August  2007




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Afghanistan – the Challenges


Ambassador Said T. Jawad is Afghanistan’s Ambassador, since 2003, to the U.S. This article is based on his recent address at the New America Foundation, Washington, DC. Prior to this appointment, he was the Press Secretary to the President, Chief of Staff and also the Director of the Office of International Relations.

Afghanistan has been at the crossroads of trade and civilisations, but despite that it seems a very remote country. The destiny of Afghanistan has somehow or the other been connected to events that occur globally - right from the time of Alexander to the Afghan Empire, the Cold War and more recently the War on Terror – Afghanistan has played a role in all of these.

Afghanistan is an issue that has united many countries all over the world. Sixty countries are providing funds for reconstruction in Afghanistan. Thirty-six countries are contributing troops in Afghanistan. The Afghan National Army and the Police Force are being trained by forty-one countries. There are over sixteen provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan. The important asset within Afghanistan is not just the international consensus but also the goodwill of the Afghan people. “We are grateful to have such a mosaic of cooperation.” Many countries are involved and present in Afghanistan – either assisting with the security operations or helping with the reconstruction. A lot of these countries are fighting together for the first time.


Security challenges

There has been a sudden spike in terrorist activities within Afghanistan - almost a 400% increase in violence in 2006 from the previous year. Four thousand Afghans died last year due to terrorist activities. Suicide attacks were up almost 600% from 27 in 2005 to more than 139 in 2006. This year so far the figure has reached close to 60 attacks. The cross-border infiltration and terrorist attacks have increased by 300%. There has been an increase in the use of more sophisticated IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The ties and connections with drug traffickers, warlords, and Taliban are becoming stronger.

There are several reasons for increased security challenges in Afghanistan - domestic, regional and international.  

Domestic reasons have to do with lack of resources available to the Afghan government to deliver services to defend Afghans in Afghanistan. Developing the capacity of the Afghan government to deliver services is a priority. These services could be the court system, schools, clinics, police system, but more importantly a more qualified and capable police force in addition to the army. The task of building an Afghan police force has been a lot more challenging.

The regional factors include the operation of terrorist camps outside Afghanistan, and the financial support that they receive from the Greater Middle East. A comprehensive approach is required to fight this war. Instead of fighting terrorists and going after individuals, Afghan or foreign, there is a need to focus on fighting terrorism as a phenomenon that includes improving the daily life of the Afghan people, and also includes fighting more seriously the trade of narcotics in Afghanistan. The traditional strategy of clearing an area of terrorists will not be sufficient because they seek shelter in the neighbouring provinces and neighbouring countries and come back once the operation is over. The Afghan government continues with its political outreach in different forms, including the reconciliation process that allows the Taliban and the former members of Taliban to join the political process in Afghanistan.

The international factor has to do with difficulties of proper coordination, on the ground, of military operations in Afghanistan. There is no resentment against foreign and NATO troops in Afghanistan - but there is frustration.  People feel their lives have not improved five years after the presence of international community in Afghanistan. Sometimes different countries present in different provinces opt for their own approach. That makes the task a lot more complicated for the Afghan government. The most successful approach is to have a unified approach. One of the traditional methods of getting Afghans together in using traditional institutions in a more effective way has been Jirgas (the traditional council of Afghan tribal leaders) that have been used in Afghanistan extensively. Afghanistan is now working with Pakistan to convene the first Peace Jirga between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Kabul in the first week of August 2007, which will be a progress in reducing the violence and the operation of extremists on both sides of the border.


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