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Research Report

A Ten-Year Framework for Afghanistan: Executing the Obama Plan … And Beyond

Ashraf Ghani
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2009
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 48
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. v-vi)
    Frederick Kempe

    The Obama administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan presented Afghanistan and the region with renewed opportunities for success. The rapid deterioration of security and governance in Afghanistan will force the United States and its allies to focus on urgent and immediate steps to help bring about rapid progress to war-weary publics, particularly before the August 2009 presidential elections in Afghanistan.

    However, short-term policies and actions will not be enough to achieve the goals of a self-sustaining, effective, and accountable Afghan government. This report makes the case that for the Obama administration to translate its defined goals and strategy for...

  2. (pp. 1-1)

    Describing the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan as increasingly perilous, President Obama has committed his administration to enhancing the military, governance, and economic capacity of these two countries. He stated in his speech launching a new strategy in the region that:

    To succeed, we and our friends and allies must reverse the Taliban’s gains and promote a more capable and accountable Afghan government. . . . Afghanistan has an elected government, but it is undermined by corruption and has difficulty delivering basic services to its people. The economy is undercut by a booming narcotics trade that encourages criminality and funds the insurgency. The...

  3. (pp. 1-7)

    Afghanistan is now ranked the fourth most war-torn, fifth most corrupt, seventh most fragile, and second weakest state in the world.² The vicious circle of narcotics, crime, corruption, and the erosion of public trust in government has prolonged and heightened the conflict, instability, and violence in the country. Secretary Hillary Clinton, in her confirmation hearings, described the conditions in Afghanistan as those of a “narco-state,” a term I first used in 2002 when warning against the worst probable outcome of the international intervention in Afghanistan. Indeed, key threats to progress in Afghanistan are Al Qaeda, the insurgency, narcotics, and poor...

  4. (pp. 7-8)

    Afghanistan was the first major test of the twenty-first century for international organizations inherited from the twentieth century. To maintain their relevance in today’s world, these organizations now have to prove themselves as effective partners in building institutions of good economic and political governance. So far, this challenge has not been met in Afghanistan. Taken by surprise in 2001, the international community did not have the opportunity to create and agree on clear objectives for its efforts in Afghanistan. Instead, the stovepipes of security, politics, and development operated separately, without being unified by a consensus on a larger strategy. The...

  5. (pp. 8-14)

    Despite the threats and weaknesses, there are grounds for optimism. Both Afghanistan and the international community have assets that can be used to create sustainable peace and development.

    The country is rich in natural capital, with three sets of these resources being particularly important. First, the recent U.S. Geological Survey reveals Afghanistan to be rich in minerals, including copper and iron and precious and semi-precious stones. Mining-based development is thus a viable alternative to a drugbased economy. Second, Afghanistan is the source of significant flows of water to its neighbors, yet it harnesses only 10 percent of the water supply...

  6. (pp. 14-24)

    Tailoring a strategy to the context requires breaking institution-building in Afghanistan into four sequential blocks—focusing on first order, second order, third order and fourth order functions. This differentiation allows for setting priorities. It does not indicate that functions are more or less important, only that given the current context, performing some functions is more necessary in the near term to ensuring the basis for further reform over the medium and long terms. Throughout, donors and the different levels of government must align to reinforce the whole, carefully considering the rules and functions of government at each level.

    Law and...

  7. (pp. 24-27)

    Institution-building of this sort is not merely theoretical. There is much strategic justification for such processes in Afghanistan based on early postwar and more modern Afghan experience, the readiness of the Afghan population to accept such an approach, the growing influence of the counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine, and the better international understanding of the centrality of governance. State-building is both feasible and possible.

    Afghans expressed their consensus on the need for an effective state in two Loya Jirgas (grand councils) convened in June 2002 and December 2003 to January 2004. In the June gathering more than 1,500 delegates elected through indirect...

  8. (pp. 27-30)

    It is thus clear that medium-term state-building objectives are justified. Given the history of state-building in Afghanistan and the interaction of that state with the international community, the question is not whether, but how effectiveness can come about. In the short term five concrete steps can support the implementation of medium-term objectives.

    The event that will determine the direction and pace of change in Afghanistan is the forthcoming presidential election of August 20, 2009. For the first time in Afghan history, Afghans will have the opportunity to either change or retain a head of state through a democratic process. Given...

  9. (pp. 30-31)

    The new Obama strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan provides a significant opportunity to get things right in Afghanistan—the situation is difficult, but by no means impossible, and if the focus is on sustainable institution-building, the Taliban’s gains can be reversed, governance can be improved, and economic opportunity can be created. The Afghan people want institutions of good governance and to be part of the modern global system. They want to escape their isolation and Sub-Saharan levels of poverty. For this to happen the government must articulate, own, and implement an agenda for state-building, and the international community must be...