Afghanistan, the forgotten project

A steady stream of aid is vital to restarting Afghanistan, but more needs to be done to ensure that all of the aid is being used to benefit the country.  Corruption and inefficiency must be stripped away and an independent monitoring commission is needed for the task.  Government institutions have been criticized for their own brand of corruption, because many of them have former Taliban officials or warlords in them.  Their presence is largely a negative for the country, but their ejection might be worse.

Islam is and will remain a part of Afghanistan.  Nevertheless, the country’s own recent history has shown the threat that an extreme Islamic theocracy would pose.  Moderation must be encouraged in the nation to prevent any return of Taliban-style governance.  In accordance with this proposition, civil rights must be continually upheld so that power-hungry individuals cannot overthrow the democracy that is being carefully built.

Security is at the forefront of any discussion of Afghanistan’s future.  A controversial suggestion that has been made, but needs serious consideration is deploying more troops.  With a growing anti-war sentiment, that would be a tough task for the leaders of the coalition forces to push.  Nonetheless, it is essential for the future of Afghanistan that there is sufficient security in the country to defeat the Taliban insurgency so that the nation can rebuild successfully.  Karzai himself, in a June press conference while meeting with Chinese officials, stressed that the surge in fighting is sending a message to the world that they need “to reassess the manner in which this war against terror is conducted.”[lxii]   A former colonel in the British army, Tim Collins, known for his famous speech to his soldiers in which he told them that they were there “to liberate, not to conquer,” has called for more troops, “this is a shooting war and it needs to be properly resourced.  If we are going to win, it needs the full backing of the nation and the government.”[lxiii]

In a news conference in September of 2005, President Karzai seemed to reject a strengthening of military force for a focus on political measures.  While “soft” strategies should be utilized, the security of the country is the foremost concern.  A combination of both tactics should be used to further the rebuilding of Afghanistan.  Troops will deal both with the insurgency as well as making sure that the Taliban will no longer have reinforcements.

In the war against the opium trade in the country, efforts need to be concentrated on providing viable alternatives to growing opium.  The crop is popular because it is easy to grow, is easily transportable and there is a world demand for it.  These factors make it difficult for officials to find something to replace it with and simply destroying the fields will only cause anger and resentment among the populace, a ploy that would drive them straight into the hands of the insurgents.  Already, there have been clashes between Afghan farmers and U.S.troops sent to eradicate the poppy fields.  Furthermore, some Afghan policemen have been known to take bribes from local poppy owners so they would skip them.  These actions have led to resentment from others who do not have the money to pay bribes and have led to a general acceptance of a corrupt system.

Economic possibilities should exist in a rebuilding country.  Perhaps jobs can be created in rebuilding the local infrastructure or a food crop can be introduced that will grow in the region and is in demand around the world.  Koenigs warned that it would be “very difficult and costly” to come up with substitutes, but it is imperative that the opium trade must not be allowed to continue to flourish in order for Afghanistan to find the legitimate and sustainable exports needed to rebuild its world trade.

Center for Security Policy

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