Afghanistan: Le Plus Ça Change...
Betrayed Hopes for Change Cause Widespread Disillusionment
Four years after the defeat of the Taliban and as Afghanistan prepares for the 18 September elections in the last phase of the political process of reconstruction set out by the Bonn Accords, pessimism on the future of the country is widespread among most people on the ground.
In theory, the accords signed in December 2001 in Bonn were observed and several milestones were reached. But, says Nader Nadery of the Independent Commission on Human Rights, there has been no real transformation in Afghanistan. We have a Constitution but no one to apply it. We have laws but no institutions to enforce them. Little initiative has been taken to bestow justice or to marginalize war criminals or those who violate human rights. Irresponsibility dominates the stage, he adds. There hasn't been a lawbreaker, a human rights violator or an abuser of power who has had to face the law.
The hopes for change expressed by Afghanis at every step along the road of political reconstruction have vanished and as a consequence, malaise is growing. The political class is made of up returning expatriates, who are making money, the old guard of the Mujahideen, who have no intention of playing the democracy game except to stay in power by vote-buying, intimidation and threats, say one diplomat.
The upcoming national legislative and provincial elections risk perpetuating the current order, or rather, disorder, with a divided parliament and a president, Hamid Karzai, who has lost his aura. The US military is giving battle and we will certainly hold elections. But the country escapes from all authority, says a columnist for the Afghani press without giving his name. There is no Afghani political will because there is no vision. Everyone goes around filling holes but they don’t realize the general deterioration.
The government lacks any cohesion and has become more and more reticent, as if it didn’t know what to say. The depature of the powerful Afghani-American ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad for Iraq seems to have paralyzed the central authority. The substance of this government has fallen away into a shadow and Karzaï and his team have been mouthing this miserable message of mendacity for more than three years: the international community must not forget us, it should send more money and more troops!, Laments Professor Khaled Madjrouh. A necessary cog in the wheels of reconstruction, the Interior Ministry, is beset by factional infighting and is splitting apart. There has been no administrative reform and nothing has been to prepare for the changing of the guard.
Governors and high-ranking officials execute the presidential will while ignoring competence and simple honesty. While the war on drugs, which represent 60% of the Gross National Product, has been given top priority, nothing is being done to marginalize those known to be involved in trafficking.
This year only 11% of the reconstruction budget has been spent due to problems in developing the projects and the capacity of absorption, says a diplomat, who emphasized that the total lack of organization in the actions of the international community. Large amounts of money are flooding the country but there is no financial oversight.
Rampant corruption has rotted system to the point that it is hard to imagine putting an end to it without starting all over again. There is an urgent need to review the policies of the last three years but neither the international community nor the government seem to have the will, said Mr. Nadery.
Most Afghanis still support the presence of the international community and the Afghani regime, which it sponsors, out of fear of the recommencement of hostilities. But the wind could soon change if combat continues to lead to more blunders and if, as is expected, the attention of the international community wanes. The large sums destined for Afghanistan are already being pared down and the window of opportunity opened bythe defeat of the Taliban and the billions of dollars funnelled into the country may soon seem a memory from the distant past.