Contributed to Afghan Press by Afghanistan’s Students’ Movement:
Dear Mr. Barack Hussein Obama,
We, members of the “Afghanistan’s Students Movement” congratulate you for your success in the Presidential elections of the United States of America, which we consider a sign for a better future. Your presence in the political arena of the world will rearrange many political equations and will create a different system that we hope can bring about the opportunity for global peace. We are optimistic that you, not only as an aware political organizer, but also as a charismatic and wise leader, will be the initiator of another generation of powerful leaders committed to human values that the world has been waiting for.
Let us admit this honestly: We have all lost hope. The flame of hope that had been lightened in our hearts after year 2001 in Afghanistan has been transformed to a blind knot of doubt and darkness due to the misleading policies and political disability in Afghanistan. The hope and will to live has decreased in last six years while terrorism and drug production has increased. The highest rates of mother and infant mortality are in Afghanistan, (MMR 6500 in Badakhshan). For every four kids, one dies before reaching age five. (Afghanistan Human Development report 2007 p.27).
Poverty, social disorder, kidnapping, violence against women and children and many of other problems have struck the heart of society in Afghanistan. We think that your attention and focus in Afghanistan should shift from the Taliban’s terrorism to Afghanistan’s society. Our society is in such a painful and deteriorating situation that it has inevitably become a cradle for terrorism and fundamentalism. We should not forget that Afghanistan has been a victim of the West’s struggle against communism, a struggle that continued for two decades with the resistance of people of Afghanistan and saved the countries in region and world, a resistance that left nothing for Afghanistan’s people but a malfunctioning social system, more than two million dead, five million emigrants, three illiterate generations, fundamentalism and wide poppy fields.
We have no doubt that the neglect by the international community and USA after the departure of Soviet forces, and the fall of the Communist state led to civil war and then emergence of Taliban in Afghanistan. This neglect provided an opportunity for development of the most dangerous and darkest fundamentalist regime on the globe in Afghanistan in less then seven years.
The attention of the international community and especially the United States should shift to Afghanistan’s society. A society that is sick and on the brink of death can only be saved by a well thought out and efficient method and a collaborative international effort. Fundraising and providing loans alone can not prevent a crisis; there is a need for coordinating the country’s political direction. We believe that if the future leader of the USA continues the mistakes of George W. Bush, and fights the world with the ideological simplification of good and evil, we will soon witness the fall of Afghanistan’s government which is a symbol of global governance and influence, and the sad result will be that an unforgivable and irreversible catastrophe will shadow the region
and the world.
You must know that although branches of terrorism are in Afghanistan, its roots are in the depths of oil reserves in Saudi Arabia and the nuclear weapons in Pakistan. The free tribal regions in Pakistan can be a safe shelter for development of fundamentalist power equipped with nuclear armament in near future. The future US administration should also know that the Taliban had reasonable opportunities in the last seven years that, intentionally or not, were provided for them by the West and the Government of Afghanistan. The Taliban that the USA will be fighting in 2009 are not the Taliban of 2001. The empowered Taliban now have modern armaments, know the tactics of organized war, and have a budget, financial power, and more support in the region. The Taliban are now more organized and have attracted many local militia groups. Experience shows that negotiation and power-sharing with the Taliban will not change the situation, but will help the injured snake of Taliban fundamentalism become a seven headed dragon.
We believe that the contradiction between the structure and essence of government has led to political failure in Afghanistan. The structure of Afghanistan’s government contradicts its nature. The government has a modern and democratic structure, but a tribal and traditional essence. This hypocritical incompatibility has caused increasing political and economic corruption and has led to destruction of society. The tribal structure of government has led to rechanneling the American reconstruction aid to the Taliban’s terrorism. This structure has allowed for the presence of heads of political parties, members of Taliban, Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami (Islamic Party), and ex-communists in parliament, government and smaller branches of power. In fact, these people are the main decision makers in the political process of country.
Most of the members of the parliament do not have the least legal literacy and have come to power through a process that has a legitimate cover (elections), but is in nature undemocratic. Decision makers in provincial councils, parliament and cabinet are representatives of ethnic and linguistic divisions and interests of leaders of various factions. The procedure for election and functions of Senate (Upper House) are similar to that of an ethnic Jirga. The members of provincial councils, Parliament and cabinet have come to power depending on support of ethnic and linguistic fractions and are not committed to formation of a stable, sustainable and encompassing national value system.
