Friday, September 18, 2009

The Afghan President: King of (Only) His Castle?

The international media is giving due attention to the forthcoming Afghan Presidential elections. On August 20 Afghani citizens will go to the polls in approximately 6,000 polling booths across the country to choose among 41 candidates for the Presidency.
There were meant to be 7,000 polling booths but insecurity fuelled by Taliban inspired violence has plagued these elections (see BBC video here).
Excuse me if I am slightly cynical about the elections. It is not that I doubt the intent and the impartiality of the polls.
But what exactly will the new President govern? The country has no bureaucratic infrastructure to implement any policies. The state apparatus has no revenue of its own and is almost entirely dependent on foreign sources to meet even basic operating costs.
Security is primarily provided by foreign troops. It is said that the Taliban now operate a parallel judiciary in Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city. If a road needs is being built then the work crew requires NATO protection, foreign aid money paid to foreign contractors. Nevertheless, it is the local Afghanis being paid subsistence wages who must brave the Taliban threats to actually build the road – when they are not being kidnapped or killed.

The poor have no choice but to scratch out a living. Joining the Taliban or becoming opium farmers suddenly seems attractive.  
What are some options that are available to improve the complex situation in the battle scarred nation?
Afghanistan has never been a unitary state. It has been a confederation comprising the various tribes and ethnic groups that inhabit the region. The Pashtuns (aka Pathans or Pakhtuns), which straddle both sides of the Pak-Afghan border, are the largest single group.
The Taliban is mainly a Pashtun movement. Since the Taliban regime was ousted in late 2001, the Northern Alliance movement, in alliance with the US, has effectively been in control of Kabul.  The control has come largely at the expense of the Pashtuns. The Pashtuns form 42% of the Afghan population and the Tajiks 27%.
The international community must recognize the tribal nature of traditional Afghan society. It is the tribal structure that holds the key to minimizing Taliban violence and influence. It is a local form of democracy somewhat comparable to the Swiss cantonal approach.
The Pashtun tribes and their leaders must be supported politically through direct access to funds and development assistance.
The tribal leaders are responsive to their own constituencies – members of their tribes. They have a vested interest in seeing roads, schools and markets built in their hamlets and villages. More importantly, if the tribes are consulted and included in the development process they will take ownership of the infrastructure, i.e. they will physically defend the improvements to their neighbourhood.

Central military force is important in the context of providing a security umbrella to the friendly and 'borderline' tribes. Military force effectively used will make the cost of joining the Taliban prohibitive. Becoming a Taliban fighter should not be seen as an easy way to earn a living by disaffected Pashtuns. Potential fighters must think twice and consider the price (death) before joining.
But the primary weapon is to negotiate, using a combination of threats and bribes, the nominal loyalty of tribes away from the Taliban.
There will always be an element of the Taliban who will not give up arms until either the foreigners have left or their austere version of Islamic law has been implemented. The impact of the extreme element on the mainstream can be minimized through social marginalization.
A second necessary condition is the inclusion of the Pashtuns in the Kabul political establishment. Since the fall of the Taliban an attempt has been made to placate Pashtun sensitivities by pointing to current President Hamid Karzai as their representative.
Karzai has no tribal constituency. He spent the Soviet occupation years in exile in Quetta, Pakistan. His impotence as a political deal maker became clear to the Pashtuns when the first post Taliban cabinet appointed Northern Alliance leaders in every key ministerial post.
The Pashtuns were marginalized and the effect was to strengthen their sympathies towards the Taliban.
NATO / US pressure on the Kabul elite to bring in key Pashtun leaders with important tribal constituencies into the regime will go a long way in reducing the pull of the Taliban. There are several members of the Taliban who are (or already have) renounced violence and joined the political mainstream. Some are even running for President in these elections.
Afghanistan is not a nation state in the same mould as European or Latin American nations. Even in the best of times, Afghanistan has been a loose confederation with some control exercised by political authorities in Kabul over the larger urban areas and road infrastructure. The loyalty and pacification of tribes through judicious use of cash and intimidation is what appears to have worked in the past.

To try and impose a 'top-down' unitary state is failure writ large. Instead, a return to the loose tribal based arrangement of the past is the best bet to restore stability to a nation destroyed by 30 years of fighting.
But for now, the Presidential elections give the international community a productive reason to spend their generous budgets and NATO troops some ballot boxes to protect.
Imran Ahmed is a Singaporean freelance writer. He writes frequently on subjects of relevance to Muslims in modern society. He writes on his blog, The Grand Moofti Speaks. This article first appeared on his blog on August 18, 2009.

Blog Archive

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed


Copyright Muslims Against Sharia 2008. All rights reserved. E-mail: info AT
Stop Honorcide!

