the war in Afghanistan marks its tenth anniversary, time is not on the side of either ISAF or the Afghan government. The UN report marks a perhaps singular opportunity to marshal momentum behind detention reforms that will be long-lasting and effective at protecting the most basic of human rights.Chris Rogers is a human rights lawyer for the Open Society Foundations specializing in human rights and conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
Despite their origins as part of an obscure border tribe from the hills of Afghanistan's Khost and Paktia provinces, the Haqqani clan now find themselves center-stage in the Afghan conflict. On 1 October, only days after former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, in congressional testimony, pointed to the Haqqanis and their supporters (possibly including Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI)) as key threats to stability in Afghanistan, NATO announced the arrest of Mali Khan, a "senior leader" of the Haqqani Network. Sometimes these revelations of insurgents killed or captured exaggerate the importance of the "trophy." Not so this time. Mali Khan really has been one of the lynchpins of the Haqqani Network, and his capture will pose a whole series of challenges for those who lead and cooperate with them.
Mali Khan was a trusted confidant of the patriarch of the Haqqani Network, Jalaluddin, and his son Siraj. Khan was an effective commander directly involved in supervising operations and the myriad logistics and organizational activities required to keep a clandestine insurgency underway. His effectiveness as a leader was in part due to the fact that he spent much of his time on the ground in southeastern Afghanistan. Although he had made his main residence in Waziristan's main town of Miranshah, Mali Khan did not spend much of his time at home. This point is important because the NATO kill-and-capture campaign has made it difficult for known senior commanders to travel inside Afghanistan. Until now, Mali Khan had managed to stay a step ahead of the targeters. However, they got close - in June ISAF announced that they had killed the deputy to Mali Khan in an airstrike.
The Haqqani Network is in its essence a clan within the Zadran tribe, in addition to the clan's manifold alliances built up in different stages of the Afghan conflict. Mali Khan achieved his senior status in part because he was a member of the clan, rather than just an ally. His family is doubly related to Jalaluddin and Siraj; Mali Khan's sister is Siraj's mother, and Mali Khan's uncle is married to Jalaluddin's sister. As a family insider, Mali Khan has helped play a role in the network's dynastic succession -- the passage of the leadership from Jalaluddin to Siraj. Recent analyses have stressed Jalaluddin's "Islamist internationalist credentials." But the patriarch was foremost a leading commander of the anti-Soviet mujahideen and one of the pillars of the "commanders shura" in the final stages of the jihad, which famously tried to unite the field commanders across party and ethnic divides. His 1980's role has given Jalaluddin genuine prestige -- he is a peer of the old men Hamid Karzai invites to his informal "leaders shura" in Kabul. Siraj, however, has never had either the public exposure or the battlefield experience of his father. Having a senior loyalist family commander like Mali Khan in the field helps offers continuity in the network, as he can encourage cooperators to transfer the respect they have for Jalaluddin to his lesser-known son.
It was this privileged insider status which allowed Mali Khan to be involved intimately in a wide range of Network activities. More light needs to be shed on the span of the command chain employed in the Haqqanis' trademark spectacular attacks -- the group clearly draws on the expertise of their range of allies in Waziristan, including al-Qaeda. However Mali Khan has played his own role in these attacks. Afghans who know the network well suggest he probably supplied some of the "fidayeen" recruits and supervised some of them in the attacks, such as the storming of the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel. And in addition to his military functions, Mali Khan had also served as one of the Haqqani business managers. Even during the jihad of the 1980's, fronts built up portfolios of assets, as military effectiveness depended upon having an economic base. And while the Haqqani Network is notorious for profiting from kidnapping, they have also been quick to take advantage of some of the business opportunities in post-2001 Afghanistan. Afghan researchers in the southeastern provinces believe that Mali Khan was responsible for managing many of those assets.
