Obama Partnering with Afghan Gov’t But is there any there there?

President Barack Obama’s commitment to “finish the job” in Afghanistan by sending 55,000 US troops to that country (counting the 21,000 he dispatched last winter shortly after being inaugurated) depends heavily on a hope of building up an Afghan government and army over to which the US can eventually turn control. But one of the questions we seldom hear any detail about concerns the country’s governmental capacity. Does the government function? Can it deliver services?

As might be expected, governmental capacity is low, but here are some specifics. Months after the controversial presidential election that many Afghans consider stolen, there is no cabinet, and parliament is threatening to go on recess before confirming a new one because the president is unconstitutionally late in presenting the names. There are grave suspicions that some past and present cabinet members have engaged in the embezzlement of substantial sums of money. There is little parliamentary oversight. Almost no one bothers to attend the parliamentary sessions. The cabinet ministries are unable to spend the money allocated to them on things like education and rural development, and actually spent less in absolute terms last year than they did in the previous two years. Only half of the development projects for which money was allotted were even begun last year, and none was completed.

In other words, we can say of the Afghanistan government what Gertrude Stein said of her inability in later life to find her childhood home in Oakland, Ca.: “There is no there there.”

President Hamid Karzai pleaded with the lower house of parliament on Monday to delay its winter recess by one week so that he can present his final cabinet nominees for confirmation, according to Pajhwok. Speaker of the House Yunus Qanuni sniffed that the parliament was responsible for setting its own recess, implying that he would not be strong-armed by the president. (Qanuni is a Tajik formerly a leader of the Northern Alliance, and has long been a rival of Karzai, running against him in 2004; he was a counselor to Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s main rival in the August 20 presidential election).

But Qanuni seems to have been one of the few members of parliament who cared one way or another. Nader Khan Katawazai, an MP from Paktika, complained that only 30 of the 238 MPs attended Monday’s session. This is the government we are being asked to prop up with blood and treasure? Only 30 legislators bothered to come in to work?

By law, Karzai was supposed to have presented his cabinet to parliament within two weeks of being sworn in (which was two weeks ago). Since he has been insisting he was the winner since early September, he should have had time to put together a cabinet. But he presumably had to make some substitutions once he admitted that three of his current cabinet members were under investigation for corruption. (12 other former cabinet members, having fled the country, were also being looked at for criminal prosecution.

That is the government that the US has been propping up for the last 8 years. 15 cabinet members that Interpol is looking into?

Even the non-corrupt ministers may not be confirmed by the parliament because of substantial dissatisfaction with the inability of many of them to spend the development money their ministries had in the kitty.

Seven ministries spent only 40% of their allocated budget in the past year, according to Pajhwok News. And, the sums expended on development projects declined 10% last year from the two previous years!

Let’s repeat that. The Afghanistan government presides over the fifth poorest country in the world. It has millions of dollars in aid to spend for the betterment of its constituents. But it actually managed to spend less on these tasks this year than in previous years, despite having more money.

The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development expended 10 billion Afghanis from its allocation of 22 billion Afghanis;

The Public Works Ministry spent 6 billion of 18 billion Afghanis;

The Water and Energy Ministry 9 billion of 17.6 billion Afghanis;

The Education Ministry 3 billion Afg of 8 billion Afghanis;

The Public Health Ministry: 2.3 billion out of 5.5 billion Afghanis;

The Finance Ministry spent 3.5 billion out of 5.5 billion Afghanis;

The Agriculture Ministry spent 1.5 billion out of three billion Afghanis.

The chairman of the National Economy Commission, Siddiq Ahmad Usmani, continued that 500 development projects were supposed to have been pursued last year with the 111 bn. Afgh. budget allotment, but in fact, “But work on only 263 of 500 was carried out which are yet to be completed,”

The low governmental capacity of the Afghan state bodes ill indeed for Obama’s success in Afghanistan. He will be constantly looking for a reliable partner. He will find shifting quicksand.

