By Musa Khan Jalalzai
October 02, 2012
Experts understand that in the case of an ethnic division, Northern Afghanistan would be a safe and a modern independent country
The recent debates about the partition of Afghanistan for peace in London and Washington have received plenty of reactions from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghans understand that the old state machine of their country is no more working as it cannot accommodate all ethnic colours within its torn and bruised body. Technocrats believe that all parts of the machine have become outdated as it has not been able to address the issue of ethnicity, sectarianism and national reconstruction since 1992. Conversely, there are different opinions in Pakistan. Some believe that Pakistan needs a strong and united Afghanistan, while some agree on the issue of partition for peace. The 30-year long civil war all but consumed the state and society and now Afghanistan is considered to be a failed, militarised, corrupt and a less than functioning state.
As per its tribal structure and ethnic composition, the country has never built up a professional army as it has been dependent on tribal, private and criminal militias for decades. As a failed, broken and polarised state, the country has been embroiled in intense ethnic and sectarian violence and unable to deliver good governance to its citizens. The government of President Hamid Karzai has lost its legitimacy. To elucidate the main causes of state failure in Afghanistan, I want to quote prominent author Robert I Rotberg’s valuable ideas about a failed state:
“Weak states include a broad continuum of states that are: inherently weak because of geographical, physical, or fundamental economic constraints; basically strong, but temporarily or situationally weak because of internal antagonism, management flaws, greed, despotism, or external attacks; and a mixture of the two. Weak states typically harbour ethnic, religious, linguistic, or other inter-communal tensions that have not yet, or not yet thoroughly, become overtly violent. Failed states are tense, deeply conflicted, dangerous, and contested bitterly by warring factions.”
In the case of Afghanistan, the state failure is characterised by weak and corrupt governance, lawlessness, unprofessional approach to the affairs of the state, drug and arms trafficking and the Taliban insurgency. As mentioned earlier, civil wars that characterise failed states like Afghanistan usually stem from or have roots in ethnicity, factionalism and sectarianism. According to Rotberg’s recent analysis, in most failed states, regimes prey on their own constituents. Most experts understand that criminal violence is also a contributing factor to the causes of a failed state. As Afghan state authority has weakened, failed and became criminal in the oppression of its citizens, lawlessness became more apparent. Criminal gangs take over the streets and arms and drugs trafficking has become more dangerous.
The issue of the adjustment of various ethnic colours in the tribal structure of the country has never been discussed on government level. Durranis ruled the country for centuries but brought no change in the lives of poor Afghans; therefore the only solution to the century old conflict is a partition for peace. War criminals in Northern Afghanistan and some elements in the Karzai administration demand a decentralised system of power but suggest partition on ethnic lines will bring peace to the whole region. In May 2012, the US signed a strategic agreement with Afghanistan and proposed the removal of the Durand Line between Pakistan and Afghanistan. US General David Petraeus proposed that the international boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan is to be eliminated. The Durand Line divides Pashtuns between Pakistan and Afghanistan. When Pakistan became independent in 1947, it declared the Durand Line its international border. Afghan rulers tried to settle the issue by offering Pakistan some sort of a secret recognition of the border as an internationally recognised border. President Daud in a Shalimar Bagh ceremony gave Ziaul Haq the same offer. Experts understand that in the case of an ethnic division, Northern Afghanistan would be a safe and a modern independent country and in the South Pashtuns would be allowed to join Pakistan.
The recent Plans B and C for the ethnic division of Afghanistan began a new debate in both the US and Europe. Plan C worked out by Tory MP and Foreign Office aide Tobias Ellwood proposes the partition of Afghanistan into eight kingdoms (Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Jalalabad, Khost and Bamyan). This plan, though still under discussion, has enraged some elements in the corrupt Afghan administration. Ellwood warns that Afghanistan will face a bleak future after the withdrawal of the NATO forces. According to newspaper reports, this plan was presented by the British Foreign Minister William Hague and discussed with the US administration. On September 9, Ellwood had shared this plan with the Pakistani officials in London. Recently in Kabul, the US ambassador to Afghanistan denied the plan to break up Afghanistan as part of a peace deal with the Taliban, but some of my friends in both the defence and foreign ministries in Kabul confirmed the plan and said the game has started.
The former Indian diplomat and writer, M K Bhadrakumar in his recent article has doubted the security transition process in Afghanistan, saying things have come to a pass that the NATO can no longer trust the Afghan army. A British filmmaker in his recent revelation warned, “I think that various warlords will once again have their fiefdoms and that this will be exacerbated by the reduction in foreign aid. I think Afghanistan will disappear from our newspapers...”
Since 2001, after thousands of US soldiers killed and injured, about $ 400 billion spent and hundreds of thousands of Afghan men and women dead, the mission still remains incomplete. By the end of 2014, when the Americans leave the country, the Taliban will return. Democracy will stop working and the economy will not be self-sustaining. Once the threat of civil war or the Taliban marching to Kabul emerges, thousands of Afghan army soldiers will leave their barracks and a large-scale defection will start. The partition of Afghanistan may not be acceptable to the Afghans but it is the only option for them to live in peace.
Musa Khan Jalalzai is the author of Policing in Multicultural Britain.