There can be little doubt that ultimately, over the long run, the best defense against the Taliban and rampant culture of militancy and extremism is "good governance". This relatively new concept has come to be widely accepted as one of the most important preconditions for the development and progress of any country whether in the developed or the developing world.
The importance of good governance finds much more urgency in the case of Afghanistan, where underdevelopment, massive poverty, decades of conflict and strife and almost non-existent governance have worked to catapult the country to the bottom of international standards. There has rightly been an emphasis on the necessity of good governance in post-Taliban Afghanistan with the international community actively exhorting Afghanistan and providing assistance to take credible steps towards bringing about a measure of good governance.
The traditional paradigms of governance treated the people as being passive subjects rather than active masters who own their government and destiny. Traditionally, the work of the governance was thought to be limited to preservation of the state's territorial integrity, organizing and running the affairs of the government and its subjects and occasional bestowing of benefits upon the people for which they should have been grateful.
A modern conception of governance including good governance seeks to revolutionize this equation by empowering the people over the administration that provides the governance. The reformed outcome of good governance is a government and administration which arises from amongst the people, belongs to the people in both letter and spirit and one over which the people can exercise control and ownership. In Afghanistan too and in the long run, the strongest bulwark against Taliban and their like, including militancy, terrorism and extremism is an administration that provides a reasonable measure of good governance through which the impoverished people can become politically, economically and socially empowered.
The most important hallmark of good governance is accountability of the system to the common people who are in fact its owners. Accountability of the government and administration to the public is what sets apart an administration that provides good governance from one that does not. In sum, people and groups who will be affected by the actions of a person in authority should be allowed to secure accountability from that authority.
In the context of Afghanistan, accountability of administration and government to the people is what has been painfully missing throughout the history of the modern nation-state of Afghanistan. At present and in the current post-Taliban setting, the end goal towards which all should be working hard is inculcating a culture of accountability in the administrators and authorities who rule over the public.
Evidently, in addition to this goal, there should be strong mechanisms both inside the government and outside in an empowered civil society which should actively demand accountability and take action in the vent of unaccountable behavior. Evidently, bringing accountability to the work of the government in Afghanistan should involve much more than a symbolic "accountability week" organized by the President during which ministers sit down for a few hours and do some talking. The first step towards bringing accountability would require substantial political and personal will on the part of the President himself and his ministers to willfully stay away from questionable practices and secondly strictly demand accountability from the bureaucrats who work under them.
Rule of law is the second most important feature of good governance in the context of Afghanistan. Bringing about a gradual move towards greater accountability in administration would not be possible without upholding the rule of law and vice versa. Promoting the rule of law and greater accountability in the work of the state including its three pillars would go hand in hand; one cannot be achieved without the other. In Afghanistan, experience over the past nine years has shown that positive change has been quick to come whenever both the political class and the bureaucracy have pursued these goals away from prejudice, bias and administrative corruption and in accordance with the principles of rule of law and accountability of the administration.
As said, nobody expects Afghanistan to turn into a Switzerland overnight but valuable gains in administration have indeed been made whenever these principles have been by and large followed. This constitutes a case for replicating, repeating and further building upon the good examples witnessed over the past nine years. The key of course lies with the government of Afghanistan and its managers to dedicate themselves to achieving these goals.
Inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency are other features of good governance which must be upheld in Afghanistan at any cost. The governance in Afghanistan should be inclusive as in all the various groupings in the society, whether political, ethnic, cultural, social, etc, should feel that they have a stake in the larger system. A national sense of ownership towards the administration and the national apparatus of governance is a must for the system to be inclusive. The ideal of inclusiveness also implies equity and justice.
The system of administration and governance must be able to provide justice and treat all with equity and fairness. The multiple fissure lines in Afghan society such as the ethnic and political fault lines – that work as volcanoes of political and social strife and conflict – will remain and even further widen if the national administration and apparatus of governance cannot carry out a reasonably successful dispensation of justice and fairness. The judicial system of Afghanistan, now in shambles, is in desperate need of wide-ranging institutional reform in order to be able to carry out a minimum of its supreme duty – providing justice and maintaining order and fairness in the society.
These are only some of the requirements of good governance which are of paramount importance in a society and polity such as Afghanistan. Perhaps, Afghanistan over the course of its turbulent history has never needed good governance as it does now. It is all the more important since a failure of the government of Afghanistan to bring about a reasonable measure of good governance in the country, especially in post-2014 period, would open yet another chapter of turmoil in the tortured history of this nation.