When President Obama announced the decision to “draw down” troops from Afghanistan I was often asked what I thought would happen to Afghanistan.
My response remained the same.
Three factors impacting the future of Afghanistan
First, what happens in Pakistan. The fighting inside Afghanistan will never cease as long as the Taliban are supported, trained and harbored inside Pakistan. The only question is how much territory will they be able to control.
Second, will the international community provide enough financial support to Afghanistan’s central government so that it can afford the troops and police needed to contain the Taliban, until Afghanistan becomes self supporting.
Third, and most important is whether the government that replaces President Karzai’s gains the support of its people. The people will not support a government and judicial system that are corrupt.
With the assistance of the United States, specifically John Kerry, the recent election was a clear victory for Afghanistan. The two final candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, negotiated a shared power agreement before the results of the final election were announced. The winner of the election would not take all. There was a substantial risk that Afghanistan would become a divided country or failed state had they not reached an agreement.
How have they done since the election? I don’t have any information about actions taken by Abdullah Abdullah. Since arriving I have been made aware of how pleased Afghans have been with President Ghani’s actions to date. When he was running for President he promised things would be different, an
d they are.
Actions taken recently include:
1. He immediately signed the security agreement with the United States, thereby assuring Afghanistan of continued financial and military support.
2. He has called for an investigation of Kabul bank. It has been reported that substantial shareholders of Kabul bank acquired stock in the bank with promissory notes that have not been paid. Many shareholders received large loans that have not been repaid. The amount involved of unpaid loans is estimated to be $900 million. A thorough investigation of the Kabul bank and its successor, the New Kabul bank are underway. Arrest warrants have been issued for 21 people. Among the 21 are the CEO of the New Kabul bank and the Afghan National bank. Both have been accused of fleeing the country to avoid prosecution.
3. He visited a jail located in Kabul that has 7500 prisoners. Many of the prisoners have been in jail without charges having been filed and without any hearings. He advised the courts that they have two weeks to prepare a file for every prisoner to be delivered to his office. He told the prisoners he would read every file. If the reports are not delivered to his office within two weeks he said those who didn’t comply may end up in jail. As a result of his inquiry prisoners have been released as recently as yesterday.
4. He advised the military that there are more generals in Afghanistan than any other country and his approval will be required for the appointment of any more. He is also scheduling a 30 minute personal meeting with every existing general.
5. He visited a hospital in Kabul. Upon arriving he was told the reception would be on the fourth floor. He advised them he would start with the second. Once his inspection of the second floor was concluded he went to the fourth where the staff had been assembled. He returned to the hospital unannounced the next morning at 1 am and discovered that doctors and members of the night shift who were on duty were asleep. What care was being provided to the patients was inadequate.
6. At the Presidential palace he discovered that they were serving 13 types of Kabob and that the palace kitchen staff had 80 employees. He told them to stop serving breakfast and advised the palace staff that they should eat breakfast before coming to work. He cut the kitchen staff in half and eliminated Kabob from the menu.
7. They have discovered that rich people living in Kabul have not paid their electrical bills. He has ordered the Afghan Department of Power to collect outstanding electrical bills.
Yesterday we were in the middle of a meeting when Basir received a call letting him know President Ghani was giving a speech. We stopped, turned on the TV and of course it didn’t work. Nonetheless when President Ghani speaks “everybody listens”.
As of today the government hasn’t appointed any ministers. Every minister is an “acting minister”. The government hasn’t come to a halt but it has slowed down. That may in fact prove to be a good thing. It takes time to identify and appoint people who will not abuse their office.
Two of the three factors I identified as having a major impact on the future of Afghanistan seem to be on track.
The Taliban have, however, recently increased their attacks and gained ground in several areas. Nabi and I are keeping as low a profile as possible and minimizing our travel. Strangely, everything seems normal until it isn’t and no one knows where the next attack will be.