February 26, 2009


The second chance: Critics say my country can’t be saved. But a new push from America and Kabul could work (Ashraf Ghani, March 2009, Prospect)

When the Taliban was overthrown in 2001 Afghans welcomed the international forces, and the US enjoyed overwhelming support. But too few forces came to help keep law and order. When more finally did, in 2006, they were too late to stop the al Qaeda and Taliban insurgency, which also operated with impunity from Pakistan, a problem that only started to be addressed late in 2008.

Resources for Afghan reconstruction have been far too low. The aid that has arrived comes through contractors or UN agencies, creating new bureaucracies, not strong Afghan institutions. Put bluntly, the international community did its institution building on the cheap.

Many western media experts now claim that Afghanistan can’t be saved and that history “proves” it is incapable of decent government. But the first eight decades of the 20th century were a period of relative peace and economic development. Millions of tourists passed through, en route to India. Unarmed police constables could get local chiefs to appear before courts of law.

Afghans regard the subsequent years of war as an aberration. They agree with the international community that the country needs a functioning state to deliver law and order, and deny Afghan territory to both al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The way forward now falls to General Petraeus and his colleagues who have until April’s Nato summit in Germany to announce a plan for Afghanistan. Petraeus’s approach is likely to move beyond the old counter-terrorism strategy and recognise that force can work only when it changes the political equation. Other instruments—diplomacy, development, trade and the creation of functioning institutions—are the key to winning support and defeating the insurgency.

The first step is establishing order.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 26, 2009 8:11 AM
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