Stephen Hadley and John Podesta
Leaving Behind a State That Can Govern
The signing in May of a strategic partnership agreement between
Although the Obama administration has reached out to the Taliban and
But in its focus on security,
To make matters worse, distrust between
Guarding against instability in
In this regard,
State of Crisis
The international community has staked its transition strategy in
Karzai has failed to use his position to advance a reform agenda or to support merit-based appointments of officials. Instead, his administration has actively opposed measures that would have promoted greater accountability and empowered other branches of government. The weakness of the parliament, the judiciary, and local governmental bodies means that there are few channels, outside the presidential palace, for Afghans to influence decision-making or hold leaders accountable.
The absence of transparent and effective systems of justice and law has provided Taliban insurgents with an opening to mobilize domestic opposition to the Afghan government. The ability of the Taliban to organize marginalized and disaffected communities contributes as much to the Taliban’s resiliency as do their safe havens across the border in
Unlike other centralized political systems, the Afghan government actually has very limited means to support and assert itself. Although the Afghan economy has grown by double digits since 2002 and the government has improved its ability to collect taxes and customs revenues,
A Synchronized Strategy
Left unaddressed, the major weaknesses in Afghanistan’s political structure will reduce the likelihood of a stable and secure Afghan state after 2014.
First, in order to help bring about a more legitimate Afghan government,
Facilitating a democratic transition of power that truly broadens political participation also requires the international community to press for badly needed electoral reforms well in advance of the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014 and 2015. These should include the establishment of a credible national voter registry (or an effective substitute) and a commitment to the independence and transparency of the
Over the long term,
Moreover, U.S. financial assistance should support Afghanistan’s political transition, seeking to ensure that the Afghan state does not collapse as foreign aid drops and the economy weakens. Several successful programs initiated during the past decade deserve continued support, such as the National Solidarity Program and a program to develop a basic package of health services, which work at the community level to deliver services and fund development projects often overlooked by national planners.
But even an ultimately unsuccessful effort may carry benefits. By promoting negotiations,
The basic contours of a political settlement with the Taliban have been in place for several years: the Taliban must respect the Afghan constitution, renounce armed conflict, and sever their ties with al Qaeda. Little progress has been made, however, in establishing a process to operationalize these concepts in an agreement. For a successful settlement to be reached by 2014 or soon thereafter, this work must be undertaken in earnest.
As a first step, U.S. civilian and military officials must redouble their efforts to establish a road map for negotiations that includes not only
Third, any political solution to the conflict in
Greater dialogue with both insurgents and the Pakistanis will clarify which groups might be willing to engage in negotiations and which remain irreconcilable and thus will need to be defeated by force.
The future of
Given the distrust in the relationship,
That is why the Obama administration and Pakistani leaders are attempting to redefine the relationship in the wake of the Pakistani parliament’s lengthy review of the two countries’ terms of cooperation.
A more democratic, civilian-led
To start with,
Taking a longer view of Pakistan’s democratic transition will also require
Achieving U.S. interests in
Many U.S. policymakers have attempted to identify the best means to conclude the decadelong intervention in
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