Saving Afghanistan From the Edge of Failure

In the last two years, Afghanistan has been facing unprecedented challenges. However, several major development projects have initiated, launched or completed. But the government has failed to deliver its promises. Thousands of Afghans died in violence. The government lost control of several districts across the country and hundreds of thousands of Afghans forced to flee their home. Unemployment and corruption is at its peak. Disunity among the Afghans have increased and the country is more fragile than ever. If the world community does not engage immediately, Afghanistan will turn into a second Iraq.

After a major election crisis and controversy, the coalition government of national unity inaugurated in September of 2014. Without release of the election results, in a mediation of the US Secretary of State John Kerry, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani introduced as a president and his political rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah as his chief
Secretary of State John Kerry between Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani, after he succeeded to convince both candidates to establish a coalition government (August 8, 2014. Photo by U.S. State Department)

Since its establishment, the legitimacy of the National Unity Government (NUG) has challenged and called unconstitutional. Following the deal for the new government, Afghanistan and the US signed the Bilateral Security Agreement and NATO Status of Forces Agreement, allowing the US and its NATO allies to stay in Afghanistan, beyond 2015.

U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, James B. Cunningham signs the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar Sept. 30, 2014. (Photo by/U.S. State Department)

Paying $ 4 billion a year to the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) and $1 billion for development projects, the US is the largest donor of Afghanistan. In 2011, during the second Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, the world community has agreed to support Afghanistan for ten years, the Decade of Transformation (2015-2024).

Overall Afghanistan is more prosperous than ever. Beyond the repetitive stories of Afghanistan's new constitution, three times presidential elections, ten million students enrolled in schools, 352000 ANSDF, international partnerships and global recognition of the government, women's rights, use of cell phone, internet and much more, there are some other great stories as well.

In July 2016, Afghanistan became a member of World Trade Organization (WTO). In continuing efforts for reviving the modern Silk Roads and Afghanistan as the main gateway, several transit agreements inked or completed.

The recent significant and tangible development projects are: finalizing the $ 997.00 million Central Asia, South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000) agreement. The launch of Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TUTAP) electricity power line, which would connect South and Central Asia via Afghanistan. Signing the trilateral trade agreement to use the southern Iranian port of Chabahar, which will give India trade access to Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. On September 7 through a 4600 miles trade route, for the first time Afghanistan connected to China and Central Asian countries by rail.

Good governance is at the top of its to-do list of the NUG. Appointment of prominent reformists, Nader Nadery as the chief of the independent administrative reform and civil service commission and Mohammad Farid Hamidi, Attorney General of Afghanistan, in two key positions, is widely welcomed by the Afghans. Establishment of the anti-corruption justice center, the high council on governance, the rule of law and anti-corruption, national procurement committee along with substantial reform by the Attorney General are significant moves towards good governance. But the problems are chronic and a lot needs to be done.

Afghanistan is still at the bottom of transparency index. Brussels conference on Afghanistan is just around the corner and it will be held 4-5 October. This is another great opportunity for the NUG to pledge to fight against corruption and appeal for further aid to the major donors.

Through Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, Afghanistan has agreed to fight corruption, reform the government and respect human rights. However, the government has failed to do so, but the international community has not closely monitored the commitments. As a result, Afghans have experienced the electoral, political, economic and security crisis.

An expired parliament, fragile civil society organizations and weakened political parties are not in a position to hold the government accountable. Therefore, the Brussels conference should be a tribunal to set the Afghan leadership accountable.

Unconditionally backed by the world community, Afghan leaderships think of themselves above every law and privileged. The nation is suppressed, starving, divided and living in fear. They do not have the power to set their politicians and civil servants accountable. Therefore, it gives a chance to the insurgents to recruit
angry and hopeless Afghans into their lines.

The government should be responsible for securing and building on the gains made possible by the blood and treasure of Afghans and their allies. However, in the absence of accountability mechanism, a regime which is politically, financially and even militarily backed by the world community, might not be accountable to its ordinary citizens.

Of course, Afghanistan is a partner of several donor countries, but this should not be an excuse to ignore the crisis and risk billions of dollars and thousands of innocent lives. Report of the Afghan casualties for the last two years, is shocking. The UN estimates 10,000 civilian casualties a year, which is a record high in this century. Operating from Pakistan, the Taliban are responsible for the majority of these casualties.

The Taliban has not welcomed any peace deal yet. However, a major peace deal between the government and the armed opposition group of the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan led by Gulbadin Hekmatyar inked on September 29, 2016.

The doves are part of a campaign launched by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in observance of the International Day of Peace in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan in 2007. UN Photo/Helena Mulkerns

As a part of the NUG deal, the leaderships of the NUG have agreed to reform the election commissions immediately and amend the constitution. Two-year letter, still the commissions are not reformed. Therefore, the parliamentary and district elections have been on hold and the Loya Jirga (grand council) to amend the constitution and change the presidential system to a parliamentary system, is suspended.

It might look awkward, but as the biggest supporters of Afghan leadership, this is a responsibility of the world community, led by the US to hold and set them accountable.

Every month, thousands of Afghans leave the country because of poverty, unemployment, and insecurity. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, more than a quarter of the one million refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe in 2015 were Afghans, coming second after Syrians.

The country is rich in natural resources, gas, minerals and oil worth estimate around 3 trillion US dollars. But still poverty is one of the major cause of the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. Therefore, promoting a healthy investment in extractive industries and trade will support Afghanistan's Self-Reliance strategy, agreed by the world community in Tokyo in July 2012.
A map of U.S. Geological Survey project of 2004-2014 to assess Afghanistan's natural resources and strengthen its earth science capabilities.

Helping Afghanistan establishes peace, encourage investment in infrastructure could help decrease the flow of refugees to Europe, which represents a brain drain for Afghanistan and an addition to the refugee crisis in the European countries.

Afghanistan is in a serious economic, political and security crisis. The upcoming Brussels conference is an opportunity for the world community to review and renew their long-term commitments and to set clear benchmarks and mechanism for accountability of the NUG. In order to ensure Afghanistan can never again be a safe haven for terrorists, there has to be a two-way street. Not a dirt one, but a two-way paved street. It is in the interest of the world community and the Afghan people.