کور / سياسي / Will Reshuffling Cabinet in Afghanistan bring good News?

Will Reshuffling Cabinet in Afghanistan bring good News?


The spokesman for the Office of State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs in Afghanistan, Mr. Asif Nang interpreted the reshuffling of Afghan cabinet on 9th October as a positive measure by President Karzai to strengthen governance and improve security in the country. After the installation and subsequent election of the present administration under the leadership of President Karzai since 2002, Afghanistan has witnessed a series of changes in government’s high ranking posts aimed at redistributing power, keeping the balance among various ethnic groups and ultimately improving the quality of services delivered by the state.  The new appointments in which the former Education Minister Mr. Hanif Atmar was appointed as the Minister of Interior, was a landmark development that, according to many observers, might have pleased the western allies and wider public to observe an improvement in the Afghan police force, in addition to other departments in the Ministry of Interior, both in terms of quality and quantity. 

The new changes in the cabinet took place amid growing criticism by the international community over the stagnant status of government institutions to deliver; and its inability to disarm illegal armed group and establish its power and authority beyond the capital despite the fact that billions of US dollars were injected to straighten up the debilitated Afghan Government by investing largely in infrastructure, state building, and the overall democratization process.  Both the Afghan citizens and the international community have consistently expressed their dissatisfaction over the increasing level of corruption, bribery, ineffectiveness in the state administration particularly in the police department and escalating weakness in the law and order situation in the country.

Latest surveys by some independent sources unveiled similar concerns among the wider public. Security sector particularly the police force, according to a survey in 13 provinces by IWA (Integrity Watch Afghanistan) in 2007, was perceived as the most corrupt sector (20%) proceeded by judiciary (41%). Police as the public face of the government is confided a very important responsibility to look after the security, well-being and interest of the public. However, despite the infusion of billions of US dollars by the international community mainly the USA to train, equip and expand the Afghan National Police, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint a major outcome. The number of insurgencies and suicide attacks have largely increased, lawlessness including bribery, land grabbing, human rights violations of any kind, human kidnapping, armed looting, burglaries and power abuse are on their horizon. Police involvement to facilitate drug trafficking armed conflicts and terrorist attacks have increasingly become integral part of the terms of reference of the police force. In addition, Police are also accused of unprofessional behaviour and minimal attention to their own tasks and duties; people are stopped on the streets and in the city and forced to pay or else get arrested without any reason. So now the question is that: 

Will this reshuffling in the cabinet bring about any positive result?

The answer is simple; NO IT WILL NOT.

Evidences from the last 6 years repetitive policies and incompetent leadership offers no hope that this will ever be a timely decisicion; or it could be considered a one-off singular measure to sort out all out standing problems in the entire system. The presence of warlords in the government machinery and the legacy of the previous regimes particularly during the 1990s and the retake of power by the northern alliance after the collapse of Taliban incredibly contaminated the whole administration and in particular the police department in all parts of the country; leading to the creation and dominion of criminal networks in most parts of the country. This is quite evident from the recent speculations by Mr. Francisco Vendrell (the former EU envoy to Afghanistan), during an interview with BBC on 9th September 2008. He made it clear that he was leaving with “a sense of regret” as many mistakes were made during the last 6 years one of which was the delay in the installation of Karzai’s government after the collapse of Taliban as by then two-third of Afghanistan was in the hands of former warlords and northern alliance.  He also speculated that key causes of failure of the current government were embedded in wrong and less informed strategies of the international community to cooperate with and strengthen the former warlords and commanders. After the collapse of Taliban, the Afghan people became increasingly optimistic while noticing some eye catching developments and they started to repatriate from the neighboring countries to serve their land and contribute to the reconstruction and rehabilitation process.  However, nothing prominently was witnessed despite massive influx of foreign aid and huge amount of financial and technical support by the international development partners and donors.

