As flawed as the Bonn framework has been—for example, in its early years it overrepresented the non-Pashtun anti-Taliban Northern Alliance—it allowed for a reduction of violence and the reconstruction of the Afghanistan state, economy, and society, after two decades of perpetual war.
However, the system’s net positives are declining. Indeed, what we are witnessing today is the slow unraveling of the Bonn framework. Karzai is a compromised political figure. Gone are the days when he was seen as a unifying force and a moderate who symbolized the hopes of a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Now, he is knee-deep in corruption and appears intent on maintaining power directly or indirectly after his current term comes to an end.
Meanwhile, critical non-Pashtun power brokers are raising significant challenges to the governance framework in Afghanistan. The two Jamiat-e Islami splinter groups—the National Front of Afghanistan (NFA) led by Ahmed Zia Massoud and Amrullah Saleh, and the National Coalition of Afghanistan (NCA), led by Dr. Abdullah—both oppose Karzai. The NFA now even calls for a federalist system that weakens the power of president.
Amid this debate between relative moderates on how Afghanistan should be governed and by whom, there is also the challenge of reconciling the Taliban’s demands. It remains to be seen how all this can be done at once given the fact that NCA and NFA don’t appear to be talking. Nevertheless, that dialogue must begin now.
The Taliban has been vague about the governance system it envisions for Afghanistan. During its reign, the Taliban implemented a swift and crude variant of Islamic criminal law. Its shadow governments behave similarly today. There is little indication of behavioral or attitudinal change.
The Taliban contends that it seeks the implementation of Islamic law. But what changes to the country’s present-day system does it demand? Officially, Afghanistan is an Islamic republic. Much, but not all, of its legislation comes from the Islamic legal tradition. The country’s constitution states that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions” of Islam. But its laws are a mix of Islamic and non-Islamic in origin and the boundaries between these two are often ambiguous.