Thursday, December 17, 2009

Afghanistan: the Road to Nationhood - Part II

"On Development Aid, Stability and Unification"

by Dr Sam Holliday

The visit of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Afghanistan, on 8 December 2009, unfortunately suggests that US policy will not basically change. Or if there is to be a change toward decentralization of power, it was well hidden.

Gates spoke of continued support for Harmid Karzai and the building, training and retention of the security forces controlled by the central government, Afghan Army and the Afghan "National" Police.

Gates stated that the US was not going to abandon Afghanistan as it did in 1969 and that money for "development" would continue to flow. He mentioned the need to clean up government corruption, without recognizing that money for "development" was one of the causes of corruption.

The visit of Gates suggests more of the same. New visibility and vigor perhaps, but still a failure to address the fundamental problems.

Because of the fragmented nature of Afghanistan any centralized government able to maintain stability would have to be strong, nationalistic, authoritarian, and corruption free; therefore, the foreign-funded government of Hamid Karzai, protected by westerners and promoting Western ideas of politics, economics, diversity, and human rights has been unsuccessful.

To have both stability and democracy would require much greater common identity among the Afghans, something that would take, under the best of circumstances, several decades to develop. Since the US will not support the kind of centralized regime now required, it is necessary to move to a more decentralized structure.

This will make the various levels of governance in Afghanistan more responsive to the people. It might not be government of, by and for the people but it will be a move in that direction from the current ineffective, corrupt centralized structures.

It will be difficult to shift to greater decentralization since the US foreign policy establishment and the United Nations think in terms of a top-down control to achieve economic and political "development". They want a single point of contact; they are accustomed to dealing with state-to-state relationships; they expect the US and Europe to expend blood and treasure to "develop" others.

They see "development" as making others more like themselves.

Decentralization will no doubt consolidate the power of Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek, Mohammad Mohaqeq, a Hazan, Abdul Rasul Sayuyaf, a Pushtun, Abdullah Abdullah, a Tajik, and their likes within the provinces. While many of these leaders have defects in Western eyes, they are capable of providing a security shield against the Muslim extremists within their our provinces—if they think it is in their interests to do so.

Getting local leaders to provide the needed security shield for the people is an essential first step to stability. Then it would be possible to influence the course of events toward a more desirable outcome. Without this first step there is no possibility of long-term stability.

Therefore, the focus of US and NATO efforts should be shifted to making local leaders, local militia, and local police more effective and efficient. If this is done the cost will be less and the benefits will be greater. XXXXX

Dr Sam Holliday is Director of the Armiger Cromwell Center

All publications copyright © 2008 Armiger Cromwell Center. Permission is granted to forward this article by e-mail to friends or colleagues on a fair use basis. For reprint permission, contact Armiger Cromwell Center at

Read also part I in this series, "Losing the War is Not an Option", by Arend Jan Boekestijn

Also by Dr Sam Holliday

American Diplomacy: "Aghan Federation"
Armiger Cromwell Center: click "Afghanistan*New

All posts by Sam Holliday on Politeia


James Higham said...

Getting local leaders to provide the needed security shield for the people is an essential first step to stability.

Same level of difficulty as getting men to share the load of being pregnant.

Anonymous said...

Sam: Agree with your thrust but in Afghanistan the process is less "Nationbuilding" than "Civilizationbuilding" with eternity as a time line.
vol warner

Cassandra Troy said...

Anonymous, I agree. I do not think we can even do "nation-building" as most in the foreign policy establishment view it. However, I think we can achieve stability (a climate of order and satisfaction) and can keep the bad guys (those which we should called hirabahists since they are out to defeat us) in check as we withdraw U.S. and NATO war-fighting forces. This can be done if we will focus on security through local leaders, and stop attempting to work through the central government and sending large amounts of money in for "development." This is the modest goal I suggest. v/r, Sam Holliday

RatePoint Business Reviews