Afghanistan: A Country in Crisis, Nation Building in Action
An Examination of Nation Building in Afghanistan and East Timor
Ethics of Development in a Global Environment, Winter 2004
Afghanistan is a shattered society. The participants in the Bonn Conference have set for the leaders and people of their country the formidable challenge of consolidating the peace process in less than three years. But it will take much more than 36 months to heal the wounds left by 23 years of war. The process of healing has started, however, and the members of the international community must be careful not to allow that process to reverse itself. This requires from all, a continued commitment and determination to stay the course. It also requires that realistic and achievable objectives be set.
~Kofi Annan, Report of the Secretary-General, 18 March 2002
The road to nationhood and a democratic state in Afghanistan is proving to be a winding, difficult road to follow. After several decades of civil war and strife, thousands of deaths, and rampant abuses of human rights, there is no easy solution available for this torn country. The United States has taken a particular interest in Afghanistan following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, hoping that military intervention and bombings will root out Osama bin-Laden. So far, intervention has not brought the United States any closer to capturing the terrorist leader, though it has arguably led to a more combative international foreign policy, particularly in the war with Iraq. The U.S. has worked closely with the United Nations and U.N. agencies to rebuild the country and instate a democratic constitution and government. Other world powers have also played an important part in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Notably, Japan has spent billions of dollars on relief and infrastructure rebuilding efforts, and has sent many experts and consultants to the country in an effort to expedite the nation-building process. But as Kofi Annan reported on March 18, 2002, it will take more than a quick fix to repair the years of trauma and war that have wrecked this extremely poor country.
In recent years, the UN has been entrusted with providing assistance to several countries in post-conflict situation, including the newly independent East Timor, now renamed Timor-Leste. The experiences of the United Nations in East Timor have shown that the reestablishment, at a minimum, of basic judicial functions must be among a mission’s top priorities from the earliest stages of deployment. Looking into the role of the UN intervention in East Timor, it is possible to apply the lessons learned in the violence wrought country on the current situation at Afghanistan to create a sustainable environment for constructive nation-building.
Relief Efforts: The United Nations in Afghanistan
Many United Nations agencies are working together to help rebuild war-torn Afghanistan. Among them are the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. These agencies work tirelessly to provide refugee assistance, rehabilitation, infrastructure rebuilding, and humanitarian aid to one of the poorest countries in the world. As the official war against the Taliban has subsided, and as refugees have begun the long process of returning to their homes and rebuilding their lives, the mission of these organizations has shifted from one of immediate and direct assistance to individuals to one of assistance in rebuilding infrastructure and long-term solutions for progress. But this process is costly, requiring millions of dollars for relief and humanitarian aid, and many of these organizations are currently underfunded.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is working in Afghanistan to coordinate international action to protect refugees returning to Afghanistan.1 In 2002, over 1.8 million refugees returned from locations such as Iran, Pakistan, and other central Asian countries, and over 230,000 Afghanis returning to their homes from other locations within Afghanistan.2 In addition to travel assistance from areas outside Afghanistan, refugees receive a food package and basic household items; if they are returning from areas inside Afghanistan, refugees are given transportation back to their homes. On top of these items, if an Afghani family is particularly needy, they will receive tools and materials necessary to rebuild their home. 3 In coordinating these refugee efforts, the UNHCR also provides work opportunities through small-scale infrastructure rebuilding, such as the reconstruction of roads and water supplies.4 As of November 2003, the UNHCR had received $158.1 million in funding, contributions, and donations for the Afghanistan Operation, but still needed $25.6 million to fill its projected budget.5
