Afghans Searching for a Leader

During the last 14 years, we had everything but a leader. To secure the achievements and overcome the massive challenges, it's the right time to review quickly the unprecedented achievements of the last fourteen years as well as the challenges that remain and lie ahead.
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For the first time, Afghanistan has been experiencing a government style called national unity government. Two individuals, Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani as a president and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah as his chief executive officer, share the power. Dr. Ghani does not represent a political party and he was an independent nominee during the 2014 presidential elections. Therefore, the government cannot be named a collation government.

After a massive fraud allegation during the presidential elections, in a sovereign state these two individuals disregarded the elections' results and formed a national unity government. They agreed on a 50-50 division of the power and cabinet seats. Since the formation of this regime, the social, political, economic and security situation in the country has been worsening and Afghanistan is facing grave challenges. Gains of the last one decade are in jeopardy and require an immediate attention of the Afghan people and their international partners.

Fighting a regional civil and international wars during the last four decades, Afghans truly want an end to the conflict. From 1979-1992, they fought the former USSR and its puppet regime. Form 1992 -1996 there was a bloody war between Mujahideen militants. During 1996-2001 thousands of Afghan died in a war between the Taliban and Mujahideen militants and since 2001 Afghanistan is a battleground for the global war on terror. Exhausted by these four decades of war, Afghans were hopeful for the 2014 presidential elections and the new government. But the election crisis, the formation of the national unity government, increased unrest, injustice, unemployment increasing threats by the Taliban, ISL, Al-Qaida and other regional terrorist groups coming from the Medill East, South and Central Asia has changed the optimism to pessimism.

The national unity government has been protecting many corrupt officials, who has blamed for grand corruption. The leadership of the government released people accused on hundreds of millions of corruption, including Khalilullah Frozi, CEO of Kabul Bank supposed to be serving a 15-year prison sentence in accusation of nearly $1 billion in corruption, which resulted in the collapse of largest privet bank. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani blocked many inti-corruption efforts and pressured anticorruption champions through political pressures.

The absence of political will to fight corruption forced Drago Kos, head of Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC), a joint national and international corruption watchdog in Afghanistan to resign. It has severely damaged the credibility of the Afghan government and its leadership.

Since the establishment of the new government, the value of Afghan currency has rapidly decreased to at least 10percent and thousands of Afghans have lost their jobs. Ten thousand civilian casualties, a total of 3,699 civilians were killed and 6,849 injured in 2014, a 22 percent increase compared to civilian casualties from 2013. The number of civilian casualties may further increase in 2015 because Taliban insurgents backed by terrorist groups have been indiscriminately killing civilians across the country.

Defending their people and country 4,302 Afghan national security forces died, while 8,009 wounded in combat in the first half of 2015, a 36 percent increase compared to the year 2014.

Afghans have tried their best to remain positive and support the national unity government. But this unconditional support for the administration in the absence of political opposition and mechanism for accountability, perceived as an impunity for the government. The government leadership and politicians have allocated most of their energy and time preoccupied with power and wealth sharing while less attention is focused on the socio-economic development, security, the peace process, and foreign policy. It has further weakened the government and harmed its legitimacy. While in contrast, the Taliban insurgents have been expanding their influence.

The government is lacking a comprehensive, security, defense, development, and peace strategy. It has not been able to set short-term, mid-term, and long-term strategies and goals. The future of the country is blurred and there is no set vision. The lack of strong leadership, the absence of a clear goal has condensed hope, optimism, and motivation among the Afghan people. The deteriorating situation forced thousands of Afghans to flee the country as every month 200,000 Afghans plan on leaving their country; Afghans remain one of the world's largest refugee population.

The administration has been playing internal and external blame games. Instead of steady steps and actions to end the crisis, it blames the previous administration, individuals within the administration and the neighboring countries. Through these actions, the government seeks to shield itself from criticism and fill the gap of legitimacy.

The legitimacy of a government is one of the essential parts of stability and prosperity in any country. Establishing an unconstitutional government through a deal and disregarding the elections' results, has seriously harmed the national unity government's legitimacy. It has strengthened the insurgents and it enabled them to capture several villages and districts around the country. The Afghan Parliament has a constitutional power of oversight the government.

The Afghan parliament's five-year mandate expired on June 22, 2015, but the term has been extended unconstitutionally through a presidential decree. With the parliamentary elections suspended and members of the previous Afghan parliament no longer legitimate the power of oversight has dealt with giving power to the office of the president to extend their terms without an election for an unknown time.

Only a legitimate government led by a capable leader with a clear and realistic short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals in cooperation with the Afghanistan's allies can resolve this crisis. Developing a holistic and realistic national security, development, and peace strategies are essential for prioritizing tasks and reaching to our goals and objectives. During the last 14 years, we had everything but a leader.

To secure the achievements and overcome the massive challenges, it's the right time to review quickly the unprecedented achievements of the last fourteen years as well as the challenges that remain and lie ahead. These issues can be addressed by a unity of the Afghans and with a visionary leader, who should lead the country in a clear direction, end the uncertainty, and revive hope and optimism within the Afghan people.

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