The international community has started handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan forces in some parts of the country in an environment of multiple concerns where the whole debate regarding the process is focused on the military aspects of the transition and there is neither a specific strategy nor a strategic vision on how the country would cope with its economic consequences and effects on the civilian institutions of the country.
Afghanistan's economic engine is purely run by the international aid, international military spending and narcotics money, and one can predict even without having economic knowledge that the first two will rapidly decline by the end of the transition and that it will, as a recent US congressional report has stated, will cripple the Afghan economy unless the Afghan Government and the international community make plans for mitigating the economic consequences of the military withdrawal that has already started. Such a strategic planning capacity does not exist in the Afghan Government which can hardly overcome their day to day obstacles. With more steps being taken towards transition, the concerns are becoming more evident.
Let's, for the time being, assume that the Afghan military forces will maintain security with minimal technical and air support from the remaining US forces in a number of military bases, and that the economy will be severely affected but will not totally collapse. What will happen to the Afghan civilian institutions which are highly dependent on the international assistance from pen and paper to printer's cartridge and internet, and most importantly support salaries and benefits paid to the senior administrators and managers, who in fact run the whole bureaucracy, by external donors?
From the President Office down to the municipality level, Afghan public administration rely on projects and programs that are run by UN agencies and other international organizations which receive funds from donor countries. The problem with these projects and program is that they have not been designed and implemented in a way which could allow successful hand over of responsibilities to the Afghan civil servants.
These projects have had to build the capacity of the Afghan civil servants and civilian institutions so that they could embrace the change and carry on their duties in an effective way but instead these advisors and consultants have assumed actual administrative responsibilities and have left the civil servants not trained and capable enough to shoulder heavy burdens.
The Afghan government and the international community should give serious consideration to these issues in the overall transition process. Afghanistan cannot afford an over inflated public administration that has not adjusted itself to the post-Taliban era changes. It has been designed in alignment with a socialist system of 60s and 70s and is not compatible with the current macroeconomic system in the country. It is extremely centralized where decisions are made at the center with little input from the periphery.
To avoid a situation where a failed public administration will further exacerbate economic turmoil and susceptible security sector in post transition period, the Afghan Government should take drastic measures in transforming the existing overinflated and inefficient public administration into an affordable and sustainable public administration.