Monday, March 03, 2014

Can We Afford Another Failed State in Afghanistan? Beyond the 2014 Drawdown --- President Obama has threatened a full U.S. troop drawdown from Afghanistan by the end of this year unless Afghan President Hamid Karzai signs a security agreement with the U.S. Obama didn't say anything about "the asking price" of the controversial agreement, nor did he say much about the Afghan state the U.S would be leaving behind. He did not give even any inkling of the possibility that Afghanistan could plunge into the quagmire of a failed state to which the U.S. will not be indifferent -- a scenario based on the uncertainties likely to be left by unresolved issues. -- American and NATO forces are leaving behind a country where only 10 percent of its GDP of $1 billion comes from legitimate economic activity; of the remainder, 30 percent comes from underground narcotic trade and 60 percent from foreign aid. As a country with one of the highest military to civilian ratios, Afghanistan has more than 350,000 security force, both army and police, with $4 billion annual operation cost, but with few resources to support it. These armed forces are comprised predominantly of ethnic minorities from the north of the country that are launched against a resistance that comes largely from the country's Pashtun ethnic majority in the south. -- Many of the warlords who Balkanized the country in the 1990s act as high-ranking officials and parliamentarians, ranks they have acquired through the flagrant abuse of ethnic loyalties and tribal quotas. They have divvied up public offices to their former militia and have carved out ethnic-exclusive zones of influence in the government bureaucracy. These ethnic fiefdoms within the present bureaucracy are a major stumbling block to reform and the source of unbridled government corruption. -- Furthermore, some of these warlords-turned-demagogues have been implicated in crimes against humanity, but remain immune to prosecution with the tacit approval of the United States. Most of them are also on the not-so-secret CIA payroll and have acquired large estates in Afghanistan and abroad -- primarily in Dubai and Istanbul. By manipulating linguistic fault lines in the ethnic mosaic of Afghanistan the U.S. has been instrumental in creating a 'bribed and indebted' super rich class of collaborators in one of the poorest countries in the world. -- The loss of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars in America's longest military adventure has created what is perhaps the world's most corrupt state. At the same time, Afghanistan is a country with an estimated $1 trillion mineral wealth "without proper structures and management." The country's fragile political structure, presently held together by a scaffolding of American military and economic assistance, could collapse into a failed state overnight, manifesting the worse aspects of the civil strife seen in Rwanda, Congo, and Syria. -- The presence of foreign troops is never conducive to peace and sophisticated weapon systems don't stop wars, they only raise the prize in blood the less equipped opponent is willing to pay, e.g. resorting to suicide bombing in desperation. The U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement may delay the occurrence of a failed state in Afghanistan, but without a peace initiative it will not prevent it. Averting that dreaded scenario requires a more comprehensive approach that reflects a peace initiative borne by regional reality rather than a shortsighted military strategy. -- Now that Afghanistan's second generation is being raised in the nearly four decades of war, the welfare of its citizens should be achieved through minimizing foreign interference and maximizing political participation through reconciliation. Likewise, the success of the American assistance to Afghanistan should be measured through a dividend of peace and security that could potentially provide opportunities for American investment and offset some of the cost, instead of linking it to military bases that will undoubtedly entail onerous maintenance cost. -- More, Zaman Stanizai, at:


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