Given just how central Mali Khan was to Haqqani operations, the fact that he was taken alive makes his loss all the more troubling for the group. He is an example of how "capture" can be more effective then "kill." The Haqqanis have to work on the assumption that the Afghan Government and NATO are acquiring a rather better understanding of network operations than just about anyone else might have been able to supply them. Commander networks which have been targeted in a "kill and capture" operation always move to appoint a successor to the man they have lost, and the Haqqanis will do the same for Mali Khan. However, they have barely a handful of family insiders capable of taking over the kind of commander-cum-leader-cum-manager role which Mali Khan played. And although it is far too early to write off the Haqqanis, the experience should push analysts to think ahead to the question of who the non-Afghan Waziristan militants will work through if there ever really is a weakening of the Haqqani role. After all, the Haqqanis are by no means the only strategic threat originating in Waziristan.
Michael Semple is a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images
Ten years after the 9/11 attacks and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, one thing is clear-the United States now seeks to export security around the world. Beyond counterterrorism efforts to combat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, U.S. strategy attempts to support sovereign governments with the necessary tools to reduce security deficits that give rise to regional instability and international terrorism. The case of Afghanistan is instructive. While al-Qaeda brought the United States and its allies to Central Asia in 2001, the 2011 strategy in Afghanistan is focused on supporting the Afghan government and empowering its security forces to assume security lead from NATO forces by December 2014.
What is true in Afghanistan is increasingly true throughout the world. U.S. military strategy reinforces sovereignty by partnering with nearly every military in the world. Over the last decade, the American security assistance program expanded from about 50 to 150 countries. Funded through the Department of State, security assistance is implemented by the Department of Defense. This type of assistance includes bringing foreign officers to the United States to teach them how to pilot helicopters, to helping countries control their maritime space by providing ships and training.
In contrast to the Cold War, when countering a "peer competitor" in the Soviet Union was the fundamental organizing principle of the international system, "weak states" preoccupy strategic thinkers today. The 2011 National Military Strategy of the United States underscored this by noting, "In this interdependent world, the enduring interests of the United States are increasingly tied to those of other state and non-state actors." This preoccupation with weak or failing states is one of the enduring impacts of the last decade.
The rationale for providing security assistance has been based on the assumption that instability breeds chaos, which could necessitate military intervention. Accordingly, the U.S. military should support other countries through military-to-military contacts, equipment transfers, and combined training activities to help foreign governments help themselves prevent tragedy. Since the United States has a dominant military and strong defense sector, countries increasingly choose to partner with the United States to take advantage of these assets. The United States generates partnerships to broaden its influence, gain access to strategic locations, and promote international security.
To be clear, security assistance does not always translate into influence. Countries such as Israel and Pakistan, for instance tend to be more responsive to domestic politics than American pressure. Yet the new model of security assistance is a far cry from what the U.S. military practiced in most of the 20th century. Then, military assistance meant installing U.S.-friendly governments through the power of the bayonet, promoting insurgency to overthrow unfriendly governments, and arming friendly regimes regardless of human rights records. With Congressional oversight and Department of State guidance, security assistance programs today represent a maturity developed over the last decade. The United States aspires to create true partners that can confront their own threats to internal stability that violent actors can exploit. It also seeks to foster independence by training and equipping militaries to reduce dependence on U.S. forces. This is vividly on display in Afghanistan, where security is essential to promoting Afghan democracy and economic development.
Done on a mass-scale, the Obama Administration is developing and professionalizing a 305,000-strong Afghan military and police, which will grow to 352,000 by October 2012. Security assistance is intended to empower Kabul to assume lead security responsibility, which is done for about one-tenth the cost of international forces. While there are real challenges to this effort, including the insurgency, attrition, and corruption, growth could not have been achieved without unifying international efforts under the NATO flag, addressing underlying challenges like literacy, and active coalition partnering with Afghan units. At the same time the force is being developed, civilian control of the Afghan security forces is being actively promoted.
The United States did not get to this place easily. Stunted efforts in Afghanistan in the early 2000s were rooted in the belief that "superpowers don't do windows." But the Taliban's resurgence and proliferation of al-Qaeda affiliates changed the trajectory of U.S. foreign policy to address weak states. The challenges of supporting a functioning state in Afghanistan and Iraq have renewed calls for restraint. Yet, exclusively focusing on post-conflict zones fails to take into account the demand for security assistance from long-time allies such as South Korea, new partners like Georgia, neighbors such as Mexico, and strategic countries like Pakistan. While an undertaking on the same scale as the provision of security assistance in Afghanistan may not be repeated soon, the United States will certainly continue to help long-time allies and new partners develop their own security capabilities.
