AAN Papers

The State of the Afghan State


In this paper, Anders Fänge, AAN member and Country Director of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, gives his views on where Afghanistan stands, what went wrong and what can be done – in this third attempt of government-driven ambitious and wide-ranging national reform programmes within a hundred years that caused a major armed rebellion.

Anders Fänge argues in his paper that the motivation, politics and loyalties behind these uprisings are not identical but have one thing in common: that the reforms were seen as foreign intrusions threatening Islamic values, and that they were led mainly by groups and individuals claiming religious and, to some extent, traditional national credentials. At the same time, the governments pushing for reforms, and their allies, were branded as traitors and un-believers with the ultimate goal to destroy the religion of Islam and the independence of Afghanistan. In the current case, the most fundamental problem lies the in the weaknesses of the government and the foreign assistance which together with the performance of the international military forces function as the main strength of the insurgency.

The paper criticises that international the development assistance to Afghanistan after 2001 has not been used effectively to build Afghan state institutions. Amongst the results of this are, the author adds, an imbalance between regions and provinces with regard to development assistance and an ‘overpopulation of government ministries and institutions with essentially unproductive but highly paid international advisors and consultants who most often know nothing or very little about the country’, leading to an additional alienation of the citizens from the state.

He strongly emphasises that in order to radically improve the performance of the Afghan state, forceful action to rectify the damaging practices and systems would be required.  As a major conclusion he proposes that the international community makes long-term commitments based on an in-depth, agreed and honest analysis and strategy which clearly spells out the needs and priorities of the country – and not of their own particular national interests.

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Afghanistan Analysts Network, Discussion Paper 01/2010.

Released 8 January 2010

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