Figure 1: Refugees return to their homes in Afghanistan, assisted by organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. UNHCR is assisted the 1.8 million refugees who returned in 2002 from outside of Afghanistan and the 230,000 displaced people inside Afghanistan.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is also actively involved in humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan. The sheer amount of refugees described above necessitates a close humanitarian watch, especially of the displaced children who are the most susceptible to lifelong psychological and physical injury. UNICEF’s mission is to “place children, youth and women at the center of the recovery process [because] it is the best investment for Afghanistan’s future.”6 To this end, UNICEF strives to provide safe water, health supplies and immunizations, clothing to needy families, and provide supplemental nutrition to malnourished children. Additionally, humanitarian aid workers are attempting to bring the more than 1.8 million children back into the school system.7 UNICEF’s focus for the future is on the long-term viability of health-care to children and women, so in addition to the short-term problem-fixing solutions described above, they are working with transitional authorities to ensure that women and children are not exploited.8 Funding has fallen short of budgetary projections, with only 72% of the $191 million needed currently available.9 In 2002, UNICEF allocated $50 million to children’s education, including the purchasing of school supplies, employment of teachers, and rebuilding of classrooms, and most importantly ensuring that girls received access to the same education as boys.10
On March 28, 2002, the United Nations Security Council created the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), whose mission was to integrate all the U.N. efforts in the country.11 UNAMA’s mandate includes provisions for promoting national reconciliation, carrying out the tasks provided for in the Bonn Agreement, and managing all recovery, relief, and reconstruction efforts. 12 This mandate is well funded and backed by the United Nations, its budget for 2003 totals $37.9 million, including money to employ 443 staff members.13 Central to this mission is the responsibility to strengthen Afghanistan’s institutions and increasing the capabilities of Afghanistan’s administration. Additionally, UNAMA is charged to increase employment and cash for work opportunities in order to increase income to families.14
Relief Efforts: Japan and Afghanistan
In addition to the UN intervention, Japan has also played a critical role in providing relief efforts in the form of financial aid through their Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The Embassy of Japan in Afghanistan was originally established in 1931. Although Japan hadn’t given diplomatic recognition to any groups since the Soviet invasion in 1979, in February 2002, the Embassy of Japan in Afghanistan was reopened to follow up on the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan and to contribute to the peace and reconstruction process of the country. 15
The International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan was held to allow a number of different countries from around the world to come together to assert their intention for the international community to support the reconstruction essential for bringing about true stability to Afghanistan and to discuss specifically what assistance would be extend. Japan served as co-chair at the meetings on reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan held since autumn 2001, jointly with the United States of America, the European Union (EU) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was decided at the Senior Officials Meeting on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan in Washington in November 2001 to hold this most recent Conference in Japan. 16
Figure 2: From Left to Right: Japan Prime Minister Mr. Junichiro Koizumi, Ms. Sadako Ogata (Japan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan), Mr. Harmid Kazai (Chairman of the Afghan Interim Adminstration) at the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan held in Japan.
The International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan was held in Tokyo, Japan in January 2002, attracting high-level attendees including cabinet ministers and representatives from 61 countries and 21 international organizations. A cumulative total of more than $4.5 billion of assistance was announced, including $1.8 billion for 2002. Japan’s contribution was assistance up to $500 million over two and half years which up to $250 million would be provided in the first year. 17
Vision for Consolidation of Peace Concept 18
Japan’s Contribution (total $375 million as of December 2002)
Ttl $80.7 million
Administrative Capacity Bulding
Implementation of media structure
Other (non-project grants, etc)
Ttl $24.6 millioin
Reconstruction and humanitarian assistance
Ttl $177.3 million
Support for Refugees and IDPs
Health and Medical Care
Why Japan is Aiding Afghanistan