Derek Reveron is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He served in Afghanistan 2010-11. These views are his own.
ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Officials and voters in the United States often cite a "trust deficit" to explain the perennially tumultuous, frequently tortured, and always tenuous relationship between the United States and Pakistan over the last ten years. Many are wont to point out how the United States "failed Pakistan" throughout its history beginning in 1962 when it armed Pakistan's nemesis India during the latter's war with China. This narrative of Washington routinely disappointing Pakistan moves through its failure to support Pakistan in its wars with India in 1965 and 1971, and crescendos with the final straw of perceived perfidy: the American decision to invoke the Pressler Amendment sanctions in 1990 as a result of Pakistani efforts to develop nuclear weapons. This move notoriously deprived Pakistan of a fleet of F-16s for which they had already paid. However, this history is at best misleading, often wrong, and does little to forge a better understanding of Pakistan and the limits of engaging the country's political and military leadership.
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
In February 2009 the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi wrote that, "on Afghanistan, the Indians have been among President [Hamid] Karzai's most stalwart supporters." That was only a few months after the assault on Mumbai by Pakistan-based terrorists, and not long on from a devastating bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which the CIA deemed to have been planned by Pakistan's intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). The war was drifting, and India was getting edgy.
But the embassy's cable also noted, in a throwaway line, that when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had requested Indian support for Afghan security forces, the Indians "demurred" because they were "mindful of Pakistani sensitivities." Several years on, however, they demur no longer.
Leadership decapitation, which includes both the arrest and death of terrorist leaders, has become a major component of U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11. In the five months since Osama bin Laden's death on May 2, 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the Unites States has successfully carried out several leadership strikes against high-level al-Qaeda operatives. Most recently, Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American cleric linked to a number of terrorist plots in the West, was killed in Yemen on September 30, 2011 by a Hellfire missile fired from an American drone. In addition to his suspected position of leadership within al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Awlaki's online lectures and teachings provided an important inspirational role to would-be militants in the West. It was his ability to inspire and motivate attackers that made Awlaki's death particularly important to many Western analysts and policymakers.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
When the United States led the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the mission was clear: retaliation against the Taliban government for offering safe haven to the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks.
Ten years later, the mission is no longer clear -- not to the American people, not to the Taliban, not to regional stakeholders, and unfortunately, not even to the nearly 100,000 American troops struggling to maintain a sense of purpose in some of the most forbidding terrain in the world. And the criticism and challenges to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan abound. What happened?
Too much ideology, that's what.
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images
Ten years from now, the September 20th assassination of High Peace Council head and former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani may be seen as a turning point in the Afghanistan conflict, comparable to the assassination of storied insurgent leader Ahmad Shah Massoud a decade ago. Massoud's death marked the end of the Taliban's reign and ushered in the Bonn Agreement -- followed as it was by the overwhelming force of the U.S. military to oust the Taliban government that sheltered al-Qaeda. Rabbani's assassination is poised to mark the beginning of the end of the Bonn era of Afghan politics, during which Afghanistan has engaged fitfully in an experiment in constitutional democracy.
Rabbani was no progressive democrat. However, by killing him in a brazen act of perfidy while he exercised his duties as the head of the High Peace Council, opponents of a Western-leaning, internationally supported Afghan government appear to be signaling their intention to disrupt, if not defeat, an orderly transition from international security control that preserves the status quo of Afghan political power.
As a result, while the United States focuses on defeating the Taliban and improving Afghan governance by 2014, Afghans are increasingly looking beyond the 2014 horizon toward the political realities they anticipate once the international community departs. Rabbani's death only deepens the sense of foreboding in Kabul that the politics of the 1990s may be coming back, marked by warlord fiefdoms, fighting among ethnic factions, and an even more ineffective central government.
