Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

Thoughts and worries

Martine van Bijlert 7 min

There is a lot to worry about in Afghanistan. The politics of government, cabinet and parliament. The local power play of oppression and violence. The future, the family, where the country is headed. How bad the winter is going to be. Some conversation fragments:

“How things are going? I am disappointed and optimistic at the same time. I am disappointed because of the Cabinet. Of course there are some good ministers, not all are bad, but many of them are on the list of corrupt officials that was given to the parliament a few days ago. But in the end it doesn’t matter, they will get the vote anyway. The MPs will be given a Landcruiser or some money and they will pass the Cabinet. (…) Why am I optimistic? Because the international community said they will evaluate the situation after six months. They gave a time and after that they will make an exact assessment. That is very good. When things keep getting worse, at some point they have to get better.” – elder from Uruzgan

“I am trying to decide what to do, whether to return to Afghanistan or not and where I should go. (…) It is difficult to work in government. There is a tension between the Afghans who returned and those who stayed. They say we are no longer Afghans, that we are foreigners now and that we no longer understand our country. And when we confront them that they should not behave in this or that way, or not be corrupt, they say that we should be quiet. That we don’t understand and that we will anyway leave the country again whenever there is some pressure.” – young Afghan, currently based in the US

“Since I left my province I don’t really know what is going on anymore. I only follow what is in the news. And now that I have worked as a journalist for [one of the new television channels] I understand how much everything is censored. Before it is broadcasted it is filtered four or five times: whether it doesn’t upset the internationals, whether it is not against the Constitution, whether it will not make the population worried, whether it will not somehow be Taliban propaganda, whether it will not upset the leaders or the government. The information is changed until you no longer know what is correct and what is not.” – civil society activist from Ghazni

“Karzai went to Kandahar to meet Gordon Brown. In a normal and independent country, you are right, this would be strange. But this is Afghanistan. Without the US Karzai would not be president. Our real president is Obama. He and Europe have the first and last word. (…) The foreigners knew about the fraud, as if they were looking over his shoulder while he was doing it. But they made it difficult for him because he spoke against them. They are keeping Karzai on the edge, so he feels that they will drop him if he does not do what they say. They have given him 6 months and they will keep reminding him that he is not legitimate and that it was them who let him win.” – minor party leader (pro-Abdullah)

“The man on whose land I used to work called me from Helmand and asked my view on whether he should plant poppy for next year or not. I told him ‘If the others do it, do it also. If the others don’t do it, then also don’t.’ What else can you say.” – IDP from Helmand

“The Taliban in my area gathered people to ask their opinions. They do this whenever the US or the UK make some announcement. The people told them that the Americans want to force a government on the country and that they will stand against them. The people don’t know about the UN and that ISAF came under a UN instruction. They are just fed up. You will not be able find one house in Helmand where nobody has been killed in this war. The people say this is what the Americans and British do. (…) A few years ago the people were much more favourable, but at that time there was not that much war.” – elder from Helmand

“Why is the president still giving ministries to these ‘leaders’. Can we not give them a house and some money and thank them very much, but not let them interfere in the government anymore.” – provincial governor

“I was traveling through town in a minibus and two men got in and told the driver to drive through a street where it was not allowed. The driver told them it was not allowed, but they said “we are allowed”. They were wearing civilian clothes, but it seemed they belonged to some kind of government department, so I asked them if they had special permission or a special position. They nodded and lifted their shirt to show that they carried a gun. I said “but isn’t it against the law to go through this street?” They shrugged and said “Who cares about the law.” – Kabul resident

“The new Cabinet will do nothing for reform. You do not have to test the people who have already done their exam, we have seen their work. But our problem is a problem of system. However much money you spend here, if you do not fix the system nothing will work. And we should listen to Rousseau. He said that if you make laws for a country you should even take the weather of the country into account. We need a strategy that fits our country. And really if the US and the EU want us to be grateful and to remember their sacrifices they should give us security and [the rule of] law.” – writer from Samangan

