Elections and Security in Afghanistan
Elections and Security in Afghanistan
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 31 / Asia

Elections and Security in Afghanistan

Representatives of the Afghan government, the UN and the major donor countries and institutions will assemble in Berlin on 31 March and 1 April for the first high-level diplomatic meeting on Afghanistan in more than two years.

I. Overview

Representatives of the Afghan government, the UN and the major donor countries and institutions will assemble in Berlin on 31 March and 1 April for the first high-level diplomatic meeting on Afghanistan in more than two years. The principal objective is to secure substantial long-term aid commitments -- the Afghan government seeks U.S.$27.6 billion over seven years. In addition to meeting this global figure, it will be important for donors to make multi-year pledges that provide a basis for predictability and to increase cash on hand for immediate projects over the coming year. All this is needed if Afghanistan's governance and security institutions are to be reconstructed, development goals met, and poverty alleviated.[fn]The conference will be guided in part by a document, "Securing Afghanistan's Future: Accomplishments and Strategic Pathway Forward", that revises cost estimates for national reconstruction. It was prepared by the Afghanistan Assistance Coordination Authority, headed by Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, and includes several technical annexes produced by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) that assess, often frankly, the degree of progress made in such key areas as disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration; police and national army training; and judicial and civil service reforms. Available at http://www.af. See also, Finance Ministry, "Press Release on Berlin Conference", 24 March 2004.Hide Footnote

Unless conference participants also set in train discussion of the political framework within which aid can be effectively utilised, however, they will only be doing part of their job. In particular, there is need to:

  • discuss candidly the security failings and other internal obstacles that are seriously hindering implementation of the Bonn Agreement and endangering the success of the September 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections that are meant to promote accountable, democratic government;
     
  • establish much more quickly the promised robust international security presence beyond Kabul, which is vital to the disarmament and reintegration (DR)[fn]For greater simplicity and in the hope that the usage will become more common, ICG employs in its reporting the abbreviation DR, to include, as appropriate to individual situations, the concepts of disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement, and reintegration that are elsewhere often abbreviated as DDRRR or DDR.Hide Footnote of Afghanistan's militias and in turn to fostering an environment in which a culture of democratic politics can develop; and
     
  • give greater attention to the legal and institutional infrastructure required for democratic politics.

The international community's failure thus far to extend a strong security umbrella beyond Kabul is perpetuating, indeed deepening, the political and economic power of regional commanders. Even Kabul, where militiamen from Panjshir and Shamali remain concentrated more than two years after their entry into the capital, is not yet demilitarised. NATO still lacks troop commitments from its member states to deploy additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) across northern Afghanistan by September, as its already slow plan for gradually extending its presence in the countryside envisages. Nor has it obtained a commitment of troops for forward-basing rapid reaction forces as originally planned.

The new Afghan National Army (ANA) has suffered setbacks that limit its ability to extend the authority of the central government, facilitate DR, and provide security during the elections. Ministry of defence control of the recruitment process initially led to a disproportionate representation of Tajiks in the ANA, a situation that has prompted the U.S. to establish recruitment centres in Jalalabad, Kabul, Gardez and Bamiyan in an effort to encourage a more diversified army. The desertion rate in the ANA reached 10 per cent during the summer of 2003. A number of measures have been taken to address the desertion problem but the present strength of approximately 7,500 is still far short of the 40,000 projected by Coalition officers.[fn]See Dr. Antonio Giustozzi and Mark Sedra, "National Army: Technical Annex", in "Securing Afghanistan's Future", op. cit.Hide Footnote

DR programs to cut down the many militias around the country are going slowly. The proposed establishment of new Special Forces-led militia units (Afghanistan Guard Forces, AGF) would cut across those programs, providing a disincentive to DR. There is, moreover, no publicly disclosed plan for the eventual disarmament and demobilisation of the AGF. The hazards in the AGF concept include increasing the authority and armament of militia commanders as well as potential command and control problems.

President Hamid Karzai has yet to issue either a draft electoral law or a presidential decree on the provincial and district boundaries that would form electoral constituencies. The registration of political parties has proceeded very slowly, in part due to a cumbersome structure for registration that involves screening by six different government departments or ministries, but also due to political pressure exerted by fundamentalist leaders. Only about 1.5 million voters out of an estimated potential electorate of 10 million have been registered, and those unevenly. Registration is markedly lower in the south and southeast in both absolute numbers and the proportion of women.

There is a real risk that elections under present conditions will merely confirm an undemocratic and unstable status quo. To avoid this, the international community needs to make serious efforts over the next few months to invigorate the disarmament and reintegration process, guarantee the independence and impartiality of electoral institutions, and ensure that Afghan authorities create opportunities for non-militarised political parties and independent candidates to participate meaningfully in the electoral process.

Kabul/Brussels, 30 March 2004

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.

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