There are several reasons why Japan would provide such a substantial sum towards Afghanistan, which has only weak links to Japan. The first would be political pressure due to the majority of other countries providing aid. From a larger perspective, efforts toward stability in Afghanistan do not only represent assistance to the people in Afghanistan, but they also contribute to achieving peace and stability in the entire region that includes Afghanistan as well as the Middle East region and countries of Central Asia where there are deep links to Japan and, by extension, the rest of the world. In view of the grave impact of the series of terrorist attacks occurred in the United States in September 2001 on the Japanese and world economies, these are also issues of Japan itself. 19
Preparing a Foundation: The Bonn Agreement
On December 5, 2001, representatives of the United Nations, the exiled Afghani monarchy, military commanders, and expatriates signed an agreement in Bonn, Germany in an effort to begin reconstruction of a war-ravaged, but hopeful country. Fundamental to the agreement was an interim power-sharing arrangement, the drafting of a new constitution, and democratic elections in 2004. Additional provisions created a roadmap for reconstruction and security, rebuilding destroyed infrastructures, and protection of human rights.20 Critics of the Bonn Agreement point out that there were no provisions to recognize the neutrality of Afghanistan by neighboring countries. The lack of this provision was potentially devastating, because many countries were still providing support in the form of money and weapons to the conflicting military factions, prolonging fighting and deaths in the country.21
The humanitarian interest organization Human Rights Watch argues that the agreement was only a small step in the right direction. They point out that much larger issues still loom in the background of reconstruction, notably the abundance of land mines buried in the country, the protection of women’s rights in a post-Taliban environment, and the rebuilding of government, health, and education facilities.22 Furthermore, there are serious problems with the United States’ strategy in Afghanistan. For example, central to the ousting of the Taliban were United States’ efforts to enrich warlords with power, money, and weapons, who would overthrow the Taliban. Since the fall of the Taliban, these warlords have filled the vacuum of power, and are now even more powerful than previously because of the money and weapons received from the United States.23 This has created tremendous problems for the Transitional Administration to overcome if they wish to extend their control beyond the capital city of Kabul. Particularly, the United States proposed during discussion of the Bonn Agreement that the warlords provide security in areas beyond Kabul, providing time for the Transitional Administration to train and equip an Afghani national army.24
An Islamic Constitutional State
Central to the Bonn Agreement is “the right of the people of Afghanistan to freely determine their own political future in accordance with the principles of Islam, democracy, pluralism and social justice.” In order to accomplish this, the Islamic Transitional State of Afghanistan has created a special Commission to draft a constitution which “engages all segments of Afghan society, strengthens a sense of national identity, and aims for a consensual document acceptable to all Afghans.”25 The drafting commission consists of nine members, 2 women, and headed by the Vice President, Professor Naematullah Shahrani. This commission was responsible for presenting a draft with recommendations to the full Constitutional Commission on August 30, 2003.26 This full commission consists of 30 members, appointed by the President. The commission is responsible for not only drafting the final constitution, but also for receiving comments and suggestions from the Afghani people by holding consultation sessions in each province of Afghanistan. After the conclusion of these consultations and after the public within and outside of Afghanistan has had an opportunity to comment, the commission will prepare a report detailing these comments.27 Of particular interest and importance is the role that women will play in the formation of the constitution. The Constitutional Commission recognizes this and is taking strides to increase the role that they will play. Specifically, the commission will include women among its members, and it will work with groups such as UNIFEM to collect inputs on the constitution and ensure that gender balance is a priority in the constitution.28
Figure 3: A political cartoon expressing many critics’ concern with the new Constitution in Afghanistan. Critics argue that while on the surface there are provisions for many freedoms, the Constitutions roots lie in traditional Islamic religion which prevents these very same freedoms.
