While Afghanistan's Government Prepares To Host A Summit On The Country's Future, Its Achievements Are Fragile And Failures Endless

03/10/2016 16:05 | Updated 03 October 2016
Andrew Kelly / Reuters

As Afghanistan's Government prepares to co-host a summit in Brussels on the country's future, its achievements are fragile and its failures almost endless.

As up to 70 countries and 20 international agencies gather, corruption in the country is at a record high. In the two years since it was established, the National Unity Government (NUG) has very limited economic achievements, such as completing the previous Government's left-over development projects or signing off a couple of international agreements for power and gas supply.

Meanwhile, provinces in the country have become less stable and less safe, including the capital, Kabul. The NUG failed to tackle corruption at the highest level or coordinate the highest ranking officials for the conference. But it claims to be fully prepared.

The Brussels Summit, like all other previous international summits on Afghanistan, has woken up senior officials to act fast and prepare, even if it is just a show for the countries supporting them. NUG spokespeople and officials are seizing every opportunity to boast about their work in public gatherings, television talk shows and social media.

This contrasts with the reality on the ground. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report shows a four percent increase in civilian casualties between January and June 2016. According to UNAMA, 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 injured in those six months. 289 people died when Kunduz province in the northeast fell to the Taliban, for the first time since the US-led Coalition attacked in 2001. Helmand and Urozgan provinces were threatened with the same fate. Taliban and ISIS control several districts in southern, eastern and northeastern provinces. Several deadly suicide attacks took place in Kabul - something unprecedented in recent years. The worse killed 80 people in July during a large demonstration. ISIS claimed responsibility.

In his first day in office, president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani vowed to tackle corruption from the top. He reopened the investigation into corruption at Kabul Bank and ordered the probe and hearings be finished within 45 days.

Not only did the government fail to meet the deadline, it was also selective in whom it punished. Former chiefs of Kabul bank Sher Khan Farnood and Khalilullah Ferozi were brought to court but the former finance minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, under whose watch the £607 million fraud happened, was left alone. In fact, the president appointed Mr Zakhilwal as his senior economic advisor and later as Afghan ambassador to Islamabad, Pakistan, a post he still serves.

Mr. Ferozi was sentenced to ten-year imprisonment. However, not long after the court verdict, the president's legal advisor Mohammad Ali Mohammadi and the minister of Urban Development and Housing Sadat Mansoor Naderi brought him out of prison under the president's orders and signed a multimillion-dollar Smart City real estate deal with him. After a public outcry, the president suspended his legal advisor. But because Mr. Naderi had the support of his influential father, a religious figure, the president once again failed to take any actions against him. He still serves as a minister.

The NUG also failed to act on the agreement that formed the basis for its establishment. A Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) was meant to be convened to amend the Constitution and considering creating the post of executive prime minister. This never happened. The NUG also failed to set up a commission for the reform in the electoral system. A decree was issued in September to form one but most analysts see this as another quick move to impress ahead of the Brussels Summit.

The most humiliating failure was when President Ghani and his CEO Abdullah Abdullah, who ran against him, fell out. The president also fell out with his first vice president General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who ran with him on the same ticket. Both men accuse the president of clasping power to himself and favouring officials from his own ethnic background. Abdullah accused the president of not consulting him on major appointments like that of Ahmad Yousuf Nooristani the former electoral commission chief. Mr. Noorestani is accused of casting massive fraudulent votes in Mr. Ghani's favour in an election that European observers labelled a "nightmare".

The president still runs the office his way. Perhaps he intends to attract the necessary funds from Brussels Conference members first and deal with the internal issues later.

In an effort to overshadow the failures of the past two years, the NUG reached a peace deal with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezbi-Islami--one of the armed opposition groups the UN and USA consider terrorists. The Afghan's public reaction was mixed. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar led one of the groups involved in the civil war in the 1990s that caused the destruction of Kabul and the death of thousands of Afghans. Some Kabulis took to the streets in protest, calling Hekmatyar the killer of hundred of innocent people of Kabul. The Guardian's headline was 'Butcher of Kabul' pardoned in Afghan peace deal'.

Despite the president making enemies in his own administration and making peace with terrorists, the NUG is hopeful to get the money it needs from the Brussels Summit. What is decided there will be the last key decision on Afghanistan after American forces withdrew and the NATO Summit Warsaw funded the Afghan Security Forces. They have every reason to be confident.

The EU Special Representative has said the summit will be "a chance to send signal that the international community is ready to support Afghanistan four more years and move it towards peace". Two days prior to conference the US also expressed willingness to provide $3billion per year in the coming four years. It appears that the international community is determined to fund Afghanistan until 2020, whether the Afghan leaders impress them or not.