Waheed Ashraf & Nabeel Hussain
Afghanistan is in state of war from more than three decades and the country
desires for an ultimate peace and stability. Since the Russian invasion,
Afghanistan is lacking a sustained democratic government. The United States,
after its invasion in Afghanistan in 2001, brought a puppet government of Hamid
Karzai (December 2001- September 2014).
Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic nation with 38% Pashtuns, 25% Tajiks, 8% Uzbeks
and 19% Hazaras, while the remaining 10% are other minor groups. According to
the Ministry of Justice Afghanistan, total numbers of political parties in
Afghanistan are 67, while the other are religious groups and Taliban. Major
political parties in Afghanistan are Afghanistan Motahid Millat Gowand,
Hizbut-Tahrir, Hezb-e Islami, Jamiat-e-Islami and Afghan Mellat. The political
parties mostly have Islamic charter, although some have their tilt towards
secular and socialist groups.
In 2014, the US installed National Unity Government (NUG) of Ashraf Ghani and
Abdullah Abdullah which led this brokered leadership to the point where Dr
Abdullah publicly accused Ghani in August 2016 of acting unilaterally and
refusing to meet him regularly. When the ANU government was formed, Ghani and
Abdullah agreed to share the role of appointing a cabinet and tried to balance
competence and factional interests. It was decided that NUG should fulfill that
agreement whichpledges to hold a constitutional Loya Jirga to formalize the
CEO’s position as a “Prime Minister” within two years; such an assembly cannot
be constituted without elections that allows setting up district councils.
However, their differences over appointments caused the first cabinet
nominations to be delayed well beyond constitutionally required 30 days period.
Ethnic fault lines are cause of major differences within the ANU government.
Ethnic divisions created by Ghani and Abdullah, former being Pashtun and latter
a Tajik, has created rift in the ANU government and instability in Afghanistan.
According to data, collected by a diplomatic mission on ethnic identities of
appointments of the NUG cabinet and provincial governorships, 14 of 23 were
appointed by Abdullah who were Tajiks, 5 Hazaras, and only 3 Pashtuns or Uzbeks.
Ghani appointed 40 members, 29 were Pashtuns, 5 Uzbeks, 5 Tajiks and Hazaras. A
data set that compared 150 appointments found that over ethnic grounds
President’s team favoured Pashtuns whereas Abdullah Abdullah supported Tajiks,
Hazaras and Uzbeks. This division also had a spillover effect on the appointment
of certain Ministers in the cabinet. The appointment of Defence Minister has
long eluded consensus. The chief of staff Afghanistan National Army (ANA), Sher
Mohammad Karimi, was the original nominee, but he was voted down in large part
of Tajik parliamentarians as they argued that Pashtuns were striving to dominate
appointments into the security institutions.
Ghani’s inner circle is exclusively Pashtun which serves as an attempt by Ghani
to consolidate the power of Pashtuns and isolate other groups’ moves that could
further weaken the government as ordinary Afghans lose hope in Ghani, and could
play into the hands of ethno-nationalist elements of other groups. Dividing
along ethnic lines is something Afghanistan cannot afford right now. The NUG and
especially Ghani — has so far failed to gain the trust of other groups therefore
creating a vacuum for other pressure groups to intrude in and take stage. The
major consequence is ANU peace deal with Gulbadin Hikmatyar. Peace deal with
Hezb-e-Islami turns out to be a major breakthrough for ANU in the pursuit of
securing stability, having a constructive impact on the Taliban insurgency too.
Taliban insurgents are threatening to overrun LashkarGah, capital of strategic
poppy-growing province, Helmand. In addition to the recent hype of ISIS-K in
Afghanistan, rising economic issues and declining foreign aid, continuous
patronizing of one ethnic group over others in government appointments is the
worst strategy being applied by Ghani that could further hammer down peace in
Afghanistan. Such ethnic division would polarize the country on ethnic lines,
feeding into longstanding historical mistrusts, and further delegitimizing the
The ANU government remained under intense pressure and criticism over such
ethnic divide and ill security situation. After 31 May blast on diplomatic
enclave near German embassy, Jamat-e-Islami held a protest and demanded that ANU
government leaders should resign, because it lacks capability to provide
security. The protest resulted in killing of 7 innocent civilians by Afghan
National Army. It’s important to ascribe that not only external factors are
responsible for instability in Afghanistan, but internal political in-dispensationis
responsible for this as well.
The parties which have been formed since 2001 represent the three traditional
political currents of Afghan politics; Islamism, Socialism and the ethnic
nationalism followed by new theme of democracy. Different parties have their
base of support in different regions such as, in North: Jamat-e-Islami, Wahdat
Mardum, Harakat, Jombesh, Kangara, and Hezb-e-Islami in South: Hezb-e-Islami and
Afghan Millat. In East: Dawat-e-Islami, Hezb-e-Islami and Afghan Millat in West:
Afghan Millat, Jamiat, Wahdat Mardum and Dawat-e-Islami and in centre: Wahdat
Mardum, Harakat andWahdat Islami are influential.
India’s approach in Afghanistan which centered on developmental projects and aid
now seems changing by revisiting its Afghanistan policy, attuned to the changing
dynamics, likely by opening official channels with the Taliban. New Delhi and
Kabul will operationalize their first air-freight corridor in coming days
opening new routes to trade and other economic ventures. India has stepped up
security assistance in recent years, including military equipment, to bolster
the Afghan security forces against the Taliban.
Russia’s initiative to open lines of communications to the Taliban and a
dialogue process along with China and Pakistan could not achieve much. The
regional power equation requires a transformation, ably supported by China who
brought in the Russians onto the same side. While the ISIS-K has made its
appearance in the eastern Afghan province of Nangrahar, its influence and
ability to launch terrorist strikes has been exaggerated to achieve this.
American missteps and the Iranian tendency to adventurism meant that over the
past decade, Iran and the Taliban have become close tactical allies leaving
severe spillover effect on peace in country. At this point US must get serious
about a political settlement in Afghanistan that involves all elements of Afghan
society, including the Taliban. The long held American policy of security
fixation and the military means required to address it has proved out to to
unfruitful and counterproductive.
Conclusively roots of Afghanistan's problems require a political surge in
support of ANU govt. The security deadlock is a symptom of three inter-related
political impasses: in Kabul within the Afghan government, regionally with
Afghanistan's neighbors, and ultimately between the Afghan government and the
Afghan Taliban. Regional approaches have been discounted and focused on
stabilizing Afghanistan from within, which cannot possibly work. In Afghanistan,
the Trump Administration encounters a case where political approaches will prove
decisive in the long run. As in all conflicts, military tools are only a means
to a political end. Focus needs to be on what matters most: breaking the
political stalemate and addressing the prerequisite for a political surge.