Afghanistan: On the Road to Nowhere

June 24th, 2004 - by admin

Erich Marquardt / Power and Interest News Report – 2004-06-24 14:15:33

(June 15, 2004) — Speaking during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised the world that “this time we will not walk away.” While the United States and Great Britain have not yet walked away from Afghanistan, they have embarked on a path that leads to nowhere.

This path to nowhere is one where the international community, especially the United States, does not take adequate steps to provide the necessary amount of aid and assistance that will help stabilize Afghanistan and lead the country onto the path of recovery.
The danger in not providing sufficient aid and assistance was outlined by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who warned during the start of 2004, “Critical challenges now face the [peace] process, and Afghanistan and the international community will need to take further steps, expeditiously, if the process is to be successfully concluded.”

The most critical aspect of the peace process that Annan was speaking of was the national elections that were scheduled to take place in June. However, due to instability and the threat of violence that continues to hang over the country, the elections were postponed until at least the end of September.

The fact that Afghanistan is still so far away from stability means that the international community simply has not done enough to guide this troubled country onto the road of recovery. For one, there are not enough international troops providing security. The International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) only provides security in the capital of Kabul and does not have the mandate or the resources to expand outward. Outside of Kabul, US forces are stationed in various military bases, yet they mostly conduct quick search and destroy missions and have shown no interest in seriously policing the country.

Warlords Gain from Washinton’s Disinterest
Indeed, the lack of interest in policing Afghanistan has meant that the United States has looked the other way while various warlords abuse their power in several areas outside of Kabul. These warlords and their militias have been doing the police work in their respective territories, often in a brutal fashion. The central government in Kabul has tried to disarm them, yet its demands largely fall on deaf ears, since there is no real way of controlling those warlords strong enough to resist central rule.

Kabul’s efforts to disarm these warlords, known as the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration program, are well behind schedule. Less than 10,000 fighters have been disarmed and reintegrated since the program started last November; yet the goal is 40,000 disarmed and reintegrated by the end of June.

In cases where disarmament has successfully taken place, it has been with the weaker warlords, such as Mohammed Musa Hotak, a commander and Islamic cleric who partly watches over Wardak province, south of Kabul. Hotak recently turned in his weapons and demobilized some 100 fighters under his command. Yet Hotak had little choice, since the forces under his command were not very powerful and because Wardak’s proximity to Kabul places it both under the spotlight and within the reach of government security forces.

UN Official Charges Progess Has Been ‘Insufficient’
The lack of progress in Afghanistan has not gone unnoticed by those most intricately involved. Jean Arnault, the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, recently told the AFP news service that it “is completely clear that the progress which has been made so far is insufficient.” Arnault continued, outlining the dangers of failing to hold national elections in the country: “For Afghans, as for the international community, there is nothing that has greater priority… than fair and steady demilitarization ahead of the elections.” Unless these conditions are met, Arnault advised, “we will not have peace” and will instead face “the return of civil war caused by factional armies.”

The dangers involved in post-war Afghanistan are clear: without a major increase in international assistance, the country will likely remain unstable and could very easily fall into general anarchy with various warlords vying for power. It is up to the United States, with the help of the rest of the international community, to provide Afghanistan with the attention and resources it needs to place it upon the path of recovery. Unfortunately, with so much attention and resources currently focused on the ongoing reconstruction of Iraq, Afghanistan’s prospects look grim.

Erich Marquardt is an analyst with the Power and Interest News Report, located on the web at He can be reached at