Time to say goodbye to rented Afghan rulers

| | in Oped
Time to say goodbye to rented Afghan rulers

The US Government should withdraw its support from individuals in favour of a system and directly work with the Afghan people even if they choose to be led by “warlords”. Rulers should be held accountable when atrocities take place in the country. The people of Afghanistan need peace, security and development that neither Karzai could nor Ghani can deliver. The Afghan people are tired and disgruntled of the US Government rented personalities in Afghanistan, who have little public support

Hundreds of innocent people, including children and women, were killed or severely wounded in multiple bombings in Afghanistan in recent days. And at this time of grief, Ashraf Ghani and his suspicious National Security team are completely occupied with orchestrating political plots against potential rivals in the upcoming presidential election. Ghani’s recent attempt to oust General Atta Noor from Balkh and General Raziq from Kandahar elucidates the point. These two powerful Generals have something in common that Ghani and his team does not. They have public support and more importantly, they have fought for a free, democratic and an independent Afghanistan.

While Raziq and Atta were in the front lines of war alongside Ahmad Shah Massoud fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda, Ghani and friends were lobbying  in the US in the 1990s for the recognition of the Taliban as the legitimate Government of Afghanistan. It seems as we are stuck in time, the same situation is still in place at the moment. Atta and Raziq are in the front lines of fighting terrorists, Ghani and friends are engaged in dirty politicking to free terrorists and to eliminate anti-terrorism figures from the realm of Afghan politics.

We have already witnessed the Taliban, al-Qaeda and even ISIS affiliates are being freed in extrajudicial political deals by Ghani, and the anti-terrorism influential figures, including First Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum, are eliminated from the Unity Government. Nearly a hundred terrorists who were captured by American and Afghan forces in the battlefields were freed just recently, but at what costs. Isn’t this disparaging for the blood of slain American and Afghan soldiers who lost their lives in capturing these terrorists? It is inevitable that the freed terrorists are the very people behind the recent attacks on Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Save the Children office in Jalalabad and the bombing at the heart of capital that killed over 100 innocent people.

Ghani and cronies get by with a shameless statement of condemning the terrorist attacks and forming a “fact-finding” commission for investigation. This is the usual nonsense and facades that the ordinary people of Afghanistan have had enough and want no more.

The facts are crystal clear: Ghani and his National Security members are inept, they lack basic professional military leadership and Intelligence competencies in counter-terrorism. Just to evaluate Ghani’s choice for the Chief of Intelligence, an elderly man struggling with various kinds of health issues with no military background, and often spotted by the media taking naps during meetings. How could such a character lead Afghanistan’s Intelligence community in a battle against “more than 20 international terrorist organisations” in Afghanistan, a figure that Ghani gave to a Western journalist recently?

If Afghanistan has any human capital, it is in its vast experienced, skilled and vibrant military and Intelligence community with years of active service. They are all sidelined by Ghani for reasons best known to him only. Instead, Ghani has placed his trust in a handful of suspicious figures who represent a small clan of Pashtun tribe and like himself married to foreign nationals with influential in-laws in the US and England to sustain their lobbying channels for more fund and international backing. Sadly, they are wasting donor funds, in particular the operative budget in major plots against Afghan public personalities. Just last week, Atta accused Ghani and his National Security team of distributing suspicious money to Jamiat-e-Islami and Junbish-e-Mili affiliates — two of the powerful anti-terrorism political parties in the North —  for the destabilisation of the Northern provinces.

Ghani, like his predecessor, may claim that his Government is facing warlords, corrupt tribal leaders, and drug lords, and thus overcoming the challenges of terrorism is no easy task. This is the same rhetoric and excuse used by Karzai, Khalilzad, and Ghani for the past 17 years like a broken record to deceive American politicians. Even now, Khalilzad was back in Kabul in support of Ghani to set a similar tone at the international stage with respect to the rift between Atta and Ghani. In his first appearance on TV since his return in Kabul, with a patronising demeanour, he aggressively attacked Atta and threatened him with international military action, something he used to do when in an official capacity.

Such immature and ungracious gestures should not be allowed to any former American high-ranking officials in a host state as it further damages American image. In fact, his presence in Afghanistan has already undermined the role of American Ambassador in Kabul and has exposed Ghani as an isolated, weak and dependent leader still leaned on retired friends like Khalilzad.

In a tweet (with US President tagged) in the aftermath of the Kabul bombing, Khalilzad aimed at putting Atta in the boiling pot while trying to divert the attention from Ghani and his inept National Security team for their inability to provide basic security to the people of Afghanistan. According to him, and yet, it should be the usual suspects, “the warlords” to blame for Ghani’s failing.

If Atta and Raziq are warlords, or anything you name them, and they are able to keep their people safe and let the process of development prosper, let it be. The people of Afghanistan need peace, security and development that neither Karzai could nor Ghani can deliver. They may just prefer their “warlords” such as Ismail Khan, who prospered Herat, and Atta, who has done an incredible job in Balkh, the most developed prosperous and safe province in Afghanistan, over rented rulers drunk with power and American people’s money.

The Afghan people are tired and disgruntled at the US Government rented personalities in Afghanistan, who have little public support and yet are put to govern a conflict-prone country. Just look at how Ghani came to power. He destroyed a democratic process, the 2014 Afghanistan presidential election with gross acts of frauds. Recently, the former Afghan Intelligence Chief, Rahmatullah Nabil, exposed some shocking facts, revealing the secrets of ballot printing machines in the residence of one of Ghani’s right hand men during the 2014 presidential elections, the result of which was nullified and replaced with the formation of the shamebolic National Unity Government brokered by former Secretary of State John Kerry.

It seems about time that the US Government withdraws its support from individuals in favour of a system and directly works with the Afghan people even if they choose to be led by “warlords”. Support is needed for the creation of a decentralised political system in the ethnically heterogeneous Afghanistan, in which rulers are held accountable when atrocities take place in the country. Ghani and friends have built an empire behind concrete walls with the American money, and no venue is left to hold them accountable. At this crucial juncture, the Afghan public’s anger is boiling and they may take the matters into their own hands in an undesired approach, as Afghan history has shown.

(The writer is a PhD candidate in Government and Public Policy School at OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat. Prior to this, he was the Regional Cooperation Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan)

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