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Taliban Leader is in Karachi city of Pakistan

December 23, 2014 
The Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is in custody of the Pakistani security forces in Karachi city of Pakistan. Aimal Faizi, spokesman for ex-President Hamid Karzai has said that the issue was shared by the US Secretary of State John Kerry. 
“The current Secretary of State John Kerry who was serving as the US Senator, had shared the issue with President Karzai during a meeting in Kabul,” Faizi told the BBC Pashto correspondent Emal Pasarly. According to Faizi, Karzai had sought clarification regarding the presence of Mullah Omar in Karachi city, but received no satisfactory response from Kerry. 
“President Karzai immediately responded and said why US is not taking any action to apprehend him? There is a US bounty on him and ordinary civilians are targeted on daily basis under his leadership, but he is in custody of Pakistani forces,” Faizi added.
The remarks by Faizi comes as earlier reports suggested that Mullah Omar has possibly passed away amid reports that the group has divided into three different parts. 
The Afghan Intelligence – National Directorate of Security (NDS) said last month that Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor has initiated appointment of his friends as group’s top figures. Hasib Sediqi, spokesman for the National Directorate of Security (NDS) told reporters that senior Taliban figures have divided into three groups are having major differences among them. 
Sediqi further added that the first group is led by Mullah Qayum Zakir and Tayeb Agha is also a member along with Hafiz Majeed, Amir Khan Haqqani, Mullah Mohammad Esa, Khadim Abdul Rauf, Zia Agha and Torak Agha. He said the second group is led by Mullah Agha and Mullah Samad Sani, Mawlavi Nani, Sadar Ibrahim, Sheikh Mawlavi Abdul Hakimand Mawlavi Mohibulalh are members


How to Build a New Afghanistan

Foreign Policy SEPTEMBER 2, 2014
Every day, politicians and policy makers in the West and the South Asia region wake up to some somber news on the war and state-building efforts in Afghanistan. Some analysts suggest the United States and its NATO allies should leave Afghans on their own, while others argue for a limited footprint with a further shrink in economic assistance to a post-Karzai administration to keep the state functioning and keeping the terrorists at bay, ensuring that Afghanistan does not return to being a safe-haven, training ground and a launching pad for terrorists. But any hasty withdrawal of US/NATO forces and halfhearted approach will only play into the hands of terrorists and boost their morale.

It is time for a new face with new energy and fresh thinking to handle Afghanistan and its crucial relations with the West.

Here are the keys to a successful, reform-backed post-Karzai administration:
Develop a new vision, a comprehensive reform program and a three way partnership between Afghanistan, its neighbors, and the international community President Karzai is a masterful player at the tactical level of making and breaking coalitions, but he was not a visionary leader. The incoming leader of Afghanistan will have to formulate a long-term vision for Afghanistan. He will have to repair the damaged relationship between Afghanistan and its NATO allies, especially the United States. This requires statesmanship and diplomatic skills to win back the confidence of the donor countries through a serious commitment to fight corruption, enforce the rule of law, and roll out government services at the sub-national level through presenting credible economic development and poverty reduction programs.

On the other hand - the political situation in the region is tense and the growing military rhetoric and intelligence games played by both sides through proxies on the AfPak border needs to stop. The new Afghan government will have to revive the spirit of the Kabul Good Neighborly Declaration or build another diplomatic mechanism to assure its neighbors that Afghanistan is a place for doing business -- not proxy wars.

All these three elements fit well within a three-way contract between Afghanistan, its neighbors and the international community. This requires statesmanship and a commitment to implement it.

Strengthen Afghan National Security Forces
The crown jewels of U.S. and NATO engagement in Afghanistan are the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP). These institutions should be further strengthened in order to be sustainable in the long run, whilst ensuring balanced civilian oversight over our security institutions because of the history of coups in Afghanistan.

Afghans preserved their country for years without any substantial external assistance, but moving forward need further training, equipment and strategic military capabilities to counterbalance regional military threats and conduct counter terrorism operations. Afghanistan is in a neighborhood that an army with Kalashnikovs will not suffice to counter the threats posed to them.

The Afghan war is essentially an intelligence and counter-terrorism war with a regional element to it; it can only be fought effectively with proper intelligence. The Afghan intelligence service, National Security Directorate (NDS), has done a remarkable job so far, but lacks critical surveillance and intelligence analytical capabilities. Therefore, the US and its allies need to revisit and see how they can best support and strengthen this lone and silent soldier in the war against terrorism.

Meanwhile, the politicization of Afghan security institutions will only result in the disintegration of the Afghan government. The Afghan political elites and parties should not sacrifice long-term Afghan interests through politicizing these institutions for their short-term power grabs. This will serve nobody and the violent coups of the past are a witness to it.

