Countering Afghanistan's Insurgency: No Quick Fixes*, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the insurgency in Afghanistan as fierce battles rage in the south, insurgent attacks in the east creep towards the provinces surrounding Kabul, and a new campaign of terrorist violence targets urban centres. Having regrouped within Pakistan, the Taliban and other anti-government elements have stepped up pressure, and disillusioned, disenfranchised and economically desperate people are responding again to the call of extremists in a region radicalised by decades of conflict. Self-interested spoilers, particularly in the rapidly expanding narcotics trade, further fuel the violence.
"The desire for a quick, cheap war followed by a quick, cheap peace has brought Afghanistan to the present, increasingly dangerous situation", says Joanna Nathan, Crisis Group's Afghanistan Analyst. "Both the government and its international backers need to admit mistakes and change course where necessary".
The Afghan government and international community are facing a series of inter-linked challenges: a battle against a resurgent Taliban and other anti-government elements from previous eras; a crisis of government legitimacy amid a culture of impunity; constantly expanding drug production and trade; and failure to meet popular expectations of development and improved lives.
The urgent measures needed include putting substantially more international forces into the battle zones and removing national restrictions so that all those in the country can be used where they are most needed. However, efforts to stabilise Afghanistan will be about containment at best until the international community puts real, sustained diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to tackle militant leaderships and reverse policies that feed extremism.
Within Afghanistan, no concessions should be made to violent extremists; instead the legitimate grievances of the population must be met. Promoting the rule of law and ending the culture of impunity are crucial to countering the insurgency and strengthening the Karzai government's legitimacy. Priority should be given to reforming the police and judiciary and attacking corruption. Short-term measures such as relying on ill-trained, poorly-disciplined militias, ad hoc anti-terrorism laws and discredited power brokers will not beat the insurgency but will undermine the long-term goal of building sustainable institutions.
"The Afghan government and the international community must accept that some short-term pain is inevitable and hold their nerve to pursue deep-rooted, substantive reform", says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group's South Asia Project Director. "There is nothing inevitable about failure in Afghanistan, but without rethinking policies, there is equally nothing inevitable about success".
... Payvand News - 11/3/06 ... --