Afghanistan: The Constitutional Loya Jirga
Afghanistan: The Constitutional Loya Jirga
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
The U.S. and the Taliban after the Killing of al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri
The U.S. and the Taliban after the Killing of al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri
Briefing 29 / Asia

Afghanistan: The Constitutional Loya Jirga

When delegates to Afghanistan’s Constitutional Loya Jirga assemble in Kabul on 13 December 2003, they will begin debating and ultimately deciding upon a draft document that is intended to establish a strong presidency while accommodating the other dominant figures at the country’s centre.

I. Overview

When delegates to Afghanistan’s Constitutional Loya Jirga assemble in Kabul on 13 December 2003, they will begin debating and ultimately deciding upon a draft document that is intended to establish a strong presidency while accommodating the other dominant figures at the country’s centre. It is a constitution, however, that for the most part would fail to provide meaningful democratic governance, including power-sharing, a system of checks and balances, or mechanisms for increasing the representation of ethnic, regional and other minority groups. The manner in which the draft has been prepared and publicised, as well as its content, raise serious questions about whether it can become the first constitution in Afghanistan’s history to command genuinely deep popular support and, therefore, contribute to national stability.

Delays in release of the draft, made public only on 3 November 2003, meant that the distribution of printed copies and public education efforts started in earnest less than a month before the convening of the national conference that is meant to adopt it as the country’s new fundamental law. It is believed that the document reflects the wishes of President Karzai and that its concentration of powers in the president’s hands is strongly supported by the U.S. Nevertheless, many Afghans who have studied the draft, including political figures, lawyers and participants in the drafting process from varied ethnic and regional backgrounds with whom ICG has discussed the text, concur on the need for substantive revisions that would reduce presidential powers, invigorate an anaemic parliament and provincial councils, and establish a constitutional court. Conservative Islamic groups are unhappy that the draft did not institutionalise Islamic law unambiguously.

Many Afghans and other observers believe that the major decisions have already been taken behind the scenes, and President Karzai has expressed the hope that the Constitutional Loya Jirga will conclude its business within a week to ten days. There are indications, however, that delegates may wish to make use of their prerogative to change the document, and UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi has predicted a “difficult” debate.[fn]“Karzai Seeks Quick Accord on Afghan Constitution”, The New York Times (Reuters), 10 December 2003.Hide Footnote

ICG’s June 2003 report on Afghanistan’s Flawed Constitutional Process[fn]See ICG Asia Report N°56, Afghanistan’s Flawed Constitutional Process, 12 June 2003.Hide Footnote  covered the period between the convening of the Constitutional Drafting Commission in November 2002 and the start of the public consultation process under the auspices of the larger Constitutional Review Commission. This paper examines the structures proposed in the final draft presented to the Constitutional Loya Jirga by the Review Commission and analyses the differences between that document and what originally emerged from the Drafting Commission. It pays particular attention to the capacity of the proposed constitution to ensure inclusive, democratic governance and protect human rights – issues that will be central to its public acceptance.

Kabul/Brussels, 12 December 2003

Podcast / Asia

The U.S. and the Taliban after the Killing of al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri

This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood speaks with Crisis Group’s Asia Director Laurel Miller about U.S. policy in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s foreign relations and what the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in the Afghan capital Kabul says about the threat from transnational militants in Afghanistan a year into Taliban rule.

On 31 July, a U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in the Afghan capital Kabul. Zawahiri appears to have been living in a house maintained by the family of powerful Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani. His death came almost a year after U.S. troops pulled out of Afghanistan and the Taliban routed the former Afghan security forces and seized power. The Taliban’s uncompromising rule over the past year has seen girls denied their right to education, many other rights and freedoms curtailed and power tightly guarded within the Taliban movement. The Afghan economy has collapsed, owing in large part to the U.S. and other countries’ freezing Afghan Central Bank assets, keeping sanctions against the Taliban in place and denying the country non-humanitarian aid. Levels of violence across the country are mostly down, but Afghans’ plight is desperate, with a grave humanitarian crisis set to worsen over the winter. The Taliban’s apparent harbouring of Zawahiri seems unlikely to smooth relations between the new authorities in Kabul and the outside world. 

This week on Hold your Fire! Richard Atwood speaks with Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director Laurel Miller about U.S. policy in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s broader foreign relations after Zawahiri’s killing. They discuss what his presence and death in Kabul mean for U.S. policy and what they say about the threat posed by transnational militants sheltering in Afghanistan. They look into how countries in the region are seeking to protect their interests in Afghanistan, including by engaging with the de facto Taliban authorities, and how those countries – particularly Pakistan, which has faced an uptick of violence in the past year – view the danger from foreign militants in Afghanistan. They also look in depth at Washington’s goals in Afghanistan a year after the withdrawal and what balance it should strike between engaging the Taliban or seeking to isolate them. Just over a year after the U.S. withdrawal and Taliban takeover, they reflect back on Washington’s decision to pull out troops. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more on the situation in Afghanistan, check out Crisis Group’s recent report Afghanistan’s Security Challenges under the Taliban.

Contributors

Former Deputy President and Chief Operating Officer
Former Senior Analyst, South Asia

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