Well-articulated Policies and Legitimate Local Partners – Qamaruddin Jabarkhiel

It is vital for both a conflict-affected country and its international partners to formulate policies that lead the partnered mission towards sustainable building of security and justice system in a post-conflict environment.   According to Tschirgi, N. (2004:2) ‘….despite over ten years of practice in working in post-conflict countries, governments that actively engaged in peacebuilding still do not have clear, consistent, and well-articulated policies on post-conflict peacebuilding’. The author further argues that ‘Instead, there are general calls for “policy coherence” across issue areas, pleas for “whole-of-government” approaches, and increased mechanism for policy coordination. These, however, do not add up to a strategic peacebuilding doctrine or policy framework’. In the light of such arguments, one can clearly see the negative consequences of the lack of a comprehensive strategic operational and structural conflict-prevention and peacebuilding policy in Afghanistan, one of the major post-conflict recovery missions of the 21st century. Since October 2001, the international community has been involved in Afghanistan conducting both military and civil service operations, all the while expending tremendous amount of financial and human resources. However, the outcome compared to the resources invested is much lower than expected.

In spite of having more than 300,000 Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) trained, equipped and supported by the international community, most parts in the south and eastern provinces of the country were never secured. As a result, the majority of its population left their home towns and villages and took shelter in major cities. But the ongoing security challenges in Kabul have resulted in the lack of trust and confidence by the Afghan people in ANSF and the Afghan government as a whole.  This lack of confidence has extended to the international community due to its inability to counter the insurgency and international terrorism.  Indeed, the Afghan government’s security policies have been severely criticized by ordinary Afghans, as is reflected throughout their national media.

In addition to the lack of comprehensive strategic policy during this post-conflict mission, the international community did not choose the right partners in the early stage of their intervention. The fighting factions and warlords operating under the name of “Mujahideen” were favored and supported by the international community in their fight against the radical Islamists Taliban movement and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan.  However, this support was given without considering their reputation and years of involvements in a bloody civil war where their actions were often against international human rights.  In fact, many of their leaders were among the top human rights violators.  As noted by  the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) ‘ Women related to men sought by Mujahideen groups, or who have themselves resisted abduction or rape, have been deliberately and arbitrarily killed, sometimes in front of their families, or have been threatened with death by the warring factions’.  RAWA further adds that ‘A family who left Afghanistan in mid-1994 told Amnesty International how one night in March that year, members of General Dostum’s forces had entered their house in Old Mycrorayan area of Kabul and killed their daughter’. Post September 2001, the Mujahideen, including the likes of General Dostum, became major partners of the international community in post-conflict recovery.  Today General Dostum is serving as the first vice president of the country.

In the absence of a coherent policy, both the international community and the Afghan government could not balance their military and civilian operations in a complementary fashion. Due to ongoing insurgency, most of the efforts and resources were focused on the operational prevention where much less attention had been paid to the structural prevention; therefore, the victories of the international and Afghan security forces against Taliban insurgents were not sustained by civil institutions to address the root causes of the decade’s long Afghan conflict. According to Patrick, S. (2011) ‘the U.S. National Strategy for Combating Terrorism commits the United States to diminishing the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit by bolstering state capacities, alleviating poverty and promoting good governance’.   But in spite of all sacrifices and great efforts by the international community, the current security situation and weak justice system continues to impel the country towards uncertainty in all aspects of life. Of particular note, security and basic justice  capacities are decreasing, poverty is at its highest level since 2001, production of illicit crops (mostly opium) is at its highest levels, and the government is one  the most corrupt systems on the globe.

According to The New York Times (2015) ‘Taliban Justice Gains Favor as Official Afghan Courts Fail’. The paper further adds that ‘Frustrated by Western-inspired legal codes and a government court system widely seen as corrupt, many Afghans think that the militants’ quick and tradition-rooted rulings are their best hope for justice’.

In conclusion, it is highly recommended that the international community seriously consider two major points prior to intervention in any conflict affected country:

  1. Avoid use of standard templates as copied from one conflict affected country into another one. Formulate customized policies for implementation of all military and civilian operation which is parallel to the social structure of the target conflict affected country.
  2. Parties such as Mujahideen in Afghanistan, who together do not represent more than 20% of the total Afghan population, have been committing grave human rights violations against the ordinary population of the country for the last almost four decades. There are many other political, tribal, religious, academics and social groups who could better manage the post-conflict recovery if they were afforded the opportunities to partner with the international community. Therefore, it is highly recommended that the international community conduct a multi-dimensional study for better understand the operating environment and key actors therein.

In addition to good intentions, building a secure and functioning justice system, , voicing clear, consistent, and well-articulated policies, and partnering with the right representatives are vital to success. Lessons learned from the past and current post-conflict recovery missions should be embedded into any future such missions.

References:

Tschirgi, N. (2004:2) Post-Conflict Peacebuilding Revisited: Achievements, Limitations, Challenges: http://www.operationspaix.net/recherche.html, (accessed 12 August 2014)

The Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA): http://www.rawa.org/ai-women.htm#3’ (accessed 12 August 2015)

Patrick, S. (2011:9-10) Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security, New York: Oxford University Press

The New York Times (2015): http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/world/asia/taliban-justice-gains-favor-as-official-afghan-courts-fail.html?_r=0, (accessed 13 August 2015)

Postscript Response:

As Walt, S. (2013) noted that ‘Successful counterinsurgencies require effective and legitimate local partners, however, and we never had one’. The author further explains that ‘if this war had been a real strategic priority, we would have fought it very differently. We would not have rotated commanders, soldiers, and civilian personnel in and out of the theatre as often as we did, in effect destroying institutional memory on an annual basis and forcing everyone to learn on the job’. Therefore, it can be argued that in general the main reasons that why appropriate or effective actions have not yet been taken to address the issues of security and justice is because of the lack of well-articulated policies and reliable partners, which resulted in establishment of corrupt institutions and inconsistencies in implementation of variety programs designed for building effective security and justice system.  Corruption in the security and justice institutions limited the abilities of both sectors to provide basic human security for ordinary citizens and deliver justice. Corruption and inconsistencies in the system caused unnecessary bureaucracy, involvements of security forces in taking bribes and other illicit activities, elevation in the costs associated to the court’s process and difficulties in accessibility to the system.   The international community and the Afghan government could not take necessary steps to counter corruption within the official system, but rather blame social and cultural values, where in reality, there is minimum connection of today’s corruption and historical social and cultural ways of life.  Today’s corruption and lack of institutional capacity is one of the major formal issues in the country which severely affected the ability of both national and international actors in building effective security and justice system in such post-conflict environment like Afghanistan.

Reference:

Walt, S. (2013) The Real Reason, the U.S. failed in Afghanistan: http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/03/15/the-real-reason-the-u-s-failed-in-afghanistan/, (accessed 17 August 2015)

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