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In reaction to Nigel Robert's question what to think of the need to include the typical donor state-building enterprise in the approach to Afghanistan: Taking a pragmatic realist view, I think the best case scenario for Afghanistan is: Working towards a hybrid central state, in which security can be provided: In this scenario, the main tribal networks manage to agree on a power-sharing (or ‘reconciliation’) deal, including the Pashtun tribes. This results in a critical weakening of popular support for the Taleban (Tb) jihad. As a consequence, the security threat posed by Tb and other armed opposition can be contained and security is improved. The state will maintain a hybrid character blending democratic and traditional-tribal political orders. Critical democratic state institutions can be maintained and continue to be reinforced (e.g. civil and political rights, institutional checks on elected officials, merit-based civil service, protection of position of women). A central question in this scenario is what combination of democratic-bureaucratic governance and traditional relationships’ politics is to be sought. It would be essential that the hold of the warlords over government is broken and that they are replaced by leaders that have more legitimacy with the population (some of them traditional tribal). The government would manage to build the capacity of the ANSF and maintain their reliability, and would thus be able to increasingly rely on the ANSF to secure stability. The government would be increasingly effective and legitimate as a consequence of its success in containing the security situation, its enhanced inclusiveness and enhanced democratisation. Central state institutions continue to function in a hybrid way, i.e. partly following a tribal-clientelist logic. Sub-national governance below the provincial (or possibly district) level is secured by legitimate non-warlord traditional/tribal institutions (who ‘mediate the state’), but with effective links to national governance and development programmes. Narcotics revenue flows to Tb and AQ are reduced, although flows to government cannot be stopped. The government will continue to largely pay lip-service to anti-corruption (because it depends on clientelism, i.e. corruption to serve its clients, for survival), although extremely predatory corruption may be reduced as a consequence of the improved security situation and increasing rules-based functioning of the government, but progress will be slow and incomplete. The International Community (IC) could support the emergence of this scenario by: o Diplomatic support for negotiations, and politically-informed technical advice on the elements of democratic state institutions to be retained. o IC succeeds in imposing moderate governance conditionality in return for its military and development support. The conditionality focuses on retaining critical elements of democratic state institutions (e.g. inclusiveness, civil and political rights, excluding predatory warlords, etc.) but the leverage is moderate on issues that Karzai needs in order to survive (clientelism, corruption, narcotics revenues) and in view of the necessity to buy-in the Tb. o Aid focuses on reinforcing the democratic state institutions, sub-national governance and addressing (local) drivers of conflict. IC civil-military support – including the surge - is focused on building up ANSF and protecting population and has to be successful. IC may need to secure support from locally legitimate powerful local military factions supportive of the national reconciliation model, but the inherent risks are formidable since this scenario hinges on replacing war commanders by more legitimate local leaders. o Reduced IC kinetic operations, since they involve collateral civilian casualties while not succeeding in holding and building territorial gains. o Targeted intelligence-led side-lining of hardcore Tb and Al Qaida leaders (in Afghanistan and Pakistan) is maintained and has to be successful. o All three elements above are necessary to create negotiating space for both government and moderate Tb. o Counter-narcotics (CN) focuses on reducing Tb access to drug revenues and developing alternative livelihoods, while silently tolerating narcotics revenue flows to government on the medium term, to keep government funded. This scenario is in my view to be preferred to a scenario where too much emphasis is put on military fight against the Tb, which would lead to the continuation and even expansion of war. It is also to be preferred over a scenario in which the Karzai government would be forced to push through with democratisation, anti-corruption (AC) and governance reform, especially with various elections, vetting senior appointments and CN. The result of such pressure, if effective, would be erosion of his power base, resulting in renewed contest for state power and possibly reversion to war. Any comments are welcome! Louise Anten