The Bur­den of Re­spon­si­bil­ity

Once for­eign troops leave, the Afghan state will un­doubt­edly face a myr­iad of po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic chal­lenges. De­spite all odds against it, is it up to the task?

Southasia - - Cover Story - By Huza­ima Bukhari & Dr. Ikra­mul Haq

Afghanistan, one of the poor­est coun­tries of the world, has been fac­ing all kinds of chal­lenges a na­tion-state can per­ceive. From poverty to ter­ror­ism, so­cial­ism to theoc­racy, au­to­cratic rule to a su­per­power-im­posed regime and from Tal­iban­iza­tion to may­hem, the state has been em­broiled in an in­ter­nal con­flict. In ad­di­tion to so­cial and ide­o­log­i­cal po­lar­iza­tion, the Afghan state has also seen a col­lapse of state in­sti­tu­tions to for­eign oc­cu­pa­tion and wit­nessed for­eign fund­ing for devel­op­ment suc­cumb to ram­pant cor­rup­tion. Of late, the coun­try has shown pos­i­tive growth in many ar­eas, though all ex­perts con­cur that the real is­sue

is still se­cu­rity threats from re­sis­tance groups and the main chal­lenge is that of self-gov­er­nance once for­eign troops leave.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF), Afghanistan re­lies heav­ily on donor grants to fund devel­op­ment and se­cu­rity spend­ing. With one of the low­est per capita in­comes (es­ti­mated at about US$550 for 2012), the coun­try “ranks well be­low its neigh­bors on most hu­man devel­op­ment in­di­ca­tors, nev­er­the­less, some progress has been made in re­cent years to­ward the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, and so­cial trans­for­ma­tion.”

In re­cent years, de­spite a very volatile se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion, the government ini­ti­ated many steps for eco­nomic sta­bil­ity and growth. The ma­jor chal­lenges how­ever, re­main build­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­sti­tu­tions. The IMF ac­knowl­edges that “eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity has been ro­bust, with real GDP growth av­er­ag­ing more than 10 per­cent an­nu­ally over the past five years (8 per­cent in 2010/11), and in­fla­tion in mod­er­ate lim­its.” Im­proved eco­nomic per­for­mance and re­forms im­ple­mented in key ar­eas en­abled Afghanistan to qual­ify for debt re­lief un­der the Heav­ily In­debted Poor Coun­try Ini­tia­tive in Jan­uary 2010, lead­ing to a 96 per­cent re­duc­tion in Afghanistan’s 2006 stock of ex­ter­nal debt of nearly US$12 bil­lion.

The IMF ob­serves that, “Afghanistan has also made progress to­ward its so­cial and devel­op­ment ob­jec­tives and the Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goals, though sub­stan­tial chal­lenges re­main. For ex­am­ple, child mor­tal­ity has been re­duced and school en­roll­ment in­creased, al­beit from very low lev­els -- the en­roll­ment rate for pri­mary school is less than 40 per­cent. At the same time, achieve­ments in some ar­eas are be­low ex­pec­ta­tions: more than 40 per­cent of chil­dren un­der the age of five are un­der­weight; progress in in­creas­ing ac­cess to potable water and san­i­ta­tion re­mains slow; and lit­er­acy rates for men and women aged 15 to 24 are 51 per­cent and 22 per­cent, re­spec­tively. Over­all, the low im­ple­men­ta­tion rate of only 40 per­cent of the devel­op­ment bud­get im­pedes more rapid progress to­ward poverty re­duc­tion.”

Af­ter years of armed con­flicts, both in­fra­struc­ture and in­sti­tu­tions were in dis­ar­ray and IMF in 2002 started as­sist­ing Afghanistan in re­build­ing eco­nomic in­sti­tu­tions and in pro­vid­ing ad­vice to the government on eco­nomic poli­cies and re­forms. Since then IMF has been pro­vid­ing tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance to de­velop mon­e­tary in­stru­ments, strengthen the cen­tral

bank, mod­ern­ize for­eign ex­change reg­u­la­tions, re­vamp tax and cus­toms ad­min­is­tra­tion and en­hance pub­lic fi­nan­cial man­age­ment. The IMF warns that in the next few years, “Afghanistan faces two main chal­lenges: the sched­uled de­par­ture of for­eign troops by 2014, re­quir­ing the government to take over an in­creas­ing share of se­cu­rity spend­ing; and an ex­pected grad­ual de­cline in over­all donor sup­port over the medium term, with a larger share of donor sup­port pos­si­bly be­ing chan­neled through the bud­get.” Th­ese de­vel­op­ments will make it more dif­fi­cult for the government to ad­dress Afghanistan’s large so­cial and devel­op­ment needs.

With less for­eign fund­ing avail­able, the government will have to im­prove rev­enue col­lec­tion, which was in­creased to 11% of GDP in 2011 from less than 7% in 2006. The with­drawal of for­eign troops is ex­pected to stunt eco­nomic growth and may af­fect rev­enue col­lec­tion. At the same time, the government will have to shoul­der ex­pen­di­tures cur­rently paid for by donors. The IMF por­trays a pos­i­tive pic­ture ob­serv­ing, “nev­er­the­less, the government is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing so­cial spend­ing, but will need to rely on donor sup­port for years to come to make con­tin­ued progress to­ward its devel­op­ment ob­jec­tives and the Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goals.”