Strongly connected with “big men” in the cabinet, parliament and national department of security, most of the illegal armed groups misuse the police uniform and kidnap businessmen, aid workers of NGOs and United Nations employees which either leads to the assassination of the captives or the release in return for huge bulk of US dollars.  This has become a normal daily exercise. Similar gangs, apparently labeled as Police and stationed at the outskirts of Kabul, use intimidation and aggression to threaten investors to give them shares in the business or grant them contracts. They also threaten intellectuals and democracy activists to abstain from discussing human rights violations, good governance, and talking about former warlords and factional leaders. Aryn Baker in TIME explained on March 3rd 2008 that:

    “Afghanistan’s corruption is intimately linked to a culture of violence. The driver of an Afghan friend was picked up one day by the police, beaten, stripped naked and left outside in the snow for several nights until his employer paid a bribe of $3,000 to release him. The principled stance would have been to complain, but to whom? And for how many days? And what if it only made things worse?

These remarks unveil potential bottle necks caused by the former warlords and their established syndicates in the government engine which constantly poses extensive obstruction to the implementation of law and order in the country. Apart from the insurgencies as an external threat to the government, there are large number of internal issues and levels of uncertainty caused by these gangs and factional groups who are still surmounting government institutions and influencing government policies. These, as a result, have produced high range of frustration among various social groups who have consequently joined terrorist groups challenging the stability, peace, rule of law, and overall development and reconstruction activities across the country.  

Hence, it could be strongly argued that cosmetic changes in state institutions and replacing only a minister or two is never sufficient as the problem is a lot deeper. The level of Criminal syndicates of warlords in the state and their involvement in unlawful activities is constantly reshaping under a well planned and sponsored strategy.  One of their approaches to destabilize the situation and maintain their dominion in the state organs is by nurturing their bands in Police force and abusing their power. Many policemen are the leftover of the past regime and leaderships who still maintain their loyalty to their ex-bosses and implement whatever is ordered. These structures have infiltrated all national and sub-national settings. The recent genocides in the north, land grabbing, intimidation, human rights violation, armed kidnapping of businessmen and aid workers even in the daylight in the capital of the country and their killing have become a daily practice and these, according to Guardian June 13, 2006, are the indications of planned and decisive policy to undermine the legitimacy of the government and make factional gains by creating a medium of lawlessness. Guardian wrote: 

…new Kabul police chief, Amanullah Guzar … was appointed by Karzai. Documents circulating among diplomats allegedly link him to extortion, land grabbing and the kidnapping of three UN workers in late 2004. The Guardian, June 13, 2006 

There is a drastic need to weed out and dismantle all these syndicates and criminal networks within and outside the government structure before any comprehensive restructuring and reform strategy to be implemented. This could hardly compensate the mistakes committed in the past unless accompanied by strong political determination and zero tolerance to compromises at the leadership level. Most of the MPs (Members of the Parliament), who are not accused for human rights violation and civil war, unanimously agree that the current government incompetently relies on compromises and relations particularly in the security sector and that is why the current conflict has been lengthening.   Similarly, with the help of international peace keeping forces, the government has got to continuously and seriously disarm illegal armed groups, pull down their stations and cut down their routes of supply. It is also recommended to the current leadership in the Ministry of Interior to avoid compromises and sharpen its policies in order for the wider public and investors to generate trust and confidence in Karzai’s administration. The appointments of Chiefs of Police, Provincial and District Governors and other heads of departments within the framework of Ministry of Interior need an in-depth review and comprehensive reform. Furthermore, the new leadership in the Ministry of Interior as a key bridging contact point between the public and government should be supported with the strongest and consistent political will as well as international community support and it must not rely on compromises nor it should be influenced by the former warlords and political factions.  

Meeting all these targets may definitely require time, resources and strong commitment, it was, therefore, essential that these fundamental changes should have taken place at the earlier stage. Some believe that this reshuffling is symbolic rather than a fundamental transformation in the cabinet. These changes are still construed as an optimistic measure by Karzai’s administration in pursuit of improving governance, enhancing security, and spurring public support for the upcoming Presidential elections.