Meanwhile, the Taliban, whom no one is accusing of apathy or inefficiency, have begun deploying donkey suicide bombs against foreign troops.

End/ (Not Continued)

15 Responses

  1. I would like to suggest this name for the Obama strategy: Operation Forlorn Hope.

  2. Another D-day. Storm the beaches of Afghanistan, drive back the Taliban, force them to surrender. Then the indigenous forces of democratic, egalitarian, modernity, so well described here by Prof Cole, will turn the country into a paradise.

    I guess the real problems are that Afghanistan has no beaches, nothing to storm, no one to surrender, and few indigenous nation builders (kinda like the US).

    Our troops are tasked to kill a jumbled set of beliefs, goals, motivations, and tribal cultures. To keep US casualties down, these physical intangibles will be vigorously attacked by anything we have that can fly and inflict deadly violence on "suspected" repositories of the intangibles.

    Then when the countries pulse is sufficiently faint, its complexion pallid, and is an advanced state of wasting away, we can withdraw (the Iraq algorithm).

  3. The point is that Senator Obama continually promised to deepen and expand the war in Afghanistan and began to prepare to do so immediately on election and has done so since becoming President. We have a President who is content to spend more than $100 billion a year warring in Afghanistan and Pakistan for no moral or strategic reason I can possibly imagine.

    That is all that matters to me.

  4. Former Marine Captain and diplomat Matthew Hoh is adamant that we are siding with one side in a 35 year civil war and that our Big Army presence angers the rural residents..the opponents of Karzai and his supporters.

    I think Hoh has total vision and Petraeus and McChrystal are bias blind. That said..we will not know what Obama and Gates will have the new troops doing. Maybe they will protect their own while reaching out to the poor and we CAN extricate with honor.

    I am not yet ready to give up on Obama wisely ending that war. We will see, we will see.

    MNGEORGE

  5. Will the mercenary count be equal to the G.I. count here, as it has been in Iraq?

  6. If a donkey is being used as a vehicle or carrier in a bombing, the donkey is NOT committing suicide. These would be donkey murder bombings.

    Does this mean the Western folks who get much more involved in animal-abuse issues and cases (than they do over issues and cases involving abuse of innocent people) will now be rallying to Obama's war effort in order to protest and stop this animal murder?

  7. to Is there a real government there? I could only add: is there a real War there? iow, take away the NATO-American military occupation -vs- the counter-occupation guerrilla conflict: is Afghanistan in the throes of some kind of Civil War? Or under imminent military threat by neighbors Iran, Russia or Pakistan? One thing that overseas readers of Informed Comment should know is that in The States politicians and pundits and most of the American people, themselves use the phrase "War in Afghanistan," rather than "the military occupation of Afghanistan." And it is this self-delusion, in my opinion, this refusal to acknowledge to themselves that the real War is a self-referential, occupier -vs- counter-occupation guerrilla conflict — that explains the sheer madness of Mr. Obama's decision to "escalate the occupation" to "win the occupation" so that the U.S. can "end the occupation" of Afghanistan.

  8. So if you were tasked with establishing peace, because ultimately as a U.S. Soldier, that is your job, in the country of Afghanistan, you're answer would be to give up and walk away?

    Don't forget, this is the land that an attack on American civilians was staged. This isn't Vietnam, or Iraq.

  9. Don't blame me I voted for Ron Paul, the only anti-empire, anti-war candidate. If Ron Paul is healthy enough to run in 2012 I would highly suggest you vote for him this time, kk?

  10. For those who weren't paying attention it seems that the Campaign Obama has been replaced by the Stepford Obama.

    For those of us who were paying attention…actions always speak louder than words.

  11. WOW!! They only spent 40% of the money allocated? How can we get these folks in charge of the OUR government? 60% Budget Surpluses? They could wipe out our national debt in the next decade…Karzai 2012!!! Ron Paul, call your office…WOOHOOO!!!!

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