“We are planning to meet the governor with a group of elders, because we are worried. There is a commander in our province, he still has many weapons. In the past he killed several people. We are afraid he might be appointed as a minister in the next cabinet. We have also called the presidential palace to tell them about our concerns.” – community leader from Nimruz

“As a provincial judge I do political cases and civil cases and criminal cases. I had 22 political cases, but I released most of them because of lack of evidence. I sentenced one suspect to two years in prison. He was arrested after an IED attack. ISAF had searched his house and found remote controls and explosives buried in his compound. But it turned out that he had left when the Taliban took control of his area. The Taliban had been in his house and the man had only returned after ISAF retook the area. So the explosives were not his. But I gave him two years, because he should have paid more attention. He accepted, but he prosecutor insisted he should be given 10 years. Now the appeal judge said that he might acquit him.” – judge

“What I think about the provincial council that was elected in Kandahar? They are all friends of Karzai, all of them. And the parliamentary elections will be the same: people will come who do what the president says. It is clear that this is exactly what the foreigners want. They want a president and a cabinet and a parliament that follow their instructions. And then America will sign an agreement with the government that it can stay for another 100 years. That is their aim. We know.” – businessman from Kandahar

“Whatever happens, we should have parliamentary elections next year. We really need a new Parliament. This one is so much involved in all kinds of things; they are just busy getting their people appointed and getting their fingers into projects and business deals. How to practically organise the elections? We need new IEC leadership. And a lot of observers during the election. And criteria, so that not everybody is allowed to run. (…) We cannot send the parliament home, because then we have a state of emergency. But we cannot work with this parliament either. It is an old car, however much you paint it. We have to have an election.” – senior government official in Jowzjan

“Legally Karzai is not the president. There was so much fraud and there was no second round. Still, it was revealed and dealt with, so I guess that it is alright. But for the parliamentary elections it will be better to postpone them. And in the meantime clean up the IEC and make some plans. We may still be waiting for the provincial council results, while we should actually already be having the parliamentary elections! – PC candidate from Baghlan

“I am disappointed in the US strategy. It is all about war and fighting. And it will be impossible to improve things in only 18 months. They should have discussed the strategy with the parliament. After it was announced McCrystal and the deputy US Ambassador came to explain. We criticized them a lot that they did not discuss it with us before they announced it. They said that they had discussed the strategy with the minister of Defence and the minister of Interior and the head of the National Security Directorate, but that is not enough. They should have talked to the people’s representatives as well.” – female MP from the south

“Yesterday [a local commander] came and surrounded the local madrassa. His men plundered and burnt the building and shot the two oldest students. They were 17 and 15 years old. We cannot say anything. The elders are thinking about leaving. We see no point in demonstrating, the government will only lie to us. Already many people have been killed. Two months ago [a man] went and complained to the governor that the district police chief had taken his son. The police made an excuse that he had IEDs in his house and arrested him. He was shot a little later outside the bazaar. The son of the former mayor was taken from his house 4 months ago and killed. And two days ago the same commander who burnt the madrassa took a villager and shot him in front of his house. It was in the middle of the day and many people saw it.” – elder from Helmand

“The whole world is spending money here and sacrificing its children and employing its technology. For what? So that [my former colleague] can continue to bring young boys into his office? Or so that [the former governor] can continue to build mansions? Or so that Karzai and his family can have a pleasant private life? The world is not crazy. But if it continues like this, then the world is really crazy.” – civil servant from one of the southern provinces

“It is winter and everything is going wrong. I had to take my wife to the hospital because she was having a baby and it was not going well. The hospital bills finished our money. I had to ask two month salary in advance and I had to borrow money to buy gas for the heaters. And then my wife’s father died. I haven’t told her yet, because I didn’t have the money to let her travel to her village. (…) Many times she told me that we should find a wife for our oldest son. She is afraid that he will otherwise join some group or go to Iran or Pakistan for work. But how can we pay for that. And how can we have another person in the house. (…) My small daughter likes the commercials on the television. She is always asking me to bring back ‘juice watani’. I cannot. I usually bring her a sweet instead.” – IDP from Helmand


Cabinet Democratization Government Parliament


Martine van Bijlert

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