Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
The Washington Post recently wrote about security conditions in the Wardak province and how residents of small rural town in that province, Syedabad, feel they are stuck between a rock – the United States – and a hard place – the Taliban. It’s an interesting piece that highlights the stark choices facing those not only in Syedabad but also throughout Afghanistan. It’s also nothing new as innocent civilians are always caught in these kinds of situations. I propose that the only effective way to prevent this kind of injustice is to support the development of strong and independent state and local government institutions.
Afghanistan does not have these institutions and hasn’t had them for over 30 years; indeed, some could argue that the land-locked country has never had them. In the post-Soviet and pre-US period, the absence of these institutions gave rise to local influencers who maintained order by meting out various forms of justice. During the period when the Taliban ruled large swaths of that country, it appropriated those native-born institutions thus ensuring support from the locals but also maintaining a continuing sense of order.
Clearly, these local structures had no chance of continuing once a central government began developing and incorporating its own institutions and that is what has taken place since 2001. While there are exceptions, they are limited and generally in smaller towns that are so remote that Kabul has neither an interest nor capability to enforce its influence. Therefore, the pressure on the central Afghan government to develop effective institutions was quite intense and it’s obvious that the government and its allies have entirely failed.
Corruption is prevalent and the citizens have no recourse, crime is widespread and often committed by the law enforcement authorities, and there is no security. As the US prepares to leave Afghanistan, these issues must be of primary concern because the only thing protecting a central government from the wrath of its constituents and the Taliban is our military. When the US departs the Afghan borders, those officials and institutions will be left at the mercy of a security apparatus that cannot protect its people even with US support. Indeed, the Taliban may well reinvigorate the structures that it supported during its time and thus generate support from the people. Regardless, following the departure of the sole functioning institution in that country, Afghanistan’s future is very dark indeed.