Pakistan’s Mass Deportation of Afghans Poses Risks to Regional Stability
Pakistan’s Mass Deportation of Afghans Poses Risks to Regional Stability
Briefing / Asia 3 minutes

Afghanistan’s Endangered Compact

While the growing insurgency is attracting increasing attention, long-term efforts to build the solid governmental institutions a stable Afghanistan requires are faltering.

I. Overview

While the growing insurgency is attracting increasing attention, long-term efforts to build the solid governmental institutions a stable Afghanistan requires are faltering. Following conclusion of the Bonn process, which created the country’s elected bodies, the Afghan government and the international community committed at the London Conference (31 January-1 February 2006) to the Afghanistan Compact, which identified “three critical and interdependent areas or pillars of activity” over five years: security; governance, rule of law and human rights; and social and economic development. The government signed on to realising a “shared vision of the future” for a “stable and prosperous Afghanistan”, while over 60 nations and international institutions promised to provide the necessary resources and support. A year on, even those most closely associated with the process admit that the Compact has yet to have much impact. Afghans and internationals alike still need to demonstrate the political will to undertake deep-rooted institutional changes if the goals of this shared vision are to be met.

The assumption of relative stability upon which the Compact was premised has been undercut by the insurgency in the south and east, diverting time and resources. While the insurgency is sustained by cross border sanctuaries and support, disillusioned, disenfranchised Afghans are also responding to the call of extremists. Progress that results in real change in everyday life is vital. However, the spiralling violence has exacerbated tendencies among the government and its international backers to favour short-sighted, quick fixes such as auxiliary police, which risk being little more than poorly trained militias, and to work around, not through, the new democratic institutions.

The Compact is meant to bring all Afghan stakeholders into the process of reconstructing the country while measuring progress in areas as diverse as institution-building and delivery of services at the provincial level, nationwide security sector reform, passage of business organisation laws and reduction in the numbers of those suffering from hunger. However, even without the insurgency, many of its timelines and benchmarks are overly ambitious, with little prioritisation and sequencing. Implementation risks being approached too much as a bureaucratic matter of ticking off a formal checklist rather than a serious commitment at a high political level – Afghan and international – to do the tough work necessary to build a state genuinely based on rule of law.

The Compact’s overseer, the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) consisting of Afghan ministers and major international players, issued a relatively robust first public report in November 2006, emphasising among other things the need to reform the interior ministry. Its recommendations need to be actively pursued but the Board’s own unwieldy nature could be a serious bar to progress. It meets quarterly and has yet to acquire a full-time, independent secretariat. Between sessions there is little international engagement in the process.

State-building and counter-insurgency efforts must be seen as complementary. To advance the Compact in 2007, the Afghan government and its international supporters should concentrate on:

  • countering the flourishing culture of impunity, which is the enemy of genuine reform;
     
  • addressing the widely varying capacity of ministries to deliver on commitments;
     
  • developing a comprehensive framework for sub-national governance; and
     
  • bringing the hitherto largely ignored legislative branch into the heart of the governance process.

By refusing to exclude undesirable elements from positions of power in the new institutions because it was thought they could help on priority matters such as the struggle against terrorism, the international community all too often honoured the Bonn Agreement more in letter than spirit. State-building was warped from the start. To serve its own interests and those of the Afghan people better, the international community must now show more spine by demanding serious steps of the Karzai government to remove corrupt officials and establish clearer time-tables for action, and it must be prepared to impose penalties when the government fails to implement commitments to end impunity. Even at the cost of some short-term pain, the focus must remain on the Compact’s long-term goal of a “democratic, peaceful, pluralistic and prosperous state”.

Kabul/Brussels, 29 January 2007

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