Afghanistan’s constitution has come under attack because it is rooted in Islamic law and beliefs, which many believe are contrary to a truly democratic, free state. On January 26, 2004, President Hamid Karzai signed the constitution into law. The constitution was ratified by the Loya Jurga, a grand council of representatives from around the country, on January 4, 2004. The constitution calls for a two-chamber parliament, independent judiciary, and strong presidency, as well as granting both men and women equal rights under the law.29 Additionally, the constitution provides for democratic elections in June 2004, with over 10 million Afghanis eligible to vote.30 Problems with the constitution include its rooting in Islamic law, and the provision for such a strong presidency. Particularly disappointing to democratic and religious freedom interest groups is the provision for “Followers of other religions are free to perform their religious ceremonies within the limits of the provisions of law,” and the official religion being “the sacred religion of Islam.”31 From these provisions comes the notion that the new Afghanistan will be a “Taliban Lite.” But many in the Islamic and Afghani community argue that if Islam were left out of the constitution, there would not have been the even small amount of progress that there is currently, because traditional followers of Islam would have destroyed the constitution. But many people in favor of a more secular, non-Islamic state argue that fundamentalists will simply use Islam as a way to take away and restrict people’s rights, especially women’s rights.32 To this is countered the Constitution’s explicit reference to the United Nations Charters and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.33 There is also significant confusion over which rules of law will apply in jurisprudence. In many cases where there is no specific law available, different religious groups claim that their religious laws should be applied to that particular case.34
Barriers to Democracy: Opium
The United Nations estimates that Afghanistan produces at least three-quarters of the world’s opium supply. Poppy plants, from which opium is derived is grown on approximately 80,000 hectares of land in Afghanistan, an 8% increase from 2002. This accounts for almost $2.3 billion worth of revenues to Afghanistan, nearly half of its non-illegal GDP.35 Much of this money goes to local officials and military commanders, as well as being used to support terrorists in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world. It is estimated that nearly 264,000 families, totaling over 1.7 million people, are involved in the growing of poppy plants.36 Additionally, there has been an extension of poppy growing into previously uninvolved areas of the country. Specifically, an increase from 18 affected provinces in 1999, out of 32, to 28 provinces in 2003, accounting for over 10% of the total harvestable area in Afghanistan.37 Worldwide, experts believe that over 2/3 of the world’s opiate abusers, primarily in Russia and Europe, use opium derived from Afghan sources. The reason that opium production is growing in popularity is because of the dramatic increase in income families receive when they begin farming the illicit drug. Per capita income for opium producing families ranges from $259 to over $1000, averaging $594 across the country; this is more than three times the average GDP per capita of $184 in 2003.38 These staggering figures make it easy to understand why a family farm might convert to producing illicit opium.
Figure 4: Opium production in Afghanistan rose 8% between 2002 and 2003. The rise in production is due to extreme poverty, high prices, and availability of credit from opium traffickers.
The drug economy that has emerged with high opium prices and production is extremely challenging for the new Afghani government to overcome. As more money is made and paid to local officials and military commanders, it will become increasingly difficult to root out illicit drug production from rural areas. The problem does not appear to be getting any better. In a survey released in February 2004, two out of three (69%) farmers in Afghanistan said that they planned to increase significantly their poppy production in the coming year.39 Several reasons have been cited for increasing production including: high prices for opium, poverty, and availability of credit to grow larger crops. This last reason is interesting because the credit comes from opium traffickers who grant credit to farmers on their following years’ production.40 Furthermore, only 23% of farmers who expressed they would not grow opium cited its being illegal, compared to 11% who cited poor soil conditions.41 It is easy for a westerner to argue that these farmers should obey the law and produce staple crops such as wheat. But when you consider that the average hectare of opium provides $12,700 worth of income, compared to only $222 per hectare of wheat, an easy solution to the opium and drug production problem becomes far out of reach.42
Figure 5: The vast majority of farmers in Afghanistan report the intent to increase opium production in 2004.
UN Intervention in East Timor
In regards to international interventions, specifically from the United Nations, there are many parallels with the issues with Afghanistan and East Timor. On May 20, 2002, East Timor became an independent nation and changes its name to Timor-Leste and became the 191st UN Member State on September 27, 2002. 43 However, the history of East Timor is wrought with stories of violence and oppression. Following the military invasion of Indonesia in 1975, up the independence of East Timor on 20 May 2002, there has been significant political and economic turmoil with the continuous conflicts between the East Timorese and the Indonesian government. Throughout all of this violent instability, the UN provided financial and legislative support by setting up the political foundation for independence, providing military security, and aiding in administration legislature. The UN intervention was a critical factor in the independence of Timor-Leste, but there are also some notable lessons learned from this situation that may be applicable to the current situation in Afghanistan.
