Abdul Khaliq Fazal
May 13, 2010
Will this trip of President Karzai to the USA bring peace, security and stability to Afghanistan?
I came from Afghanistan last week, and during my 30 days stay there, I discovered that the security situation in the whole country was getting worse day by day. In Kabul most of the ministries have barricaded their buildings with high concrete walls. Some of the main roads in the city were closed to general traffic, for example, the road where the ministry of interior is located has been blocked, and as result, the businesses which were operating can no longer do their business. Most of the ministries, embassies and NGOs don’t build their concrete walls inside the compounds; instead they are either taking the whole streets to themselves or are blocking half of the streets.
President Karzai has delivered two or three decrees in the past two years to clear all the streets and roads from concrete blocks and open all the streets and roads to general public, but who is going to implement President Karzai’s decrees? No one, even the law enforcement department of the ministry of interior is acting against the president’s order.
Kabul city is small, however this small city is now accommodating five million people, and around two million cars. People living in this city are full of stress and anxiety. The air is full of dust, pollution and car fumes, while roads are in very bad condition. Going from one place to other is a nightmare, a five kilometer distance can take an hour..
When I was working in the Afghan government between December 22, 2001 to the end of 2004, the Afghan people were hoping for a good and bright future, they believed that the presence of the US and NATO troops would bring peace, security, and economical stability.
Afghans believed that economical assistance from the international community would produce many good and secure jobs. Foreign investment would bring more money and goods for the development of the country. However the ordinary people who had large expectations from the Afghan government, the USA, and the rest of the international community are now questioning the presence of these foreign troops in their country.
In the last five years, lots of empty promises have been made by the Afghan government and the international community to the Afghan people that they will bring peace security and economical wellbeing to them, but unfortunately noting is happening. Instead things are getting worse. In the last eight years there has not even been one large development project to create jobs for the people.
Afghans are saying the 51 billion dollars spent by the USA on the economical development in past eight years, have not found them jobs, while the money may have gone to the pockets of a number of corrupt Afghan and foreign people. The question is how can the Afghan government and the USA and other foreign countries presence in Afghanistan win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people?
President Karzai in this trip has to make lots of changes, to the way how he deals with the US government, and the rest of the international community thus politically and diplomatically that will be beneficial to Afghanistan, US government and the international community. If Karzai wants to survive as president for the next four years, he has to be more honest to the Afghan people and the international community. He has to come up with a clear vision and a clear and understandable economical, political, cultural, development and independent integrity for the future of Afghanistan. Karzai has to bring changes within himself, he has work truly and honestly for a political reform and parliamentary democracy. President Karzai has to come up with a strong professional, skill and political team, so people can trust him, his leadership and his team. He must know that with the kind of cabinet that he has introduced in the past four years, he did not and cannot produce good governance and a strong government. He knows that even in the last cabinet there were ministers who were unable to spend 30% of the ordinary and developmental budget in year 2009. Karzai has to learn that he cannot do everything by himself, he has to make some other people responsible of jobs, and he has to make every one accountable for what they have been assigned to do. Karzai has to make Afghanistan independency, national interest, national security and other economical, political and diplomatically decisions with his strong team, so at the end of day every person of the decision making team would be accountable for the decisions they make.
President Karzai along with President Obama must come up with a realistic program and strategies to encourage those Afghan people who are unhappy with the central government and the presence of foreign forces in that country, to be in support of their joint strategy for all the problems in Afghanistan
While the solutions to all these problems can take some time, however the Afghan people and the international community should be told to be patient and wait as what would be the practical outcome of the objectives of the Karzai and Obama May 2010 meeting and strategies in the short and long terms.
In the London Conference, President Karzai announced his policies, and he said that his new government wants to improve the economy, security and governance in Afghanistan. President Karzai also unveiled details of his plan to encourage Taliban insurgents to lay down their arms and to stop the violence and join the political process aimed at rebuilding the war-torn nation.
I am sure that these are very promising messages to the Afghan people, the international community and the legitimist wishes of president Karzai to President Obama. But would these discussions and plans alone convince elements of the Taliban to come into this political process and can it be successful and achievable without looking into the larger picture of the nation’s problems?
It is time that President Obama and President Karzai authorized representative team should be given the right clear plan and instructions to talk to the Taliban leadership, showing them an olive branch and assuring them that once they respect the government, the Constitution and the laws of Afghanistan, then they will be given full guarantee safety, security and joining the government in different level.
Past experience has shown that problems cannot be solved by military means in Afghanistan, it should be noted that the proposals made by President Karzai to the UN Security Council to review the Council’s black list must be part of the negotiations with the Taliban. The names of those Taliban who are not attached to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups should be omitted from the list, so it can encourage the Taliban to come to the negotiation table
President Obama and President Karzai should be aware of our neighbor’s intentions and interests in Afghanistan and they must come up with strategies which it should convince Afghanistan neighbors and the international community that the promotion and strengthening of Afghan security forces will be beneficial for the region, the international community and the Afghan people.
