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Rethinking Afghanistan : A new strategy to leave Afghanistan more stable
Afghanistan right now is at a very volatile stage, but as time has shown us this is not new to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is marred with political instability and the menace of terrorism. The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and the administration thought it would be an easy stroll through the park: We go in, defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, set up a government based on American democratic principles, hold elections and call it a day. Sadly this is not the case. In this paper I will present a new strategy for Afghanistan, based on the politically stable regimes throughout Afghanistan’s history. If implemented it would transform Afghanistan from a democratic failure to a model state, which will help bring peace and stability to the Afghan people.
The modern state of Afghanistan began with Ahmed Shah Durrani of the Durrani Empire. Ahmed Shah Durrani was from the Sodozai section of the Popalzai clan of the Pashtuns. He was a commander of a cavalry contingent, and was in favor of Nadir Shah the previous ruler who made Ahmed Shah his heir apparent. Ahmed Shah Durrani administered the empire through a Majlis-E-Ulema or legislature of the Islamic scholars; Ahmed shah himself was a scholar of Islam. Ahmed Shah's use of the Majlis-E-Ulema is a perfect example of a Loya Jirga, which is a council representing different tribes. Ahmed Shah died in 1773 and was succeed by his son Timur Shah Durrani.
The empire continued to run under the descendents of Ahmed Shah with relative ease and political stability. The Durrani dynasty eventually came to end, and gave rise to Barakzai dynasty.
The last king of Afghanistan, Muhammad Zahir Shah brought about some peace to Afghanistan if only for a short while. Muhammad Shah, while away in Italy for eye surgery, was overthrown by his cousin Mohammad Daud Khan. To save the country from civil war the king abdicated and his cousin became the first President of Afghanistan.
Since the end of the last dynasty Afghanistan has seen a range of authoritarian rulers come and go, with each bringing more instability. In 1979 Afghanistan had a communist revolution, in which Nur Muhammad Taraki came to power following a coup and overthrowing Mohammad Daud Khan. In between 1979-1989 is key to understanding what has occurred between 2001-2009 and what maybe the future of Afghanistan.
On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked. Four planes were hijacked and used as weapons against civilians causing the death of 3,007 people. Two planes hit the World Trade Center in New York, one plane hit the pentagon in Virginia, and the last plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania due the courage of the people on board to try and regain control of the plane. All in all there were 19 hijackers, out of which fifteen were Saudi Arabian, two were from the United Arab Emirate, one from Egypt, and one from Lebanon. After an investigation into this matter it was discovered that these men were trained and financed by Osama Bin Laden (OBL), a Saudi radical in Afghanistan and the leader of Al-Qaeda.
In October of 2001 the United States invaded Afghanistan in order seek justice and go after those who were responsible for the attacks on American soil. Soon after the US overthrew the taliban, and with the taliban overthrown plans for reconstruction were started, and a long process was started to give a Afghanistan a new government system.
The current setup of Afghanistan includes the Office of the President who is the head of state and is directly elected to a five-year term by the people. The President is responsible for determining policies with the approval of the National Assembly; appoint a cabinet of ministers along with the justices of the Supreme Court with the approval of the National Assembly. The President also appoints two vice presidents one primary and one more as an alternate. The National Assembly consists of two houses: the Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) and the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders). The Wolesi Jirga, the more powerful of the two houses consists of 250 delegates directly elected through a system of proportional representation for a five-year term. The Meshrano Jirga or House of Elders consists of an unspecified number of local dignitaries and experts appointed by provincial council, district council, and the President.
The lower house (Wolesi Jirga) makes and ratifies laws, while further approving the president’s action. The upper house (Meshrano Jirga) is more of an advisory board then an actual house in the National Assembly.
The second arm of the government is the Supreme Court, the court has nine-justices that are appointed by the president to a single ten year term, which are approved by the Wolesi Jirga.
While the system may look sound on paper, it has no hope of working. The entire system needs to change to a familiar form of government, one the Afghans are accustomed too. This system has given rampant powers to the president and the lower house of National Assembly the Wolesi Jirga, while no real power is given to the Supreme Court to check on the president or the national assembly. A key indicator of the failure of the system is the 2009 Afghan Presidential Election. The elections were the second election in Afghanistan following the 2004 presidential election (elected by a Loya Jirga) in which Hamid Karzai won the Presidency. Karzai claimed reaching over 50 percent of the votes, against main rival Abdullah Abdulla. Abdullah supporters, and Abdullah himself rebuked Karzai’s claim to the presidency, reports of ballot box stuffing, and vote rigging became widely known here at home and abroad.
After receiving 225 complaints within three days of the election, the Electoral Election Commission (EEC) decided to investigate these allegations. The EEC throw out many votes in the vetting process, which brought Hamid Karzai under the 50 % mark, which would mean a run off election between the two main contenders of the post. The vote was plagued by so much fraud and violence, and had such a low turnout, that it is beyond belief the Afghan people will regard the victor as a legitimate leader. And if a majority of Afghans do not consider the president and his government to be legitimate, the military campaign now being waged by the United States and its allies is doomed to fail, regardless of the number of troops deployed.