Build a vibrant, regionally integrated economy
The Afghan economy has had a double digit growth since the fall of the Taliban regime, but it has recently plummeted by 10 percent due to ongoing electoral deadlock and also the withdrawal of foreign forces among other mismanagement and corruption reasons. Afghanistan has enormous potential to turn into a self-sustaining and self-reliant economy, given its vast natural resources, ranging from mineral and hydrocarbon potential to water resources, and its potential to act as an energy transit hub between South and Central Asia and the Middle East. The former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, revived the concept of Silk Road, a vital trade and cultural transmission hub and land bridge for traders for Asian and European traders, but given lack of political will and commitment and other priorities, the initiative has stalled somewhat. Ideas for economic development are not enough, their implementation requires an inclusive government committed to reform and the rule of law.

The time has come for Afghanistan to build an indigenous and self-sustaining Afghan economy and move away from aid dependence. This can only happen through a comprehensive economic reform plan for the country with visionary leadership to implement it through domestic consensus and international assistance.

Strengthening democratic institutions and a credible opposition
Afghanistan has one of the most liberal and democratic constitutional designs in the region. Afghans have a vibrant parliament, more than a dozen political parties, one of the most free and vibrant press and media in the region and finally a fledgling judiciary. However, each of the government's branches is fragile and prone to political manipulation by local power brokers and strongmen in their localities. These institutions need to be further strengthened through investment in their infrastructure and human resources. To do so will require a vision and a leader committed to reform and consistent investment.

One of the fundamental challenges facing Afghanistan has been the lack of an alternative to President Karzai for the leadership of the country. Such a narrative is common of authoritarian regimes for justifying the rule of one person. Afghans and its western allies need to start investing in credible opposition leaders today. Over the recent years, Afghans already have a pool of leaders across the spectrum who have the potential to become future Afghan leaders such as current minister of interior, Umer Daudzai, former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh and current NSA Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta among many others.

Invest in professional institutions:
Credible, professional and reformed public institutions i.e. government line ministries especially health and education services are the solution to the long- term stability of Afghanistan. This is what Afghans lacked the past 13 years in Afghanistan because President Karzai relied heavily on his vast informal network of tribal elders rather than public institutions.

Professional and credible public institutions would not only expand the legitimacy of the Afghan government at the sub-national level, it would also weaken the motivation of many of the Taliban foot soldiers who fight due to corruption or lack of employment opportunities. This will also contribute to the peace and re-integration process in Afghanistan.

The situation is not as poor as the media and press portrays. Afghanistan has the potential to be a credible partner for the United States and its allies in the region, it only requires the right stewardship and statesmanship on the part of Afghans together with patience and long-term commitment from our international partners.



Why Afghanistan Won't End Up Like Iraq 

The diplomat June 18, 2014 
Unfortunately, several aspects of the recent election display disturbing features. One such feature is the ethnic tone the election has taken. Ethnic Pashtuns, who make up the largest group in the country, have dominated the country since they created it in the 18th century, though they account for less than half its population


It is important to remember that Afghanistan is a fairly young country, founded by Pashtun tribesmen who essentially cobbled together a conglomerate of territories from the eastern parts of the Safavid (Persian) Empire, the northwestern regions of the Mughal Empire of India, and the southern areas of the Uzbek Khanate of Bukhara. Afghanistan survived because it served as a buffer state between the British Indian Empire and the Russian Empire. Nonetheless, it is perhaps more stable than a colonial construct like Iraq because most of the groups within Afghanistan have a history of living together and intermingling under the periodic empires that would sweep up the region. 

Pashtuns have exclusively run Afghanistan for most of its history. However, this state of affairs is hard to maintain forever. The Soviet invasion destroyed the Afghan state and the resulting insurgency empowered many non-Pashtun groups in the north of the country, particularly Tajiks (a term for Central Asian speakers of the Persian language, called Dari in Afghanistan, who are traditionally dominant in urban centers), Hazaras (a Shia ethnic group of the mountainous central region), and Uzbeks. Abdullah — who is a Tajik — would be the country’s first non-Pashtun leader if he wins, which might explain the coalescence of the Pashtun vote behind Ghani, a Pashtun. If tensions between the two candidates develop into ethnic fissures rather than just political rivalry, that bodes ill for Afghanistan. This, however, is unlikely to be taken to its logical extreme in such a mixed region. 

Unfortunately, tensions between the two candidates have risen due to accusations of fraud, especially by Abdullah, whose camp has accused Karzai of using the electoral infrastructure to support Ghani. Ominously, it seems possible that Abdullah is setting himself up for a confrontation if he is not declared the unconditional winner of the election (though he has called for restraint). In any case, the counting of votes has just begun and official results will not be due until July 22, allowing for plenty of time to deal with fraud. 

Despite the potential for trouble in Afghanistan, there are some hopeful signs. A weariness of war permeates the country, making large scale conflict undesirable by most parties. 

Many former warlords are now politicians and wealthy businessmen who would prefer to see the country at peace so they can keep on making money. Having experienced the Taliban during the 1990s and knowing the consequences of fighting each other instead of the Taliban, almost all former warlords and indeed most of the population agree on the necessity of defeating the Taliban. Contrary to what many analysts believe, the Taliban have limited popular support and are unlikely to make spectacular gains. Unlike Iraq, most of Afghanistan is mountainous and has a long warrior tradition and the incidence of constant war for the last 30 years means that much of the country is armed and inhabited by communities willing and able to fight for their home turfs. 

