A new coalition of national leaders, among them a number of Jihadi leaders, has been formed in Kabul with the stated goal of bringing about a change for the better in how the national affairs are run under the current government headed by President Karzai. The new national front has come down heavily on the establishment criticizing the government including President Karzai for sheer incompetence, mismanagement and being rudderless and hapless in front of the myriad crises that are laying siege on the country.
Among their criticisms of the government and the overall direction the country is moving in stand out a number of hazy solutions that they are proposing in order to reverse the tide of monumental failures that have plagued the government and the nation over the past ten years.
According to a prominent grassroots leader, the gains and achievements that Afghanistan has made over the past one decade is disproportionate to the long time taken and the massive resources that have been spent. This is, by and large, a true characterization of how limited Afghanistan's progress been compared to the kind of international goodwill and resources in both cash and kind that have generously been extended to the cause of building a new Afghanistan.
Surely, the deteriorating security situation, the breakdown in governance and judicial system, mind-boggling levels of corruption unseen even in other similar countries including some "failed states", and the squandering and mismanagement of scarce resources in Afghanistan's disposal are facts and realities that threaten the viability of the state and governance in the country. Afghanistan desperately needs change and it would be naive to believe that the very same people who have been in charge over the past one decade and who have contributed to the current situation can guide Afghanistan out of the current state of morass. Winds of change need to come by and blow a new life into Afghanistan and its government and how the national affairs are run.
In present circumstances, we do not have a scarcity of good ideas; many including the same grassroots leaders who have formed the new national front have indeed proposed some good and workable ideas as to how to move out Afghanistan from its state of stagnation and chaos. Hundreds of Afghan and foreign experts, many individuals with good visions and a sense of responsibility towards Afghanistan both inside and outside the government have proposed ideas and visions of how to move the country towards stability and calm.
The problem is not absence or dearth of good ideas but the sort of national leaders that can have the courage, charisma and capability to transcend the borders and divisions of distrust, conflict and differences and bring about the sort of change that Afghanistan so desperately needs. It is immaterial how many international conferences and meetings are convened on the issue of Afghanistan; as long as these meetings and conferences do not generate the kind of change in leadership that Afghanistan needs, their impact would be only precious little beyond pledging of money and assistance.
The ace card lies in the hands of Afghan leaders themselves and outsiders such as Americans and Europeans would be barely able to push or persuade a reluctant or incompetent Afghan leadership to bring about positive changes in the country.
The problems and challenges that Afghanistan faces are reaching critical crescendos – tipping points beyond which any hope of building a successful and prosperous Afghanistan would be shattered. Afghanistan has only a few years to reach the tipping point and if it cannot engender a major course correction anytime soon, then even the kind of generous international assistance it receives now would be dwindle out of hand along the way.
International assistance taken for granted
Lip service can always be paid by Afghanistan's international partners to the cause of persisting with building a new Afghanistan; but Afghanistan cannot take for granted the assistance it receives from the international community. At present, the entire spectrum of rulers in the government from the highest officials down to the lowest-ranking office-bearers seem to take for granted the limited window of opportunity that is open in front of Afghanistan.
If one talks to any decision-maker in the government of Afghanistan, the overall impression one gets is a system that is forever dependent on foreign aid. Everybody talks, decides and behaves as if foreign money and assistance is and will be available indefinitely; very few would dare to talk about independence and providing for the day when the taps of foreign money would run dry. The system is unsustainable; any significant reduction in foreign assistance can easily send the country and the government into a downward spiral of degeneration and further chaos.
One of the negative aspects of foreign aid is that it can easily make the recipient country and government too dependent on and addicted to the incoming funds and the assistance from outside. The government and the system tend to develop a kind of inertia that makes the government and the system hostile and resistant to thinking and acting on its own; there should always be foreign backing with outside hands constantly pushing the government and the decision-makers to move towards responsible, accountable and good governance. This is more or less what has happened to Afghanistan; the system seems to be eternally dependent on foreign assistance with the government mired in corruption and chronic mismanagement.
It is almost a certainty that such political groupings and coalitions such as the new National Front will be of only little impact in terms of making the government of Afghanistan more accountable, more efficient and less corrupt.
We have had many such political groupings in the past that have been comprised of almost the same set of persons and leaders but that have fallen victim to factionalism and diverging personal and group interests that agendas. Afghanistan's recent history is riddled with numerous similar political groupings and factions that have faded into oblivion as quickly as they had emerged.
The most important feature of any functioning political system should be its ability to reflect and promote the greater good of the public through ensuring a mechanism of bringing to power those who can and have the best deal for the country and its people as a whole. The current heavily fragmented and dysfunctional polity, society and political system is unable to provide the required system of checks and balances in order to hold the current runaway government under President Karzai to account.
If anything, we need the President Karzai and the team under him to either step up to the plate and break away with their past failings or vacate the scene for new faces and new deals. A change for better has long been due.