Monday, November 26, 2007

Interview sums up the quagmire

A very intriguing interview appears on from the other day. The interviewee is academic and author Abdulkader H. Sinno, who has a forthcoming book about Afghanistan. Excerpt:

Q: Out of the various Afghan organizations you have meticulously studied, what particular group if any holds the greatest chance of future political dominance in Afghanistan?

A: Historically, only organizations that can successfully mobilize the Pushtun have been able to gain political dominance in Afghanistan in a sustained way. Today, the only organization with the potential to do so is the Taliban. President Hamid Karzai has negligible support among the Pushtun and current Afghan institutions will likely disintegrate absent the foreign military occupation. Gulbudin Hekmatyar’s Hizb cannot mobilize the Pushtun population beyond a few areas, particularly in the presence of a Taliban alternative, because it is perceived to be anti-tribal, too modernizing, anti-Durani, and too centralizing. Unless a new potent organization emerges to mobilize the Pushtun better than the Taliban, I see only two alternatives: 1) a growing insurgency against the NATO/U.S. occupation and the institutions it established or 2) a Neo-Taliban state that controls at least Kabul and the Pushtun south and, possibly, the rest of the country. ...
Q: A recent report by the British Oxfam group said the US is spending too little on humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and that a great portion of the aid money is diverted to the high salaries of expatriate employees and subcontractors. Is this part of the international community’s failure in Afghanistan that you describe in a chapter of your upcoming book?

A: Absolutely. It is part of a wide array of failed policies by the Bush Administration in Afghanistan that transformed what could have been a glowing success into a disaster in the making. The Bush Administration had a short term goal to win a war on the cheap in Afghanistan and it therefore allowed allied local militia leaders to reemerge and skimped on reconstruction and humanitarian aid, in spite of its promises...

It is amazing how billions of dollars in aid can be wasted by Western companies and NGOs on inflated salaries, corrupt and inefficient practices, security for unnecessary foreign personnel, redundant and prestige projects with little impact, nearly luxurious facilities in an impoverished country, huge profits on the back of desperately poor Afghans, and projects meant to support counterinsurgency rather than Afghans’ welfare. These projects and some foreign NGOs have caused much resentment along with limited benefits in Afghanistan. They raised property prices beyond the reach of nearly all Afghans in Kabul and the lifestyle of their personnel offends many. The main Afghan beneficiaries of their activities are well-connected people, including militarized local leaders, who get a slice of the action as subcontractors or by providing security outfits.

No comments: