Although the engagement of the international community has widened in geographical scope, time frame and deployment over the last 7 years, the situation in Afghanistan remains extremely fragile. Even the newly elected US President Obama recently stated that the war cannot be won and suggested negotiations with moderate Taliban leaders.
A Policy Paper (pdf in German) of the German Development and Peace Foundation looks at the underlying causes of the impasse and formulates policy recommendations for the international community in general and German decision makers more in particular.
Increasing violence in Afghanistan raises pressure to deploy more troops, however there is evidence that the rapid expansion of the international military presence is one of the causes of the insecure situation. The authors are convinced that a political solution needs to be found. Therefore, Germany should resist sending more military. The existing troops should have a clear mandate as stabilization and security force and should not be involved in combat operations.
As the main reason for the persistent fragility the author identifies the failed state-building in Afghanistan. A central government was quickly installed, however further steps to extend state power to the Afghan provinces were not made. In fact several actions of the central government and the international community spoiled the prestige of the government in Kabul.
Firstly one could point at the centralization of governance in contrast to Afghanistan's heterogeneity, and the actual lack of capacity of the Kabul institutions to meet the expectations. Secondly there was the cooperation of Kabul with former warlords that were discredited by the Afghan population. The failure of the international community to build a reliable legal system and police force, to a big share under the responsibility of the German government, further worsened the situation. Also the reconstruction and humanitarian activities did not support the state-building process. The demand for fast results led to an approach that favored local initiatives and international NGOs for the implementation instead of state involvement.
The authors demand a rethinking of the Afghanistan Strategy and a strong support of the state-building process. Only when state-building becomes the main priority of the international community in Afghanistan, the German government should consider an enhanced engagement with human and financial resources.
by Martin Behrens
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See also ICCO on Democratization and Peacebuilding