More than 2,000 self appointed delegates by the government attended the four-day Loya Jirga under intense security in Kabul City on Saturday endorsed President Karzai’s decision to negotiate a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. A list of more than 76 recommendations was reported to have read out at the Jirga’s conclusion session, which include an end to night-raids, handover of Afghan detainees to Afghan authorities, no immunity to be granted for U.S. personnel who commit crimes, a halt to any secret talks between the United States and insurgents and approval of any future pact be processed through elected Afghan parliament.
It is to be mentioned that an average of 12 night-raids are reported to have conducted each night in Afghanistan, which have been reported effective on one hand and on the other seems to have caused a great sense of anxiety among the local people where the Taliban are having strong control.
Loya Jirga delegates also supported Kabul government’s peace efforts with Taliban. After the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani on September 20th, 2011, President Karzai discontinued all kinds of negotiations with Taliban and announced not to hold formal talks with Taliban but to negotiate with Pakistani establishment.
The Jirga also demanded that all military bases need to be near the borders of Afghanistan especially along the lines of Iran and Pakistan, which are allegedly reported of being accused of supporting Taliban militants. The Loya Jirga further asked the President Karzai to keep any military bases away from cities, agricultural lands and mining facilities.
Earlier, speaking to an opening session of Loya Jirga, Afghan President Hamid Karzai stressed on the importance of the strategic agreement of Afghanistan with US and underlined to sign strategic agreement with the United States, which is to our benefit and further urged to enter into strategic pacts with the UK, France, EU and the NATO.
While highlighting his vision on the strategic agreements with the US and NATO, he also insisted the West to show respect to Afghanistan national sovereignty and demanded to stop searching houses, stop detaining Afghans in Afghanistan and nobody would be allowed to operate prisons in our land.
Having known security concerns of the neighbours, Mr. Karzai assured Pakistan and Iran not to be very anxious about the agreements with the US and it should not be regarded as plot against them. We respect our all neighbours and want to have friendly relationship with them and no country would be allowed to use Afghan soil against them or anybody else, he stressed.
Many believe that President Karzai has used the Loya Jirga platform to further his political agenda in maintaining the sense of political security in Afghanistan. President Karzai is also believed to have achieved more or less the same expected results who he tabled on the first day of the Traditional Loya Jirga.
It was his utmost desire to get a political favour from the these types of extra constitutional Loya Jirgas, before he presents his political vision in the parliament, which is the only authorised institution to pass any political judgement for the future of Afghanistan.
There are some strong political circles in Afghanistan, who boycotted this Loya Jirga and put a big question mark on the existence and activities of the Loya Jirga, which doesn’t have any room in the present constitution of Afghanistan.
It needs to be mentioned that there are 130,670 international troops from 48 countries in Afghanistan. The United States of America has got the biggest size troops in number which is 90,000, while Britain stands second with 9500 troops in Afghanistan. Austria with just 3 troops stands last in Afghanistan.
They are all reported to be leaving Afghanistan after 2014. Kabul government in the meantime is trying its best to go for the agreements with the US and NATO in order to hold some international troops back in Afghanistan to make the people of Afghanistan feel that the country would not go into civil disorder beyond 2014.
However after 2014, it is feared that most of the remote areas especially the South East of Afghanistan may fall into the hand of Taliban as Afghan National Army for the time being doesn’t have the ability to handle the situation due to the lack of soldiers and shortcomings of the supplies to get the troops on the trouble areas at earliest possible. General Peterous believes that the ideal number of Afghan combat troops needs to be around 600,000 to 750,000 to protect the towns and cities against any insurgency. 260,000 troops can only protect the cities in Afghanistan in present situation for a population of nearly 30 million by the end of 2014.
It needs to understand that Afghan government doesn’t have spare soldiers to deploy them in the remote areas of the country on permanent bases, which would likely make the residents of the remote areas feel insecure and may surrender to Taliban in case of serious confrontation. There are also some concerns about ANP for being ethnically imbalanced, dominated by factionalism and infiltrated by insurgents.
The biggest concern for the Afghan National Army is how to carry out operations without ISAF support and command on South of Afghanistan especially the area where Taliban still holds a strong influence, where the soldiers or commanders may be reluctant to fight against Taliban because of the local or tribal affiliations, which may result into breakup of the army ethnically after 2014.
Existence of sanctuaries and training camps in tribal areas of Pakistan, supplies the Taliban with plenty of fighters, weapons and places to rest for it to continue carrying out its terror operations in Afghanistan and generating $2.5 Billion a year in revenue for Afghan National Security Forces, is another daunting challenge for the Kabul government and international community beyond 2014.
Despite all possible security measures taken by the Kabul government and international forces, the U.S based Asia Foundation survey of more than 6,300 Afghans founds security remains a matter of great concern, and indicates the insecurity, corruption and lack of job opportunities to be the biggest problems in Afghanistan. The survey shows that 35 percent of the respondents believe that country is moving in the wrong direction, which seems to have risen since last survey.
In spite of full assurance of Kabul government and thorough security measures, a shift in population especially in Kabul City has been noticed and residents of the city have been witnessed packing up and leaving mixed neighborhoods for more ethnically homogenous areas. Every ethnic group prefers to live with its own people because they are worried that the civil war era will come back.
Ethnic divide, tension and mistrust have been a matter of great concern in nearly every part of the civil society of Afghanistan especially between the north and the south of Afghanistan.
A local official involved with Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) in Baghlan argued: “Now there is a big problem between Tajiks and Pashtuns because of reintegration, Tajiks see Pashtuns joining the government, receiving weapons and becoming powerful locally, and they want to increase their own strength.”
Continuous sense of insecurity compelled ethnic minorities from the north to form a new political alliance against the possible threats from the south of Afghanistan after 2014 and to put pressure on Karzai government to bring drastic changes in the socio-political scenario of the country.
The new political alliance, the Afghanistan National Front literally demonstrates the great ethnic political divide and mistrust between the south and the north of Afghanistan. National Front to hold pressure on Kabul Government to emphasize on the need for longer presence of international community within a mutually defined framework and asks for radical reforms like the independence of judicial sector from the executive, decentralization of power, parliamentary form of democracy, to change electoral system from single non-transferable vote (SNTV) to proportional representation and calls the traditional Loyal Jirga unconstitutional.
Despite stark ground realities in Afghanistan, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta assured NATO defence ministers that we are not in a rush to exit but to a long-term enduring relationship with Afghanistan. Furthermore, EU Special Representative for Afghanistan Vygaudas Usackas said that the EU would maintain a presence after 2014. “It is very important to reassure the Afghan people and the region that the European Union alongside the international community will retain its presence through political, developmental and training means beyond 2014,” he told reporters in Brussels.
“It is also of paramount importance to convey to the European public that we cannot afford the mistakes of the 1989 hands-off policy in Afghanistan and the region.” “I hope that by the Bonn conference on December 5, 2011 we will be in the position to state that the European Union will remain engaged in the security sector reform and continue its mission beyond 2014,” said Usackas.
While talking to Reuters, Patey Britain’s ambassador in Kabul told that “It’s important to get across (the message) that Afghanistan is not being abandoned in 2014, the nature of our engagement is changing.”
Let’s believe that the commitments of the international players would come true after 2014 and they would continue efforts to block the return of Taliban back to power, however, it is also the responsibility of the present Kabul government and international community to keep an eye on the ongoing development and make sure that the administrative and political systems would deliver as faulty political system and leadership can’t bring competence and honesty to governance. Increase in risk of security failure would increase risk of economic failure, which would result in collapse of the government.
The writer isan ESOL Teacher in Hull. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org