Afghanistan after a Decade: Progress and Challenges Ahead


AfghanarmyIt has been almost a decade since international community with mandate of United Nations has intervened in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime, dismantle the web of terror and above all to rebuild its economy, state institutions and polity. The consensus emerged in international community to fight the war against terrorism and also for providing assistance for post-war reconstruction and development of Afghanistan was unprecedented. Currently more than 130,697 ISAF troops from 48 countries are deployed, and almost every major international development organization has been engaged in humanitarian and development activities in the country. According to Donor Financial Review 2009,Ministry of Finance, Afghanistan, the international community has pledged to provide $ 62 billion ($1241 per Afghan) in assistance to Afghanistan since 2001. Much water has flowed since fall of Taliban regime, and Afghanistan has witnessed numerous changes and development in its polity, society, economy and strategic, both regional and global, milieu over last ten years. After a decade long engagement, now deadline has been set to withdraw the international security force and formally transfer the responsibility of security of country to Afghan national army and police. Speculations are rife whether international community, particularly the United States and European countries, is going to abandon the country again and flow of development assistance would gradually decline as their geo-strategic objectives are achieved. Experts on Afghan affairs also call for exploring alternative security arrangement in case of withdrawal and diversifying domestic revenues for meeting the public expenditure and facilitating the reconstruction and development. In such a scenario, the article intends to take an account of progress made by Afghanistan in a decade and what are the major challenges the country would face in times to come.
  • Progress So Far

Building the effective, efficient and legitimate state institutions are central to maintaining durable peace and security as well as reconstruction and development process in Afghanistan. In 2001, Afghanistan was a classical case of state failure. Years of war and lawlessness had destroyed the entire country and state was unable to provide any welfare services to its citizens. Following September 11, 2001 and its subsequent events, intervention of international community was indispensable in Afghanistan not only for humanitarian reasons but also for security of world community.  International community led by the United States took the responsibility of security and peace, endeavored to build the state institutions and facilitate reconstruction and development process. It seems axiomatic today to say that the country has achieved considerable progress. A constitution based on the broad principles of constitutionalism has been adopted and a democratically elected government at the helm of the country. New constitution is broad based and intends to incorporate interests of all sections of society and provisions of equal rights for men and women, individual liberty freedom of express and association, the right to vote and stand for office, property, and religious freedom. A political design and structure for establishing unified system of governance and facilitating unification of country has already in place. Institutions of professional national army and police have been established. According to Brooking Afghanistan Index, strength of Afghan national Army is 164,003 in April 2011 and Afghan National Police is around 1,22,000. Thus, combined strength of security forces would be 286,003. Started from the scratches, foundations of modern judiciary have already been laid down and judges had been trained and laws and infrastructure of modern judicial system has been gradually developing.

Establishing law and order and reaching out to people in rural and remote areas of Afghanistan was the formidable challenges for international community as well as national government in Kabul. To get the legitimacy for a uniform political structure from the people who historically known for autonomy and tribal loyalty is not only socio-political challenge but also is a security issue for Afghan government. The largest development and governance launched by the Afghan government so far, National Solidarity Programme (henceforth NSP) has been considerably successful in rural areas. According to Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Afghanistan, nearly 70 per cent of rural communities have mobilized, and more than 25,000 have elected local councils to represent themselves. These Community Development Councils (CDCs) are engaged in planning and implementing development projects at the local level of society and it is reported that over 55,000 subprojects made possible by block grants that have already supplied more than $ 800 million to community-driven rural reconstruction and development. The NSP has laid the foundations for local governance in almost 361 districts and every province in the country. An Impact Evaluation Study conducted a group of researchers in villages finds that the programme is considerably successful in improving people perceptions of their economic conditions and of government representatives and officials and even some nongovernmental actors. Its observation on gender empowerment is encouraging. People participation particularly women participation has been significantly enhanced. The NSP creates new village institutions for women, increases men’s openness to women participating in local governance and decision making, and improves the responsiveness and accountability of local leaders to women’s needs [2]. Such a change in attitude is remarkable in Afghan society and governance at the grassroots level.


Published in Political Reflection Magazine (PR) Vol. 2 | No. 3

Dinoj Kumar Upadhyay is currently pursuing PhD in International Relations at the Center for European Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and also working as Research Analyst at Integrated Research and Action for Development, IRADe, New Delhi.

© Copyright 2011 by CESRAN

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