Recommended Reading

The Man Who Thought He Could Fix Afghanistan


Politico, 30 October 2017 (Nov/Dec. issue)

A portrait of “Ghani’s Ghani” – senior advisor Scott Guggenheim – by great May Jeong, with some (given his position) interesting insights:

“A decade and a half of American occupation, Guggenheim continued, produced “democratic institutions with the outward appearance of a democracy, but all about patronage,” he told me. (…) This is what American foreign policy in Afghanistan has created. The institutions they built up are deeply corrupt. They do have elections, but in terms of power structure, it is a deeply flawed version of democracy.” (…)

Guggenheim had signed on to Ghani’s state-building project because he saw it as an opportunity to wrestle with big questions of democratic governance. But he spent the better part of the year complaining to me about a seemingly simple administrative issue—his attempts to get Ghani to hire a secretary who could manage the president’s schedule better. (…) In recent months, the worsening situation in the country was beginning to affect their decades-long friendship. Guggenheim expressed frustration that Ghani couldn’t even make small fixes (…).

“There is tension between being authoritarian and being democratic,” Guggenheim told me. “There is chaos in government. It is deeply fragmented. The Kabuli elites are so polarized that getting the reform agenda through has been almost impossible. The temptation to be a strong authoritarian leader who says you cannot challenge authority is very strong. Why doesn’t he take that route?”

If that happened, Guggenheim speculated, the United States would keep funding this more authoritarian version of the Afghan state, just as it had done with autocratic regimes like those of Ferdinand Marcos, Augusto Pinochet and Arab dictators before the Arab Spring. (…)

 

 

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