SITREP | The Political Transformation of Afghanistan
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SITREP | The Political Transformation of Afghanistan

By Bertelsmann Stiftung

SITREP | The Political Transformation of Afghanistan

Afghan Local Police (ALP) members pick up supplies to build a checkpoint with help from Afghan National Army special forces soldiers in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 3, 2013. The ALP was tasked with serving rural areas with limited Afghan National Security Forces presence. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau/Released)

The Afghan state does not have a monopoly on the use of force across the country’s entire territory. Security in the provinces of Helmand, Nangarhar, Ghazni, Kunduz and Badghis is fragile. This does not mean that the Taliban have a complete monopoly on the use of force in these provinces, but the insurgents do pose a major challenge to the country’s security apparatus. 

After the withdrawal of the NATO forces in June 2014, 800 Taliban fighters stormed various police and military checkpoints in Helmand to establish their foothold. A similar attack in August 2014 in the Hersarak district of Nangarhar, this time by an estimated 1,000 Taliban, reflected the worsening situation. In Kunduz too, the Afghan security forces have been struggling against the Taliban insurgents for greater control. Throughout the review period, the security situation has also worsened throughout Kabul province and in some northern districts. 

Although the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) had nearly reached its target size of 352,000 members by the end of 2014 (97%), the scope of professionalism, training, reliability and subsequent effectiveness varies greatly between the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP). The latter has experienced a high desertion rate. In addition, the Afghan Local Police (ALP) units that exist in as many as 150 of Afghanistan’s 400 districts have amplified the popular impression that corruption and a culture of impunity are widespread, particularly among the police forces. This significantly hampers the implementation of the rule of law and undermines local security. Local strongmen maintain private militias and have to some extent managed to integrate these formally into ANP and ALP structures. Outright anti-government forces such as the Taliban, the insurgent Hezbe Islami (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar faction) and the Haqqani network have steadily intensified the insurgency and the level of violence throughout the country.

Afghanistan is not a nation-state in the Western sense of the term; however, a majority of the Afghan people identify with the state and accept its legitimacy. Nevertheless, tribal alliances, politicized communal identities and socioeconomic grievances  undermine state legitimacy. There are as many as 14 recognized ethnic groups in the country, with Pashtuns making up between 40% and 50% of the population. Tajiks account for an additional 25%, while Hazaras and Uzbeks amount to about 9% each. A handful of smaller groups exist as well. As a rule, access to citizenship is granted on the basis of the Afghan Citizenship Law, passed in 2000. Accordingly, any person above 18 who has been living in the country for at least five years and has no criminal record can apply for citizenship. Repatriates and returnees who need to renew their documents are provided with assistance by the relevant authorities. Several groups including the Jogi and Bangriwala communities are denied citizenship, and are considered stateless. 

Factionalism and cronyism have prevented the state from bridging the gaps between different ethnic groups and factions. The state’s inability to unify groups has contributed to its fragility. The years of war have resulted in deep divisions along different ethnic, sectarian and political lines. External actors have exacerbated these cleavages by supporting various groups and pitting them against each other in a protracted conflict to achieve their own objectives (e.g., short-term stabilization, project implementation and putative state-building). The cleavages between different linguistic groups, for example Pashto and non-Pashto speakers, have become more significant and taken on a political dimension.

Afghanistan is not a secular state. Islam is the official religion, as the majority of the populace is Muslim. The government is highly sensitive to this factor, and cannot make any law or policy that contravenes the state religion. The legal order and official justice system also follow Islamic principles. Free expressions of opinions that violate or question Islamic norms are largely perceived as a threat to Islam and are rejected, as is the freedom of expression. Given the slow development of the legal system, the delivery of justice and civil conflict mediation are in practice dominated by traditional actors such as local mullahs, elders, traditional elites, Taliban and their local shadow institutions. Depending on the case, these different authorities apply a mixture of local and Shari’ah law, informed by Islamic norms and principles. Non-state justice delivery enjoys legitimacy because it is faster and cheaper and enforcement is more likely.

If basic functions like domestic security and the rule of law are excluded, and the quality of administrative structures is not factored in, Afghanistan can be said to have shown a general improvement in terms of basic infrastructure coverage throughout the country. This varies in degree, however, and to a large extent has been achieved through donor funding. The government’s concern with improving the basic health delivery system has been reflected in the expansion of health care services, along with the facilities to support them. The expansion of health care services focuses on seven components, including maternal and newborn health, child health and immunization, nutrition, control of communicable diseases, mental health, disability, and the provision of essential drugs.

The Afghanistan Revenue Department has shown a commitment to improving its services, and has sought to introduce a “service culture” in the country. The introduction of taxpayer identification numbers marks a step toward an enlargement of the tax base, and has helped to streamline the collection of revenues. Afghan government has devoted increasing attention to education. Local infrastructure development is carried out via the government’s district administration departments. Anti-government forces, particularly the Taliban, have set up so-called shadow governments and administrative structures (“commissions”) for key sectors (education, courts, security) at the district and provincial level in many provinces. 

As rivals to the state’s power, they appear, disappear and reappear, targeted by the national security forces. In the law-enforcement sector, the ANP has been supplemented by local police units. However, this has had an ultimately detrimental effect on efficient enforcement and local security. Provision of clean drinking water and sanitation has made considerable progress, but achievement of the MDGs, which Afghanistan committed to fulfilling by 2020, remains far out of reach.

For complete report - Download : BTI 2016 | Afghanistan Country Report 

Publication Details:

This report is part of the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) 2016. It covers the period from 1 February 2013 to 31 January 2015. The BTI assesses the transformation toward democracy and a market economy as well as the quality of political management in 129 countries. More on the BTI at / License: Creative Commons Attribution BY 4.0