This system of having one person in charge will lead to many problems not just of elections fraud. Afghans remain predominantly illiterate, agrarian, and tribalistic societies. Afghanistan, needs a more familiar system, Afghanistan needs the Loya Jirga.
A Loya Jirga is a “Grand Assembly”; the Jirga is mostly made up of tribal elders and in some cases the tribal chiefs. Loya Jirga often adopts constitutions, or decides important political matters. Local disputes are resolved with tribal elders or chiefs; get together in a circle sitting on the ground forming a Jirga. A loya jirga is essentially the same thing but on a much grander scale. It’s an assembly of esteemed tribal leaders chosen to discuss issues of national importance. Loya Jirga’s have been taking place in Afghanistan since 1707 with Marwis Neeka the great Afghan hero. In 1747 Ahmed Shah Durrani was chosen by a loya jirga to be the first King of Afghanistan. The Loya Jirga is deeply rooted in Pashtun tradition and it is consistent with western representative democracy. While the concept of a presidential election is alien to the Afghan people the loya jirga is well-trusted and completely familiar institution.
According to the Afghan Constitution (which was itself ratified by a loya jirga in 2004), a council can be convened “to decide on issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as supreme national interests.” The Constitution goes on to state that neither the president nor his ministers nor members of the Supreme Court have voting rights in a loya jirga; those are reserved for members of both houses of the Parliament and the provincial and district leaders. While in session, it trumps all other bodies of government. As the Afghan Constitution unequivocally declares: “The loya jirga is the highest manifestation of the will of the people of Afghanistan." There you have it! The Loya Jirga is the highest manifestation of the will of the people, sound familier?
Now how to we get this system implemented? Do we just toss out the present government and fire weapons until we see fit? Well the short answer is No, not really, the best way to implement the system countrywide is by starting with the provinces. Afghanistan has 32 provinces; first each province would establish a Jirga, which would run the day-to-day affairs of that province. After all 32 provinces have formed jirga’s, they call for a Loya Jirga which would be in charge of the day-to-day operations of Afghanistan getting rid of the Office of President and replacing it with a system more traditional to Afghanistan and legitimate to the people. So the new system of government of would be based on a Loya Jirga that is in charge of Afghanistan as a state, and have jirga’s that are in charge of the individual provinces. The key in this system is giving every tribe a representative in the jirga in their respect province, and having those tribes send a representative to the Loya Jirga to govern the country.
Having a stable political system is one thing, having the menace of terrorism is another.
In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq, arguing Iraq has strong ties with Al-Qaeda. While Al-Qaeda did not have any ties to Saddam Husain, the battleground for Al-Qaeda shifted from Afghanistan to Iraq once the US invaded Iraq. This last fact is key to understanding who we are fighting, and why are they fighting us.
The militants, the US, and coalition forces are fighting the Taliban, not Al-Qaeda. What is the difference? The Taliban are after one thing and one thing only they want Afghanistan! They don’t want anything else, they are not planning anything else, the only reason they are fighting the armed forces is because they see them as “occupiers” and “foreign invaders”. The Taliban are a very small force compared to the US and NATO troops. In Afghanistan there was at one point a little over 101,000 troops out of which 68,000 troops are from the United States. If you compare that too the strength of the Taliban the number is much lower. Zamir Kabulov Russia’s ambassador to Kabul has estimated the size of the Taliban fighters around “10,000-12,000”, 12,000?? Really? YES! So why is that we can't seem to round them up with 101,000 troops at our disposal? Well its like this, a small organization such as the Taliban with the 10,000-12,000 fighters that have knowledge of the geography, the tribes, and are much more effective then 101,000 foreign troops. The Taliban post 20-25 people in a single team through out Afghanistan, and consolidate that number to 10-15 in towns and villages across Afghanistan.
Now I’m sure the question that is coming to our minds is how do we get them? How do we defeat them? Well sir their are two options that need to be implemented together, option number 1, is to work with the tribes, and tribal elders, to establish trust with them, work with the tribes and local jirgas to root the taliban out. The other option is to train a small security apparatus (Police Department/Intelligence Agency) run by the Afghans. The US and allied forces should train this agency to go out and hunt down the Taliban in the towns, and villages across Afghanistan with the support of the tribes, and tribal elders. The size of the agency needs to be around 35,00 - 38,000 agents all of which or for the most part need to be of the local population or have knowledge of the geography, and language of the local tribes/people.
Now im sure your wondering about the military and why can't we just use them, well put it simply the military is designed to take over large amounts of territories, and countries, facing other large militaries in the battle field, but, it is in no way designed to or able to fight gorilla war, its not designed for it, however, a police department or intelligence agency can be better equipped to combat this menace, this is what the department/agency is designed to do, they are placed in villages towns, or cities, with the mission being a specific target often times. It will be a more effective, and efficient manner to combat the Taliban then our current non-existent strategy.
In conclusion I believe, the road to Afghanistan’s peace and stability are through Loya Jirga’s, as history has shown us only the Loya Jirga’s have brought peace, and stability to the region. Afghanistan needs to have a trained small security apparatus to combat terrorism. If anyone one of the two fails, Afghanistan may not be able to bring peace to its people for a long time to come.