Figure 6: Map of East Timor relative to Indonesia.
East Timor History
East Timor was originally administered by Portugal until 1974, when Portugal sought to establish a provisional government to determine the status of East Timor. Civil war broke out between those favoring independence and those favoring integration with Indonesia. Portugal withdrew, and Indonesia had a military intervention in 1975, integrating East Timor as its 27th province in 1976. The United Nations never recognized this integration, and both the Secretary Council and the General Assembly called for Indonesia’s withdrawal. 44
Beginning in 1982, at the request of the General Assembly, successive Secretaries-General held regular talks with Indonesia and Portugal aimed at resolving the status of the territory. For most of 1994, there were indications that the Indonesian government was considering open negotiation for special autonomy. However, during 1995, there was an upsurge in violence in East Timor, including the killing of Timorese civilians by Indonesian soldiers, and a rise in conflicts between Timorese and settlers from outside the territory.45
Basis for East Timor Conflict
After decades of struggle, many Timorese continued to oppose Indonesian rule. From the Indonesian perspective, the government points out its investment in health, education, and infrastructure made in the East Timor territory since 1975. An Indonesian academic, Hadi Soesastro, argues that “economic development was the key to solving the East Timor Problem. Economic development was seen as the principal instrument for integrating East Timor into Indonesia, economically, as well as politically.”46 Why then, has there been so much opposition and conflict leading to an overwhelming support for the popular consultation?
The major reason lies in the social effects of immigration. Although increased education has been a beneficial effect of Indonesian rule, it has also created political tensions of educated unemployment and dispossession of lands due to the Indonesian immigrants. 47 Many East Timorese regarded any initiative of the Indonesian authorities as suspect and self-seeking. The overall social and political result of Indonesia’s efforts to bring about economic development in East Timor appears to be two-fold: a sullen submission to Indonesian policy combined with apathy and non-cooperation with many government programs, and a resentment or even hatred toward non-Timorese settlers in the territory. 48 It comes as no surprise that the political tensions eventually led rise to violent conflicts during 1995.
Figure 7: East Timorese internally displaced persons waiting to board a ship which will take them home to Dili, East Timor.
However, continued talks between Indonesia and Portugal eventually led to Indonesia proposing a limited autonomy for East Timor within Indonesia in June 1998. In light of this proposal, on May 5, 1999 the Indonesian and Portugal governments entrusted the Secretary-General with organizing and conducting a "popular consultation" in order to ascertain whether the East Timorese people accepted or rejected a special autonomy for East Timor within the unitary Republic of Indonesia. 49
UNAMET and the Popular Consultation
To carry out the consultation, the Security Council, by resolution 1246 (1999), authorized the establishment of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) on June 11, 1999. The agreements stipulated that, after the vote, UNAMET would oversee a transition period pending implementation of the decision of the East Timorese people. On 30 August 1999, some 98% of registered East Timorese voters went to the polls deciding by a margin of 21.5% to 78.5% to reject the proposed autonomy and begin a process of transition towards independence. 50
Immediately after the popular consultation, heavily armed groups and forces sympathetic to the integration of East Timor into Indonesia had conducted a “scorched earth” campaign in which they had burned and looted entire towns and villages, attacked and killed at random in the streets, and forcibly “evacuated” or kidnapped people to the western half of the island, which was still part of Indonesia. In response, thousands of East Timorese had abandoned their homes, fleeing into the mountains of central East Timor or across the border into West Timor.51 The Secretary-General and the Security Council undertook strenuous diplomatic efforts to halt the violence, pressing Indonesia to meet its responsibility to maintain security and order in the territory. On September 12, 1999, the Government of Indonesia agreed to accept the offer of assistance from the international community. The Security Council then authorized (Resolution 1264) the multinational force (INTERFET) under a unified command structure headed by a Member State (Australia) to restore peace and security in East Timor, to protect and support UNAMET in carrying out its tasks and, within force capabilities, to facilitate humanitarian assistance operations. 52
UNTAET and Transition to Independence
