Magazine | Security

Opportunities Slipping Away in Afghanistan

Both the Afghan government and the international coalition bear responsibility for the country’s lack of progress.

By James L. Creighton for
Opportunities Slipping Away in Afghanistan
Credit: Sgt. John R. Rohrer, U.S. Marine Corps

After 15 years of international cooperation following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan has progressed dramatically, although admittedly from a low starting point.  The country has increased literacy rates and school attendance for both boys and girls. Electricity is now expected in major cities where it was nonexistent 15 years ago.  Major projects such as the Salma Dam have been opened and others such as the Kajaki Dam are progressing toward utilization.  Roads between all major cities are functional where they were a series of loosely connected potholes in 2001.

But, considering the massive expenditure and effort to achieve this progress, the results are not satisfactory. The opportunities presented to the Afghan people via the overwhelming support provided by the international community will slip away without persistent and patient ongoing support.

The Afghan Government Working to Earn Respect

International commitment is waning as a result of the Afghan government’s stalled progress.  The National Unity Government remains intact, but despite a positive vision from President Ashraf Ghani it has not lived up to expectations.  Corruption from the ministerial down to the district level is rampant as many officials are concerned more with their own needs than the needs of their constituents. Cooperation between the president and CEO Abdullah Abdullah exists in public, but in private there is growing separation and mistrust.  Parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 15, 2016 after a delay of over a year, but planning and preparation are lagging.  Government institutions suffer from a lack of funding and human capacity at all levels.

There are, however, signs of hope. Ghani’s personal energy and concept for a positive future include specific actions to address the major concerns. His outreach to improve relations with Pakistan in March 2015, however, failed to deliver a perceived reciprocal response, which cost him significant political capital and goodwill with many within Afghanistan’s political environment.