The pages of history have yet again turned and once again Afghanistan is standing at a critical historic crossroads. How the leaders and the political class, our intellectuals and the people in general respond to the myriad of crises that have engulfed the country matters a great deal in determining the future of Afghanistan for many years to come. The future of the country, our nation and people has never been so uncertain with the onslaught of problems and crises hitting from every direction.
There goes the continued lack of aptitude in the government and all those who are responsible for dealing with these crises in the first place. The surge of violent militancy by Taliban and their allies is eroding the confidence of the people and when the people turn to their government to assure them and provide them succor, they see the government mired in its own quagmire of corruption, chaos and disarray. The hopes for turning over the black pages of the history of the country are fast running out and time is not at all on the side of those who care about the country and the future of its people.
The golden opportunity provided to the country and our people at a great cost of both blood and treasure over the past one decade is fast being wasted. It is very probable that in the absence of an awakening in the government and within our political leaders and intelligentsia, the country can further descend into the depth of chaos and fall into an abyss from which there will be no return. The hard-won gains of the recent years are indeed in danger of being lost while the nascent democratic order with all its shortcomings is being gradually eroded. In order to effectively rise to the multitude of existential threats and grave challenges that the country faces, the following changes are vital to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
At the outset, it is time for the government of Afghanistan to wake up to the gravity of the situation and respond to the faith of the people and its international partners that has been reposed in it. First, to Taliban and other militant groups that are fighting against the government of Afghanistan, the government not only appears to be notoriously corrupt and dependent on its Western backers to survive, but also appears to have lost all conviction in its half-hearted struggle against its sworn enemies. Second, to its international partners such as the Obama Administration as well as people throughout the country, the government's performance on many fronts has fallen far short of what is required in these tough times.
Therefore, at this critical juncture and before the time runs out, the government and our political leadership, President Karzai and his team in particular, must effectively demonstrate a responsible and realistic political leadership. By responsible, I mean a political leadership that would quickly move to stand back on its feet and make use of all the internal and external resources available at its disposal to reverse the string of past failures. The unwillingness on the part of the government to fight its own enemies and insisting on negotiations with Taliban and other militant groups from a position of utter weakness are all time bombs that are waiting to go off and with that the future of the country and the people.
The second crucial area of concern is the continued squandering of opportunities and wastage of the international community's attention and goodwill in Afghanistan. The government of President Karzai still continues to have the backing and support of the international community. The U.S., European and other countries are still willing to extend assistance and resources whether financial or military to the government of Afghanistan. Militarily, they still remain committed to eradicating the threat of Taliban, al-Qaeda and other sources of instability in the country.
This rare window of opportunity is still open before the government to fully utilize and make use of the unwavering support and commitment of the international community to turn the tide of the war against the Taliban. On other fronts, like making itself into a legitimate representative of diverse people of the country and delivering good governance, the government in Kabul still has the chance to deliver on these promises. At present, the government is fast squandering these opportunities and has been unable to offer a practical and viable alternative to both itself and its international supporters. This failure of the government of President Karzai is fast eroding the international confidence in him, the government of Afghanistan and consequently the future of Afghanistan.
The other priority is to initiate a change in Western attitude and thinking towards Afghanistan. Looking at Afghanistan solely through military lens and engaging in Afghanistan mostly for the purpose of fighting Taliban and enriching the western military and armaments industries will only result in worsening of the situation. The bulk of the western spending in Afghanistan goes into funding this monstrously expensive war while in contrast only a tiny fraction has been allotted to nation-building and economic and political development. Initiating better and broader civilian efforts aimed at social, political and economic development of the country would go a long way in helping Afghanistan achieve the set goals. A fraction of the current budget reaching more than $100 billion a year spent on fighting Taliban would provide for a significant jump in moving towards these developmental goals.
Therefore, we need radical change from the current depressing situation in order to prevent an imminent sell-out of the country to Taliban and all those who are waiting in the shadows to rain misery and murder on the people of our country. To be certain, the time left for the government of Afghanistan to initiate these changes is not much. A second Bonn Conference is underway for the end of 2011 and if the government of Afghanistan fails to reassure its international supporters, the international community might very well consider the option of a massive surrender to Taliban in the interest of bringing this decade-long war to an end. The clock is fast ticking; wake up the government!