The Cen­tral Statis­tics Or­ga­ni­za­tion (CSO) of Afghanistan in its ‘Ca­pac­ity Devel­op­ment Plan (2011-14)’, pre­pared in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Na­tional In­sti­tu­tion Build­ing Project (NIBP) of UNDP, car­ried out a sur­vey ti­tled, ‘Par­tic­i­pa­tion of Women and Men in De­ci­sion Mak­ing.’ The sur­vey, aimed at pro­vid­ing data to government plan­ners, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors, and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions, pro­vides com­pre­hen­sive, up-to-date in­for­ma­tion on women and men in de­ci­sion mak­ing lev­els—all in­di­vid­u­als work­ing in the government as well as mem­bers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly and Pro­vin­cial Coun­cils. It also pro­vides in­for­ma­tion on age, sex, ed­u­ca­tion, mar­i­tal sta­tus, opin­ion on the prob­lems faced by women in de­ci­sion-mak­ing po­si­tions. Though women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process has in­creased in re­cent years, it is still very low, the sur­vey con­cludes. The atroc­i­ties against women in Afghanistan re­main wide­spread and bru­tal.

Be­sides so­cio-eco­nomic is­sues, the big­gest chal­lenge for Afghanistan re­mains the abil­ity of the po­lice and armed forces to main­tain law and or­der. Ad­dress­ing this con­cern, NATO says “its pri­mary ob­jec­tive in Afghanistan is to en­able the Afghan au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide ef­fec­tive se­cu­rity across the coun­try and en­sure that the coun­try can never again be a safe haven for ter­ror­ists.”

Since Au­gust 2003, the NATOled In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force (ISAF) has been con­duct­ing se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions, while also train­ing and de­vel­op­ing the Afghan Na­tional Se­cu­rity Forces (ANSF). Launched in 2011, the tran­si­tion to Afghanistan’s full se­cu­rity re­spon­si­bil­ity is due to be com­pleted by the end of 2014, when ISAF’s mis­sion will end. NATO will then lead a fol­low-on mis­sion to con­tinue to sup­port the devel­op­ment of ANSF ca­pac­ity. Wider co­op­er­a­tion be­tween NATO and Afghanistan will con­tinue un­der the En­dur­ing Part­ner­ship agree­ment, signed in 2010 at the Lis­bon Sum­mit that pro­vides for: • ca­pac­ity build­ing ef­forts, such as pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams; • cour­ses to pro­mote the fight against cor­rup­tion and good gov­er­nance ini­tia­tives; • as­sist­ing the Afghan civil avi­a­tion sec­tor in meet­ing in­ter­na­tional stan­dards; • an ‘Afghan First’ pol­icy to iden­tify Afghan com­pa­nies el­i­gi­ble for ISAF con­tracts; • the SILK-Afghanistan project which pro­vides af­ford­able, high­speed In­ter­net ac­cess via satel­lite and fiber op­tics to Afghan univer­si­ties and gov­ern­men­tal in­sti­tu­tions in Kabul; • train­ing in civil emer­gency plan­ning and dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness; and • pub­lic di­plo­macy ef­forts to pro­mote a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of NATO and its role in Afghanistan.

NATO and oth­ers are try­ing hard to con­vert the Afghan Na­tional Army (ANA) from an in­fantry-cen­tric force to a fully-fledged army -- with not only fight­ing ca­pac­ity but el­e­ments of mil­i­tary po­lice, in­tel­li­gence, route clear­ance, com­bat sup­port, med­i­cal, avi­a­tion, and lo­gis­tics. At the same time, the role of the Afghan Na­tional Po­lice (ANP) will be shifted from coun­ter­ing the in­sur­gency to a civil­ian polic­ing role. The real test of both ANA and ANP will emerge once for­eign troops leave. Mil­i­tary ex­perts are of the view that they still lack ca­pa­bil­i­ties and re­sources to com­bat trained mil­i­tants in a vast land—with mostly for­mi­da­ble hilly ter­rains—that pose tough chal­lenges even for the best armies of the world.

All in­di­ca­tors show that the Afghanistan of 2014 will not be free from se­cu­rity risks. Since the pri­vate sec­tor is not play­ing its due role in the econ­omy – cur­rently run through for­eign funds -- the main en­gine of growth is still miss­ing and its im­pact will be enor­mous once for­eign fund­ing and eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties of for­eign­ers de­crease. Afghanistan still has a long way to go be­fore it can forge a na­tional con­sen­sus for peace, end armed con­flicts, im­prove gov­er­nance and safe­guard the rule of law. In terms of sta­bi­liz­ing its econ­omy, the coun­try will have to ac­cord spe­cial at­ten­tion to re­duce the role of il­licit sec­tors, limit the in­flu­ence of vested in­ter­ests, im­ple­ment a strong fis­cal regime and al­low the nascent min­ing sec­tor to con­trib­ute to­wards growth. Dr. Ikra­mul Haq and Huza­ima Bukhari - part­ners in the law firm Huza­ima & Ikram (mem­ber Taxand) - are Ad­junct Pro­fes­sors at the La­hore Univer­sity of Man­age­ment Sciences (LUMS).

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