Afghanistan now faces three different political scenarios for the "transition" that will occur in 2014: If the country's Constitution is observed, then a newly elected Afghan President will replace Hamid Karzai. If a peace process progresses, a grand bargain between Afghanistan, the Taliban, and Afghanistan's neighbors could be ratified at a Loya Jirga that establishes a new governing order outside of the electoral process. Or, if present trends of assassination and corruption continue, Afghanistan will face a deeper security crisis, leading to emergency rule.
The Rabbani assassination and deteriorating relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. make the grand bargain outcome less likely. And while there is precedent throughout the Middle East for using security threats as a justification for authoritarian government, Afghanistan's history, terrain, and decentralized political power centers make that model unlikely to produce stability.
Therefore, Afghanistan and the international community face a stark choice between the Bonn Agreement's fundamental promise of a democratic transition of power (which has never occurred for a head of state in Afghanistan's history), or a return to the old ways of political bartering and unstable autocratic mandates. Indeed, a democratic transition to a more inclusive Afghan government may be the only way to avoid a civil war once most international troops withdraw. This means a democratic transition of power in 2014 should be the highest political priority in Afghanistan over the next three years.
Based on the past two elections, a legitimate democratic transition cannot occur in 2014 without significant electoral reforms. There are a number of technical fixes that are required, but the biggest obstacle to mending the serious flaws of past Afghan elections is political. The prevalence of electoral fraud has allowed Afghan political leaders from all factions to maintain fantasies about the size of their political base and the outsized portion of political power to which they feel they are entitled. Rather than building durable political bases that can reliably support them at the polls, Afghan political leaders have invested the most time and energy into ensuring friends are in charge of district polling centers, extra ballots are available for loyalists to stuff, and, if that fails, intervening at the highest levels to adjust the final results.
None of this will change overnight. But many Afghans still agree with Churchill that choosing their leaders democratically is the worst process to follow -- except for the alternatives. Rabbani's death may cause a reflexive step backward toward the old political framework that predominated in the 90s. However, the dire consequences of missing an election in 2014 and having a power struggle for the presidency outside of the Constitutional order should afford a moment of clarity in which the advantages of reforming the electoral system outweigh the temptation to pursue the same fraud as before.
Given sufficient political will, the fundamental ways to fix the electoral system are already well known:
For any of these changes to happen, however, there must be champions of reform who have significant political influence and a sufficient interest in improving the system. Civil society activism has not proved to be an agent of change so far on electoral issues, and with the high stakes on the table in 2014, it is unlikely that NGOs alone can affect power-brokers' political calculations. This means that the international community must engage with the Afghan political leadership in frank discussions about what their fundamental grievances are with the current electoral framework, how they plan to gain the popular legitimacy necessary to govern Afghanistan beyond 2014, and how to therefore design an electoral system that accommodates the core demands of multiple political and ethnic factions.
The tendency in Washington is for discussions about Afghan elections to involve speculation about who the next leader of Afghanistan could be, and then lament the lack of obvious candidates. However, as many Afghans point out, Karzai was not an obvious leader when the Bonn process began; he became the consensus choice once it was clear he had U.S. support and was the least objectionable among the mix of factions with a seat at the table. In other words, political context and the process of selection matter more than individual merits.
Therefore, the immediate focus should be on re-calibrating the incentives and rewards of the electoral system to produce a more fair and predictable result rather than trying to pick a winner in advance. This should start by making good on Afghanistan's commitment at the Kabul Conference last year to initiate "a strategy for long term electoral reform that addresses in
particular the sustainability of the electoral process," and gives advantages to political parties that organize slates of qualified candidates and protects against disenfranchisement of groups that, due to geographic or security reasons, will not have equal access to the polls.
The next three years present a last opportunity to correct the errors caused by backing individuals over institutions as a governance strategy. By investing in political and electoral reforms that incentivize broader participation in the democratic process, there may be an opportunity to promote national reconciliation, even if the peace process led by Rabbani falters in the wake of his death. Otherwise, the chances that the democratic framework of the Bonn agreement will survive the 2014 transition are slim, and Afghans will be right to hedge now against emergency rule or, even worse, civil war.