The concept and position of political parties is ambiguous and vague in Afghanistan’s power structure, and the leaders of parties in the government use the opportunities and public resources for strengthening their parties. The leaders of parties like the Afghan Millat Party, the Republican Party, the Wahdat (Unity) Party, and a few other parties have seats in important government branches from the ministries to the presidential office and this has created a conflict of interests and inefficiency within the power structure. Decision making and effective action at a national level requires cooperation between different government organs, but with the current state of power imbalance, coordination and cooperation is almost impossible. Each party tries to please its own supporters and its loyal sub-groups and this has led to increasing corruption and has created obstacles for reconstruction. Without an efficient and implementable reconstruction program, poverty and the reach of fundamentalism will expand and increase.
In addition, the modern state with a free market economy, which was a direct suggestion of President George W. Bush for Afghanistan, has led to poverty and increasing class disparity. The current economic model in Afghanistan has created a breeding ground for economic mafia. All the governmental (public) sectors and national mines and resources of Afghanistan have been handed over to private companies that are managed by a network of corrupt politicians and politically influential business owners. We believe that the information that is given to you from the official sources of Afghanistan’s government and even their partners in power (The National United Front) is usually incorrect and misleading and is packaged to create a vague and unreal optimism. In fact, the international community has not been able to create the most primary form of stable and influential government in Afghanistan despite a huge expenditure of aid. Each election carries the risk of a coup.
Complicating matters, a misleading image of the situation in order to justify the Western â€œwar against terrorismâ€ and the expenditure of billions of dollars. The military budget of the USA in Afghanistan and Iraq, derived from the taxes of American citizens, and which was supposed to bring security, health and prosperity for Afghanistan’s women and children has instead provided the Taliban with modern armaments that kill dozens of innocent people everyday. We are certain that Afghanistan’s problems will not be solved only with militarism and sending more troops. With the current state of affairs, this plan is far more certain to worsen the situation.
1 - Change in political structure: Ratification of the presidential system in constitutional Loya Jirga in 2003 prevented formation of a strong central government with the natural participation of all ethnic groups. By suggesting another convention of Loya Jirga, you can create an atmosphere of trust and ensure the presence of all ethnic groups in the Afghan government and a shift from a presidential system to a parliamentarian system. That will allow all Afghanistan’s citizens to feel equal belonging and responsibility to the political system of the country for the first time. This will also create the opportunity for abolition of ethnic quota that only benefits the former Jihad leaders. It will allow people from all different ethnicities to participate freely and equally.
2 - The parliamentarian government and federal system has proved efficient in Iraq. Participation of all ethnic groups and parties in the federal system has ensured the rights of minority groups and their participation in formation of a stable system. You should also suggest the federal system for Afghanistan. Five zones of Afghanistan can be five independent states which will help formation of strong local economies, and the non-concentrated political system can be more coordinated and efficient. In Afghanistan, formation of a concentrated powerful government system is very difficult due to its geography and limited resource. The almost homogenous
ethnic, linguistic and religious population of each state (zone) can prevent conflicts.
3 - Strengthening civil society: We believe the situation could be improved dramatically by decreasing the military budget and investing more in the social sector. There is no doubt that this shift will have a more positive influence, be an easier strategy, and will result in quick and long lasting outcomes for ensuring peace and stable society in Afghanistan. Afghanistan needs social change and this is only possible by strengthening civil organizations, not by increasing the military force.
4 - Stabilizing the issues related to political geography of Afghanistan. The 2700 Kilometer southern border of Afghanistan with the free tribal regions of Pakistan has helped terrorism to have a continuous movement in the region.
5 - Be firm with the Taliban. The US and international community’s soft policies against Taliban has led to strengthening fundamentalism in the region, and especially in Pakistan, and will continue to do so. The possibility of terrorists’ access to nuclear armament does not seem far away anymore.
6 - The bureaucratic system in the country is still run in the communist style and is inflated. It needs to be reduced, and there needs to be a move towards more regulation and transparency.
7 - The economic system should shift from the uncontrolled free market economy. Formation of monitoring governmental bodies can prevent waste of national resources. A mixed economy system is the best option and economic model for a country that does not have anything. In the current situation, the government and ministries have given over their responsibility to private sector that has weakened public services’ ability to serve the poor.
8 - Any big aid package to Afghanistan’s government should be conditioned on lack of corruption. Corruption is one of the biggest reasons for discontent among Afghanistan’s population. Request transparency and just and equal distribution of aid. The unjust distribution of international aid has led to estrangement of different groups of Afghanistan’s population from government and the international community. This critical issue, if not remedied, could, in the long term, further encourage people of these regions to support armed opposition of government.
Mr. President, we have hope that you will not let humanity be disregarded in Afghanistan.
In Solidarity and Cooperation,
Afghanistan’s Students’ Movement - The overseas office
BA student (senior year)
Anthropology and Development
Smith College in Northampton, Massachusett
Sayed Asef Hossaini
Erfurt School of Public Policy