British Prime Minister Golden Brown, UN secretary General Banki Moon, and other representatives from over seventy countries to the London Conference in Feb 2010, supported President Karzai’s plan for negotiations with the Taliban and I believe it is time that President Obama also endorse that plan.
Now it is time for President Obama not to repeat the mistake of the last eight-year-old military strategy in solving Afghanistan’s problems.
I believe that peace security and stability to Afghanistan will only come if President Obama, the international community and the Afghan government seriously and objectively look in to the following issues.
1. A comprehensive discussion should take place between the Afghan and Pakistan governments. In these discussions, Pakistan must be assured that Afghanistan will not interfere in the internal affairs of Pakistan. The government of Afghanistan has to make 100% sure to Pakistan that the assistance of the Indian government for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, will in no way harm the good relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
2. Afghanistan has to make sure that neither India nor Pakistan will be given the right to use Afghanistan for their play ground and Afghanistan must keep its neutrality and must not side with either one in their conflict.
3. Pakistan must genuinely and practically stop their logistical, financial and all other kind of support to the Taliban, and all other armed groups who are fighting against the Afghan and foreign forces in Afghanistan.
4. Pakistan government should encourage the Taliban leadership to resolve their differences with the Afghan government through negotiation, in a peaceful manner and they should be allowed to return with respect and dignity and security back in to their country Afghanistan.
5. Pakistan must stop thinking that the extension of the Afghan military forces is an obstacle, against their interests in the region; they should remember that once in the past Afghanistan had a well trained army, it was never a threat against its interests.
6. Afghanistan government should have a comprehensive discussion with the government of Iran, and assure that country that the presence of the foreign forces in Afghanistan will never be a threat to the safety and stability of Iran and Afghanistan, and it will never allow any country to be engaged in any activities against Iran.
7. The Iranian government has to be asked that they must assure the Afghan government that Iran is not supporting or arming Afghan or other militants or political activists who create violence in Afghanistan.
8. Afghan government and international community have to assure Russia and China that the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan is not going to be a threat to them and to their friends in the region. Bilaterally, Russia and China should at the same time generally strongly support President Karzai’s and President Obama’s recent peace plan to bring peace, security and stability to Afghanistan.
9. In Afghanistan the following responsibilities must be fulfilled by President Obama’s new strategy, Karzai’s government and the international community before peace and security is passable.
1. Creating jobs for the unemployed people, who desperately need an income for themselves or their families. Once employed then they would not need to be looking to the money paid by the militant groups.
2. Increasing employment.
• It can be the distribution of free land, seeds, water and other necessities, in order for people to start working in the agriculture field.
• Building water dams, so it can be used for electricity and agriculture, and can employ many people.
• Creating a safer environment for national and international investors to invest in the industry and the reconstruction sector, so it can employ many people and the local product can be consumed locally and the rest for export.
3. Corruption is a big problem, thus President Obama’s and President Karzai’s governments must take the first step followed by the international community to eliminate corruption from all the government departments, contractors and the NGO, and they must be under strict surveillance.
4. Transparency and accountability with all the money allocated for the development and reconstruction of the government departments, contractors and NGOs must be given high priority.
5. Appointment of public servants must be based on the merits of right people who are skilled, professional, good leaders and managers. (For all government posts.)
6. Good governance, can be obtaining the support of the Afghan people towards the central government.
7. The Judiciary system must be kept independent. Law and order must be enforced. Afghanistan’s constitution and other laws must be taken seriously and implemented by all the people from the president to an ordinary person in the street. Those who disobey the law must be seriously punished by the judiciary no matter who the person is.
It is time that everyone should come to the conclusion that the problems in Afghanistan will not be solved by power or money. Therefore, the only way out of the current problem can be seen by negotiations and understanding.
In his address to the media on the 31st of Jan 2010 in Kabul, President Karzai said the London Conference will be followed by a (Loya Jirga) great assembly in spring and an international conference in Kabul this year in which the Afghan government would formally present its commitments to the people of Afghanistan. While I was in Kabul I was hearing from the media and people that the list of people would be invited to that National consultative Jirga was not by its merits and their back ground
President Obama and President Karzai must fulfill their promises given to the Afghan nation and the international community. However, at the same time, the international community must stand hand in hand with President Karzai and President Obama in achieving the shared goals and objectives, together bringing peace, security and stability in Afghanistan, the region and in the world. If either side fails to deliver what their responsibilities are, then it will be the end of a stable and secure Afghanistan, Pakistan and the world in general, and there will be the possibility of the disintegration of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which will be a disaster for the whole world. If a Pakistan disintegration occurs, who will be in control of those nuclear arsenals?
Abdul Khaliq Fazal was the former Minister of Public Works from 2001-2002, President of the Evaluation and Privatization Commission of Public Enterprises from 2002-2004, and an advisor to President Karzai in the 2004 Presidential Elections. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org