The international coalition cannot defeat the Taliban without a strengthened Afghan state. It should work through the Afghan government—rather than international agencies—to increase economic opportunity and foster effective political institutions at the district and province level.
Visiting Washington after Afghanistan, UK Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander told an audience the Carnegie Endowment that Afghans need to see their government, rather than the international coalition or non-governmental organizations—or the Taliban—delivering improvements if the Afghan state is going to be viable in the long-term.
He cited improved security and increased access to justice as the top development priorities, with health, education, and other basic services as critical but secondary. Alexander also called on the international community to support Pakistan’s efforts to combat extremism in the provinces bordering Afghanistan.
Alexander identified concrete ways for the international coalition to reinforce the capacity of the Afghan government to secure the population and provide necessary services, which include:
- Reinforce key anti-corruption bodies, such as the High Office for Oversight and the Control and Audit Office.
- Channel aid through government systems. Only twenty percent of aid currently goes through the Afghan government.
- Support government efforts to provide necessary agricultural supplies, including seeds and fertilizers. The agricultural sector has the potential to create millions of jobs, in addition to providing food security.
- Ensure a consistent power structure and progression of responsibility from local councils through to the provincial governors and the central government in Kabul, across all provinces. A clear national framework will reduce inter-governmental squabbling and strengthen the idea of Afghanistan as a nation.
- Coordinate aid through the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan. The donor community should also coordinate and clearly communicate its expectations to the Afghan government,
- Speed up the transfer of civilian and military institutions to Afghan control after the August elections.
“Security and justice matter as much if not more than the provision of other basic services in the eyes of many ordinary Afghans,” Alexander concluded. “Only a stronger state at local and national level can deliver this basic security. Far from being peripheral to our shared mission, actions to strengthen the capacity of the state to deliver security and basic services to the population—including a stronger economy in which they can make a decent living—are central to our task. Such a comprehensive approach is needed to convince Afghan population to reject the Taliban and embrace a different future for their communities and country.”