For all these reasons, Afghanistan is probably less likely than Iraq to experience instability despite the continuous threat of the Taliban. Religious and ethnic cleavages are less pronounced than in Iraq and Afghanistan’s inhabitants have a long tradition of sophistication and a history of peaceful coexistence in a region characterized as a great crossroads of people and trade, connecting many great civilizations. Perhaps driven by a memory of this past and a desire for such a future, Afghanistan’s factions will exercise restraint despite whatever the outcome of the election may be. It is likely that the country will slowly continue to muddle towards stability rather than collapse.

Why Afghanistan's National Unity Government Is Risky

Foreign Policy JULY 22, 2014 

As the 2014 electoral crisis in Afghanistan intensified, we argued for a rigorous, internationally supervised, technical audit backed by political dialogue and engagement as the way forward. Details emerging in recent days show the crisis was much more serious than it appeared: The country was on the verge of fragmenting, if not a full-on civil war. With the announcement of a deal following the intervention of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the immediate crisis has been averted. 

The proposal for a unity government is lacking in both form and structure. In the absence of well-organized political parties, a unity government in the Afghan context may mean ethnic distribution of power, which has been the de facto formula under Hamid Karzai's administration. There are already signs that each campaign has different understandings of what a unity government entails: Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdullah's second vice president, was quick to announce that according to the agreement a "chief executive officer" post will be created to accommodate the losing candidate (or a member from his team) within a two-year period. 

Thus, it appears, Abdullah envisions a unity government to mean "power-sharing." Ghani, on the other hand, has revealed little. But given Ghani's administrative proclivities, it is unlikely he will allow such a power-sharing schema and will instead favor a procedural (rules-based) process via which Abdullah is accommodated into the new administration. Thus, this would not entail power-sharing but would be more akin to a coalition-government. 

A major source of the electoral crisis is the "winner-take-all" outcome that the centralized presidential system engenders. Proponents of change argue that a prime-ministerial post (and subsequent parliamentary system) can help mitigate some of the concerns regarding the presidential system, i.e. power-concentration in one office that heightens the costs of political alignments in an ethnically polarized context. Thus, a functional distribution of power between the president (as head of state) and prime minister (as head of government) can ensure greater checks and balances within the system. 

While we are cautiously optimistic that a unity government will be realized, the process might be somewhat complicated once the audit outcome becomes clear. First, there is the real possibility that candidates might balk at accepting the audit's verdict. Second, and as one analyst has suggested, Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns must be careful to not interpret the recount results as shutting out their populations as this may result in further civil unrest.

There are, however, both short- and-long-term concerns with a proposed unity government. For starters, a unity government is a band-aid solution to a more long-term problem. It entails reconfiguring the elite alignments that make up the electoral coalitions. An important aspect of coalition building is the promise of government posts and ministerial portfolios; failure to keep promises may well lead to dissolution of the coalition. It is far from clear how the two candidates will keep their promises since a unity government in Kabul cannot accommodate all groups that comprise the two main electoral coalitions. 

In the longer term, a national unity government may undermine the effectiveness of state institutions and result in policy paralysis at a time when Afghanistan needs smaller, but more effective governance. Once power is divided among competing factions (in order to accommodate the major groups), accountability and the rule of law may be the first casualties. Actors wielding executive authority may revert to patronage and clientelistic networks in an attempt to solidify their power and authority.

While the audit and prospect of a unity or coalition government provide the losing candidate a means to save face via political compromise, they harm prospects of strengthening institutional (and procedural) democracy. The message sent to actors in future elections is this: Rig elections or threaten political destabilization, and you will be guaranteed a political post! 

Electoral reform is another long-term concern that any unity government will be forced to address. The current single nontransferable vote (SNTV) system has shown its potential to destabilize the country -- it militates against the establishment of political parties by privileging independents to run for office, which, in turn, enables the ethnic distribution of power. First, in the provinces, the system creates contradictions by hoarding power in the hands of the best organized candidates with large ethnic/tribal networks, resources, and high profiles. Second, in highly populous areas, individual candidates can receive as little as 5 percent of the overall vote and still be elected to office. Therefore, the SNTV system makes for extremely fragmented electoral results, complicating the building of enduring party-based coalitions in parliament: A large majority of those in parliament are elected by a small minority of their constituencies.

 Provincial interests, let alone national interests, are hardly articulated. In this sense, the SNTV system serves to create a fractured and divided parliament that struggles to assert itself. For any proposed unity government to be workable and worthwhile, the SNTV system will need to be scrapped and replaced by a parliamentary system with political parties, including a robust opposition. 

While it is in Afghan and U.S. interests to ensure a smooth transition to a new leadership before the planned military drawdown, the risks of a similar electoral standoff will be much higher in the future, when there is no ISAF to guarantee the safe passage of ballot boxes to the capital and the level of international interest and engagement decreases. It is imperative, therefore, that the candidates -- regardless of the audit outcome -- recognize and agree to address the structural and institutional deficiencies that contributed to the present crisis.