July 27th, 2010
07:43 AM ET

Opinion: Afghanistan needs more than conferences

Editor’s Note: Abbas Daiyar began his blog, Kabul Perspective, last year to look at issues in Kabul and around the world. He has worked with newspapers in Pakistan and reported for news agencies in the past and is now a member of the editorial board of the independent Daily Outlook Afghanistan newspaper in Kabul. The opinions expressed in this guest blog are solely those of Abbas Daiyar.

The one-day Kabul Conference concluded last week with reiteration of promises made by the international community. There was nothing very new - except the fact that insurgents could not succeed in firing any rockets that day in Kabul, contrary to previous such events. Though the conference was given much coverage in the international media, Kabulis didn’t have any expectations about the meeting. Heavy security prevented any untoward incident and foiled some plans by those arrested a day before the conference.

Abbas Daiyar

All foreign ministers and representatives were given four minutes each to speak. And it was full of repeated words of promises. Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai organized the Kabul Conference. I liked some of the speeches, including the four minutes of Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who talked about decentralization of power in Afghanistan as a factor toward solution of conflict. Many of the speakers praised the Karzai administration and had a strong belief in his government as if everything will go smoothly.

The only critical speech came from the head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Dr. Sima Samar, who expressed concern on the process of Taliban reconciliation and criticized the government for the state of human rights in Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai said Afghanistan will take responsibility of security by 2014. It was more like a wish than a pledge. And what if Afghan National Security Forces are unable to take control by then? Karzai also demanded more control over the aid from the international community, up to 50 percent. But according to a recent media report published in Daily Outlook Afghanistan - the newspaper I am affiliated with - most of the ministries could only spend 70 percent to 80 percent of their annual budget for last year due to lack of capacity and mismanagement. Lack of capacity and mismanagement are the causes. Although the reports and presentations looked impressive at the Kabul Conference, the fact is that the practical situation is way different.

All spoke of good governance, but nobody talked specifically about the huge corruption in Kabul. Karzai said he will fight against administrative corruption. But there have not been any practical achievement of this since he was re-elected in a controversial vote last year.

A recent report said $4.2 billion in cash has gone out of Kabul International Airport, most of which has been brokered into safe accounts and luxury villas of Dubai. The fight against corruption was top priority of Karzai while taking the oath for a second term. In the first weeks of his new term, there were some symbolic moves. Soon after the Cabinet formation, a new anti-corruption task force was established, but with no achievement so far.

The U.S. media and Congress should pressure the Obama administration for accountability and transparency of the Karzai government in Kabul. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had once - during the controversial presidential election count in Kabul - said the U.S. civilian aid to Afghanistan in the future will be tied to reform in governance. The international community should pressure the Afghan government for more responsibility and accountability. There has to be serious efforts against corruption.

All the plans and projects presented at the Kabul Conference were within the framework of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. But this entire strategy needs a full review. The international community should ensure that development aid should also go to peaceful areas. The places with military presence have received the entire development budget, but the most peaceful areas have been neglected. And troubles are increasing now in central and northern peaceful areas.

After the Kabul Conference, state media said the international community supports Karzai’s reconciliation efforts with Taliban. Karzai called the insurgents “angry brothers” at the peace jirga in June. But he used the term “our common enemy” at the Kabul Conference.

The “reconciliation efforts” are complex and unclear. And most importantly, there is not a national consensus on this. Political leaders from other ethnic groups in Afghanistan are already leaving Karzai. For instance, former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh has started a grass-roots campaign against Karzai’s approach in “reconciliation” efforts. Important ethnic political figures such as Haji Muhammad Muhaqiq and Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum already have turned away from Karzai, and they supported him in the presidential elections.

The U.S. is victim of wrong steps taken in 2001 and later. Afghanistan has been a complete failure during the last decade. Change of command or fancy conferences will not bring success, but a fundamental change in the whole process and strategy might.

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Filed under: Kabul conference • Karzai • Voices • Your View
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. GuersHypegupe

    Really.

    January 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. High Interest Rate Savings Account

    Taliban is very bad............................... I hate Taliban.
    High Interest Rate Savings Account

    October 17, 2010 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. High Interest Rate Savings Account

    Hi,
    I am new user for this site. But i read this site. This site is very well. I like it.
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    High Interest Rate Savings Account

    October 17, 2010 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Clint

    Netherland is going out of afganisthan. Why u dont report that? Is that not the news?

    August 1, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. WW

    wikileaks, nothing new, no surprise, no secrete, but it wikilocked Kabul Conference's momentum...incredible media!!!

    July 28, 2010 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Anonymous educator

    A correction to my last post: the quote from the ministry official should read "...1 million for ten schools when I can do it for a hundred thousand"

    July 27, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Anonymous educator

    The international community has caused the corruption in this country ask any aid worker in Afghanistan and they will tell you the same. In education, the area I am working in Afghanistan, three years ago the average salary of a 'professor' was ~$200 USD/month today it is double that. The 'leaders' in this country are fully aware how much someone needs to live and pay them accordingly, but when the 'professors' I work with miss and skip their classes to earn more money (this includes everything from working with an NGO, which pats ~ $1000 USD/month to attending training where they get paid up to 30 USD/day to attend and for something they have absolutely no intention on putting into practice) how can we expect a country to progress intellectually, socially, and from a humanitarian point of view. There are on average two student protests a month (during the academic year), numbering in the hundred's for attendees, where the students are voicing their lack of confidence in GIRoA. This shows that the leaders of tomorrow, the students, know their government is not the solution to their problems. Many if the students I am working with have no faith that Afghanistan will get any better and most of them are torn between blaming and praising the international community. Last week during the Kabul conference I was working with some medical students in another province. One of them, Habib,, had this to say "the international community came here and gave billions to a country of people who 10 years ago couldn't tell you the difference between the worth of 10 billion USD and 10 thousand, and the international community blames us for being corrupt" This has been echoed in a comment made to me by a ministry official who once asked me "why do Americans think it will cost me one million dollars to build a school? I can do it for a hundred thousand". I am not saying we need to stop or even cut back our efforts in education, actually I would like to make the opposite claim. However, what we do need to think long and hard about is this: if we give 50% control over the money to the Afghans then will they be able to do more, the same, or the international communities worst fear less? My assumption is that we will see the same level of capacity level, but with a richer middle class, who have no intention on making their country any better.

    July 27, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

    You have that right... The news will only give the Enemy more to help them keep up the war against us!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

    For one thing we are not trying to do what Russia tried to do there... We are training the People to take care of themselves!!! It has to be a rightful war... Because we are not the only Country fighting there!!! Not like the Iraq war was... Thank GOD we got Leaders to end both wars not like Bush that only listen to His VP... We would never started the Iraq War if He did and would have finish the Afghanistan war a long time ago!!! It is to bad that Carter and Bush Sr didn't do what Obama is doing now!!! Maybe the Korea, Vietnam and First Iraq Wars would have ended different!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Wm

    This whole wikileak thing is a disgrace. the material shows it is classified, so it is illegally obtained and therefore the perpitators of this material should be puniished to the full extent of the law.

    July 27, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sam

    That's so passimistic. Even a fundamental change in the whole process and strategy might bring sucess!

    July 27, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |