It is promising to see the United States and European that make up the core of international community involved in Afghanistan reiterating their long-term commitment to Afghanistan. It is now almost confirmed that there will not be a total disengagement from and with the country by these major players - the US and EU - that have provided maintained support for the last ten years to the country to continue the process of developing and rebuilding itself and cushioned it from the return of hard-line Taliban militants and their monstrous acts of violence.
There have been many failures as well but it is the continued commitment that can serve to keep the hope for a democratic, plural, stable and prosperous Afghanistan to be shaped. When foreign forces came into Afghanistan on November 13, 2001, a life filled with hope began anew in the country.
More than ten years later, that hope has dwindled due to deteriorating security environment. There has been a dismay growing among Afghans after international forces began to draw down because the picture of the future remains fuzzy and there are not enough guarantees left behind to ensure that the country will not collapse into chaos again as Afghan forces are assuming the security responsibility for regions of our land.
These concerns come from the question of sustainability. In fact, sustainability is the term that is widely used in Afghanistan nowadays and is a matter of concern for the people in the country. In a broad sense, sustainability is defined to be the "capacity to endure."
In addition to growing insecurity and other ills currently facing Afghanistan, Afghan people are worried about sustainability and prospect of having the resources and capacity to endure in the future. Over the last ten years, Afghanistan with the help and assistance of international community has developed considerably but almost everything is fragile and one can easily doubt the capacity of the government to continue to preserve the gains and build on them when international forces withdraw completely and international presence becomes limited and above all international aid shrinks.
Democratic consolidation also lies in the area of socio-political sustainability. Right now there is a deficit of legitimacy in Afghan government institutions and authorities. It is crystal clear that the continuation of legitimacy hinges on efficiency of a system or government.
President Karzai's government has a proven inefficiency in delivering services to the people and showing the will to root corruption that has widened the gap between the government and people and emptied the trust bank account.
Parliament is also under question because of both the recent controversies and change in its composition and its inefficiency in checking the government and representing people properly and well. NATO forces are equipping and training Afghan national security forces but it is not clear what will happen to them and how they will be sustained after 2014 when there is no longer international aid flowing into the country.
On Monday, November 28, the US president Barack Obama in a joint appearance with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said "We have a shared stake in continued progress in Afghanistan, where the EU serves as a leading donor, and next week's Bonn conference will be an opportunity to make sure our security and development agenda is sustainable."
Rompuy also said "In Afghanistan, we reaffirm that the Union is engaged in the long term, even after 2014." Also a joint statement issued by United States and European Union after the summit hosted by Obama at the White House stated, "We note our continued efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with particular attention to plans for the December 5 Bonn Conference on Afghanistan and the international community's long-term commitment to support sustainable security and economic development in Afghanistan…."
Negotiations with both the US and EU over their long-term presence and to establish strategic partnerships are ongoing. It is hoped that Afghan government will make wise decision to enter into these agreements with some realistic conditions based on strategic interests to ensure that the path to a peaceful future is traversed.
These words of promise will reduce the level of uncertainty and the evolving dismay that exist about the future in Afghanistan. But these are not enough. There must be some concrete planning to fix the inefficiency and the failures of the last ten years.
The failures by both Afghan government and international community must be discussed and addressed in Bonn Conference slated to be held on December 5. It is also hoped that international community's new commitments would include some concrete steps to stimulate new politics in Afghanistan, one in synch with democratic principles and democratic institutions.
There is a need to change the mode of politics to include individual citizens who would gather around strong political parties, which will function more effectively to aggregate public demands and translate them into clear policies.
In that case, the country will be moved to the next phase of strengthening and institutionalizing of democratic institutions, brining about more transparency and accountability by making government officials at different levels directly and indirectly answerable and accountable to Afghan people in the capital, provinces, districts and villages.
International community has often categorically admitted to have committed a big mistake by supporting a strong presidential system in Afghanistan. This strong unitary system has led to centralization of power in the hand of the president and promoted tribal affiliations instead of devolving power and contributing to emergence of strong political parties.
As a result the government is run on the basis of personal interests and even whims, not clearly articulated written policies. So Bonn Two Conference will provide an excellent opportunity for the international community to push for redressing some of the mistakes made in Bonn One and also pressure or cajole Afghan government into going for more efficient power reconfigurations and management.
Some officials from international community complain that Karzai's government is not a credible partner and he himself is not willing to tackle the rampant corruption that has plagued his administration and led to a widening gap between the government and people.
But it is time to see things differently and seek not to choose individual people as partner to represent Afghanistan in the cooperation and partnership with the international community. The power structure and management style have failed to meet the needs of diverse society of Afghanistan.
The call for reconfiguration of power structure by decentralization and change to electoral system is coming from some highly influential and major political groups and alliances, such as the newly established major opposition, National Front of Afghanistan, and Change and Hope Coalition. International community must help try this new strategy as a last chance to help stabilize Afghanistan.