Nation-Building in Afghanistan

Article excerpt

AFGHANISTAN'S liberation from Taliban role has been occasion for both joyous celebration and apprehension over potential insecurities. The US-led military offensive against the Taliban, code-named 'Operation Enduring Freedom', began on 7 October 2001 and resulted in the collapse of the Taliban rule in November 2001. The US justified the military assault on the grounds that the rogue regime provided sanctuary to the al-Qaeda [the Base] organization headed by Osama bin Laden. The Panjshiri Tajik faction of the Northern Alliance was the only organized group to move swiftly and they seized control of the capital, Kabul, re-instituting the previous bureaucratic and authoritarian structure. The US installed Hamid Karzai, a Pushtun from Qandahar, as head of the transitional authority based on the Bonn Conference held on 5 December 2001 in Germany. Representatives of Afghanistan's several political groups signed an agreement stipulating terms of power-sharing arrangements until the creation of a new constitution by 2004. On 22 December 2001 an interim government was sworn in for six months.

One of the major accomplishments of Karzai is the convening of a Loya Jirgah, Grand Assembly of Tribal Elders, held in Kabul 10-21 June, 2002 to elect a new head of state. The Loya Jirgah was intended to expand the social base of the interim government, establish civilian rule, and promote a democratic process of nation-building. More than 1,500 delegates (180 females) gathered in Kabul to debate and endorse the future of the country's political system.

Powerful warlords used their influence to manipulate the selection process to the Loya Jirgah; some managed to elect themselves and others sent their own men to the assembly to defend their vested interests. Individuals who had no ties to the warlords and were elected as representatives by the people were intimidated and afraid to speak and cast their vote freely in favour of particular candidates for leadership positions. During the Loya Jirgah an estimated 28 female participants received death threats and their husbands were told to ensure their wives refrain from participation in the assembly. The delegates elected Karzai as head of state and approved his nominated cabinet by a vague 'voice' vote. The Loya Jirgah neither proposed a comprehensive strategy of development of the economy and political structure nor instituted measures to eliminate the influence of the warlords operating outside Kabul.

Another significant development that followed the Loya Jirgah process was a concerted effort to lay down the foundation of a durable and functional political system that would ensure the equality of ethnic communities. Karzai declared that he supports the creation of a new constitution and appointed a 35-member committee, including seven women, to draft it. This development served as a means for legitimating the new government and led to the resumption of diplomatic ties between Afghanistan and the international community. The United Nations and Non-Governmental Organizations embarked upon the rebuilding of the country's shattered economy and provision of emergency humanitarian assistance.

A major priority of the Karzai administration has been to stabilize the situation in Kabul and in the provinces by maintaining law and order, disarming militias associated with various warlords and integrating them into mainstream civilian life. A small number of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, which is composed of 8,000 US and 5,500 troops from several other nations, remained in Kabul to help the interim government expand its authority.

The Karzai administration faces numerous obstacles in establishing a durable political structure of governance that is based on political pluralism. The collapse of the Taliban rule and the ensuing vacuum of power provided opportunities for warlords, many of whom were implicated in war crimes, to return and seize territories they controlled in the past. …