There is an emerging consensus, domestic and international, that Afghanistan is likely to slide into chaos. This misses the central point: there are assets in place that, if organised coherently, could re-establish momentum towards creating a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan. If failure is not an option for the international community, attention must be focused on renewing Afghans’ trust in a bright future to make them active partners in the fight against violence and disorder. The problem has arisen from failure to adapt to a changed context, loss of momentum in pursuing a credible programme of development and mis-calibrated use of violence. (...)Ghani's expertise in state-building and reconstruction operations is clear as he recommends a wiser use of force (viz. the debate on the political nature of counterinsurgency where the centre of gravity is always the hearts and minds, as argued e.g. here); and a balancing of expenditures on military and civil means. Interestingly for his theoretical candidature, he smartly doesn't critize the US directly, but keeps to challenging the Karzai administration with pretty sound and concrete advice. Most importantly the piece shows his commitment not only to Afghanistan -- but also to the crucial combination of development and security embodied in the reconstruction task.
What are the elements of a strategy? Hamid Karzai, president, and his government have a choice: act decisively and become founding fathers of a dignified nation or go down as those who squandered a golden chance. They must show commitment to rule of law and accountability. First, they must establish a supreme court that is a model of independence. Second, they must confront corruption through a commission of Afghan and international people who could investigate allegations at the highest levels and impose sanctions. Third, they must pursue good governance. Fourth, they must build equality of opportunity for the young generation. Fifth, security strategy must be overhauled.
Regional support must be renewed: in particular, Pakistan should be persuaded that stability in Afghanistan provides the basis of its own stability and prosperity. The imbalance between military and developmental expenditure by the international community needs to be redressed, with new mechanisms that would reinvigorate the Afghans’ energies for reconstructing their country. As the key to prosperity lies in regional trade and investment, the Gulf countries could play an important role. While use of force is going to be required, it must be placed within a comprehensive strategy of state-building. The anti-drugs strategy must be revisited to ensure it is aligned with the overall objective.
Understanding the challenge of the convergence of security and development will be essential for any coming UN Secretary General. Without knowledge of both development and security in practice (and, as Ghani has, also preferrably in theory) there is less of a chance that the UNSG will succeed. The next UNSG will have to deal with development as much as geopolitics -- and the other way around. Since most stakeholders seem to focus on either side of the coin diplomatic skills and a sense of urgency for either agenda, and their converging trend, is utterly important.
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Later update on the concrete case: al-Zawahri calls for attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan ("Al-Qaeda Leader Calls for Afghan Rebellion", Washington Post); while Karzai echoes Ghani's critique of the present tactics ("Karzai Calls for Reassessing U.S. Strategy", from AP).