Scott Worden is a Senior Rule of Law Advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He served as a Commissioner on the 2009 Afghanistan Electoral Complaints Commission and was an observer of the 2010 Parliamentary Elections.
NEXT: Shamila Chaudhary, The Ideological Failings of the Afghan War
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
I was a light infantry platoon leader when the Twin Towers fell, and my unit deployed to Kuwait and then to Afghanistan in the months that followed. By Christmas of 2001, the Taliban had been deposed, and by the spring of 2002, the last large formations of the Taliban and their allies had been routed from the battlefield and driven into Pakistan.
The past ten years have largely witnessed an effort, first by the United States and a few close partners, but later with the entire NATO alliance, to stabilize Afghanistan. The challenges have been immense. At the same time in which my unit was helping to defeat the last remnants of the Taliban in the Shah-e Kot Valley in March and April of 2002, the Bush Administration was already redirecting the vast majority of our available military and intelligence resources away from Afghanistan and toward Iraq.
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
Much has been written and said about "the longest war," initiated 10 years ago (under a United Nations mandate) in retaliation for the tragedies of 9/11, as part of an effective U.S. and allied air offensive, backed by Special Forces and anti-Taliban Afghans on the ground to strike against al Qaida and oust their Taliban hosts from power. But for Afghans, that initiative did not end the ongoing conflict that is now in its fourth decade, affecting three generations of a frustrated, yet resilient nation.
Today, Afghanistan stands at a critical juncture: one path leads down to the abyss of more warfare and unforeseeable predicament; the other offers a sliver of hope along a slower and windier road to what Afghans hope will be durable stability, peace and prosperity. But to get to this point, Afghanistan must deal with four key issues: Pakistan and broader regional rivalries, persistent governance shortcomings, future economic prospects, and sources of tension and worry in the international community.
Allan Tannenbaum-Pool/Getty Images
Over the past two years, the Afghan military and police have grown from a poorly trained and ill-equipped force of 191,000 to an increasingly effective counterinsurgency force of 305,000 volunteers who represent all ethnicities and tribes. Afghans are now responsible for security in seven areas of their country, and will assume lead security responsibility for 50 percent of the population by year's end. To ensure Afghanistan has the capabilities and capacity it needs to assume security responsibility from the international community, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) personnel are working hard with Afghans to develop the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and help them overcome leader shortfalls and the barriers posed by Afghanistan's high rates of illiteracy. Due to unifying efforts under the NATO flag in November 2009, one-sixth of the world's countries are working together shoulder-to-shoulder to enable Afghans to achieve the security they deserve, the prosperity they desire and a future they determine for themselves.
Since the first day NTM-A began operations in November 2009, developing Afghan leaders has been and remains the command's number one priority. Over the past two years, officers and non-commissioned officers in the Afghan Police grew by nearly 20,000 and will grow another 22,000 by November 2012. The same is true in the Afghan Army; officers and non-commissioned officers grew by 26,000 and are on a path to grow another 20,000 in the next year. Partnering with coalition units is key to the professionalization of these units, but growth could not have been achieved without establishing an indigenous training base and a standardized training and education curriculum. Major General Zamary, who leads the Afghan National Civil Order Police, recently told me "we need leaders who are educated because educated leaders are the key to an enduring force."
1. The question to ask about radicalization is not "why?" or "who?" but "how?" In the aftermath of 9/11, Western security services tried to profile potential attackers. Results were mixed at best. In the United States especially, conservatives even spoke of inherent "Arab" or "Muslim" propensities to terrorism. On the Left, much effort was devoted to analysing the potential motives of attackers or the environmental factors that led them to violence. Ten years on however, intelligence services are no longer searching for inherent qualities common to large numbers of people or trying to identify "root causes" which convincingly explain why one person becomes involved in extremist violence while others do not. Increasingly, it is the dynamic and complex process of radicalization itself that is seen as key, with peers, relatives or small group dynamics playing a very significant role in the radicalization process. One conference of international intelligence services in 2008 focussed almost entirely on this aspect of militancy. That should not be a surprise. Terrorism is, after all, a social activity.
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images