On October 19, 1999, the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly formally recognized the result of the consultation. Shortly thereafter, on October 25, the United Nations Security Council, by resolution 1272 (1999), established the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) as an integrated, multidimensional peacekeeping operation fully responsible for the administration of East Timor during its transition to independence.53 Resolution 1272 mandated UNTAET to provide security and maintain law and order throughout the territory of East Timor; to establish an effective administration; to assist in the development of civil and social services; to ensure the coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation of humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation and development assistance; to support capacity-building for self-government; and to assist in the establishment of conditions for sustainable development.54
UNMISET and Post-independence Period
The United Nations will continue to maintain a presence in East Timor throughout the post-independence period to ensure the security and stability of the nascent State. A successor mission, known as the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), was set up by resolution 1410 (2002) unanimously adopted by the Security Council on May 17 with the following mandate: to provide assistance to core administrative structures critical to the viability and political stability of East Timor; to provide interim law enforcement and public Security and to assist in developing the East Timor Police Service (ETPS); and contribute to the maintenance of the new country's external and internal security. 55
The UN peace operations in East Timor is undoubtedly a success. Yet, upon its independence, it became the poorest country in Asia, with still high unemployment rates, low literacy rates, and an unstable democratic society. The transition from here on will be clearly dependent upon the East Timorese themselves, but how the new regime responds to the challenges of its political and legal system will be a measure of the success of the rules of the lay policies put in place by the UN.
Lessons Learned from East Timor
The initial operational strategy of the UN’s mission in East Timor instinctively gave priority to traditional peace-building efforts, including ensuring peace and security in the territory to be administered and facilitating the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees. The experiences of East Timor have proven, however, that from the outset the administration of justice must be counted among the top priorities of such an operation – certainly far higher than it is currently ranked in Afghanistan. While emergency humanitarian assistance, physical rebuilding, and political negotiations are being carried out in post-conflict situations, criminal activity does not cease; in fact, it often flourishes.56 The lack of adequate law enforcement and the failure to remove criminal offenders can inevitably affect both the authority of the mission and the local population’s willingness to respect the rule of law. In the case of East Timor, this was especially difficult because the UN faced the task of building a judicial system from the ground up. Drawing a clearer distinction and being firm on violations of the law increases both the credibility of the international presence and the chances of a peace agreement holding. Failure to do this undermined the credibility of the international presence and led to missed opportunities in East Timor.
In addition, once the security environment allows the process of civil reconstruction to begin, sustainability should generally take precedence over temporary standards in the administration of basic law and order.57 Internationalized processes for the most serious crimes should be determined, where possible, through consultation with local actors. East Timor’s main focus was in developing institutions that would be sustainable. Greater efforts were made to “Timorize” the judiciary than most other civil and political institutions, although this led to substantial trade-offs in terms of the qualifications of the staff.58 The role of UNMISET will be continually downsized as the administrative and legislative responsibilities are slowly devolved to the East Timorese authorities, and it was crucial that the UN placed sustainable systems for the local authorities to continue stability in the transition after independence.
During the initial stages of the military action in Afghanistan, it was unclear what role the UN will play in post-conflict Afghanistan. Due in part to security concerns and in part to a desire to encourage Afghan capacity-building, the mission as deployed sought to rely on as limited an international presence and on as many Afghan staff as possible, referred to as the “light footprint” approach.59 As a country with undisputed sovereignty, Afghanistan is in a significantly different situation from East Timor. However, UNTAET has found that failure to engage immediately with rule of lay questions can lead to missing the opportunity for the maximum impact of international engagement.60 As the Afghan state is being rebuilt, respect for the consistency and transparency of the state’s law will become an important factor in the sustaining success of the nation.