Latest Recipients of
The Dhimmi Award
Dr. Phil
George Casey

The Dhimmi Award

Previous Recipients of
The Dhimmi Award

Latest Recipient of the
World-Class Hypocrite Award
Mainstream Media

World-Class Hypocrite Award

Previous Recipients of the
World-Class Hypocrite Award

Latest Recipient of the
MASH Award
Dr. Arash Hejazi

MASH Award

Previous Recipients of the
MASH Award

Latest Recipient of the
Yellow Rag Award

Yellow Rag Award

Previous Recipients of the
Yellow Rag Award

Latest Recipient of
The Face of Evil Award
Nidal Malik Hasan

The Face of Evil Award

Previous Recipients of
The Face of Evil Award

Latest Recipients of the
Distinguished Islamofascist Award

Distinguished Islamofascist Award

Previous Recipients of the
Distinguished Islamofascist Award

Latest Recipient of the
Goebbels-Warner Award

Goebbels-Warner Award

Previous Recipients of the
Goebbels-Warner Award

Muslm Mafia

Latest Recipient of the
Evil Dumbass Award
Somali Pirates

Evil Dumbass Award

Previous Recipients of the
Evil Dumbass Award

Insane P.I. Bill Warner
Learn about
Defamation Campaign

by Internet Thugs

Latest Recipient of the
Retarded Rabbi Award
Shmuley Boteach

Retarded Rabbi Award

Previous Recipients of the
Retarded Rabbi Award

Latest Recipient of the
Mad Mullah Award
Omar Bakri Muhammed

Mad Mullah Award

Previous Recipients of the
Mad Mullah Award

Stop Sharia Now!
ACT! For America

Latest Recipient of the
Demented Priest Award
Desmond Tutu

Demented Priest Award

Previous Recipients of the
Demented Priest Award

Egyptian Gaza Initiative

Egyptian Gaza

Note: majority of users who have posting privileges on MASH blog are not MASH members. Comments are slightly moderated. MASH does not necessarily endorse every opinion posted on this blog.


Muslims Against Sharia
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Hasan Mahmud

Tewfik Allal
Ali Alyami & Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
Zeyno Baran
Brigitte Bardet
Dr. Suliman Bashear
British Muslims
for Secular Democracy

Center for Islamic Pluralism
Tarek Fatah
Farid Ghadry &
Reform Party of Syria

Dr. Tawfik Hamid
Jamal Hasan
Tarek Heggy
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser &
American Islamic
Forum for Democracy

Sheikh Muhammed Hisham
Kabbani & Islamic
Supreme Council of America

Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh
Nibras Kazimi
Naser Khader &
The Association
of Democratic Muslims

Mufti Muhammedgali Khuzin
Shiraz Maher
Irshad Manji
Salim Mansur
Maajid Nawaz
Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi
& Cultural Institute of the
Italian Islamic Community and
the Italian Muslim Assembly

Arifur Rahman
Raheel Raza
Imad Sa'ad
Secular Islam Summit
Mohamed Sifaoui
Mahmoud Mohamed Taha
Amir Taheri
Ghows Zalmay
Supna Zaidi &
Islamist Watch /
Muslim World Today /
Council For Democracy And Tolerance
Prominent ex-Muslims
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Magdi Allam
Zachariah Anani
Nonie Darwish
Abul Kasem
Hossain Salahuddin
Kamal Saleem
Walid Shoebat
Ali Sina & Faith Freedom
Dr. Wafa Sultan
Ibn Warraq

Defend Freedom of Speech

Islamists claiming to be Moderates
American Islamic Group
American Muslim Alliance
American Muslim Council
Al Hedayah Islamic Center (TX)
Canadian Islamic Congress
Canadian Muslim Union
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Dar Elsalam Islamic Center (TX)
DFW Islamic Educational Center, Inc. (TX)
Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (Closed)
Ed Husain & Quilliam Foundation
Islamic Association for Palestine (Closed)
Islamic Association of Tarrant County (TX)
Islamic Center of Charlotte (NC) & Jibril Hough
Islamic Center of Irving (TX)
Islamic Circle of North America
Islamic Cultural Workshop
Islamic Society of Arlington (TX)
Islamic Society of North America
Masjid At-Taqwa
Muqtedar Khan
Muslim American Society
Muslim American Society of Dallas (TX)
Muslim Arab Youth Association (Closed)
Muslim Council of Britain
Muslims for Progressive Values
Muslim Public Affairs Council
Muslim Public Affairs Council (UK)
Muslim Students Association
National Association of Muslim Women
Yusuf al Qaradawi
Wikio - Top Blogs