Monday, August 29, 2016

Falling Short on Afghanistan


A just-released report from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance has produced some shocking findings with disturbing implications for the future of the war-ridden country and its unstable neighborhood. Yet the report and its conclusions have failed to capture the attention of the key politicians overseeing financial and military support from Afghanistan’s allies.

What this technical report, “The Donor Financial Review for 2008,” concludes is that the international community is falling woefully short in financing its own estimates of Afghanistan’s needs. For the period from 2008 to 2012, the financing gap is about $22 billion, or 48 percent of estimated needs. Worse, the activities financed by the donors have so far been seriously out of line with the strategic priorities established in Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy, which has been strongly endorsed by the donor community as a whole.

Although the Obama administration and its allies have stressed the need to direct more resources to economic and social development, the review suggests this direction is still to be established. As under the Bush administration, proportionately more appears to be going to security, with shrinking resources available for meeting Afghanistan’s development needs.

If this trend continues, as projected donor commitments suggest it will, the suffering of a very poor population will get worse, fueling support for the fundamentalist insurgency that threatens the entire region.

How can these dangerous trends be addressed, and are there lessons to be drawn from “successes” in other parts of the world?

Given that in the first years following conflicts in Bosnia and East Timor, financial aid per capita was on the order of $580 and $400 respectively, commitments today of only $57 per capita to Afghanistan seem laughably insufficient. These numbers suggest that the financing aid that has been committed or actually disbursed needs to be dramatically augmented.

At the same time, the proportion of resources being managed through Kabul’s own budget – rather than separately by each donor – needs to be increased. Currently, only 20 percent of the international community’s financial aid is being managed through Afghanistan’s national budget and in accordance with its strategic priorities. This is occurring despite a recent World Bank assessment that shows substantial improvements in the government’s overall capacity to manage developmental resources. Instead, 80 percent is being managed by donors themselves, creating costly inefficiencies.

Indeed, the situation described in the review defies all the principles of good practice in donor coordination, principles established by these same donor governments in a recent document known as the “Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.” While coordinating the donor community is often equated with herding cats, and each situation is unique, there are “success stories” like Bosnia, which offer important lessons.

In Bosnia, the international community was led by a so-called high representative, an impartial individual with credibility in the eyes of both the civilian and military communities. Though equipped with extraordinary powers conferred by a council made up of the government signatories to the Dayton Peace Accord, the high representative used these powers selectively, and only after consultation with the Bosnian government and council members.

Critical to successful coordination, however, was the creation locally of a board of key donor agency heads, a de facto cabinet under the chairmanship of the high representative, which met weekly, set common objectives and worked to align those objectives with government priorities. The board consisted of the heads of NATO forces, international police and security forces, the ambassadors of the European Union, the United States, Britain, the United Nations, the I.M.F. and the World Bank. Through this arrangement, the high representative, an E.U. national, was perceived as representing the interests of the broader international community rather than those of any single power.

This enabled the international community to act with unity in a way that allowed them to be better partners to the domestic authorities. The result was an efficient use of international aid, through a more effective prioritization of financial resources directed to infrastructure, health, education, a social safety net and job creation, as well as ensuring adequate security.

Given the desperate poverty and the danger of a fundamentalist takeover in the region, Afghanistan deserves no less.

Lord Ashdown is a former E.U. high representative in Bosnia. Joseph Ingram is a former director of the World Bank’s office in Bosnia.

What Role for the G-20?


The Group of 20 has held two summit meetings, including the recent one in London. It is now an established forum, a recognition, belated in my view, that the world has changed and that the old institutions have not kept pace with rapidly evolving needs.

Better late than never, of course. Yet already there are questions about the substance and functioning of this new body – questions that need to be answered without delay.

The first is whether the decisions adopted in London can resolve the global financial and economic crisis, setting the world economy on track to sustainable growth.

A definitive answer will emerge only with time, but my initial impression is that the London decisions may be a tentative first step. But clearer reference points are needed on structuring the system of global economic governance and on the group’s tasks. Crisis prevention should not be the G-20’s main task. What’s needed is a transition to a new model, integrating social, environmental and economic factors.

The second question concerns the G-20’s place within the system of global institutions. What is this group: a “global politburo,” a “club of the powerful,” a prototype for a world government? How will it interact with the United Nations?

I am convinced that no group of countries, even if they account for 90 percent of the world economy, could supersede or substitute for the United Nations. But clearly, the G-20 could claim collective leadership in world affairs if it acts with due respect for the opinions of non-members. The presence in the G-20 of countries representing different geographic regions, different levels of development and different cultures is a hopeful sign.

And yet this group is an improvised affair, put together under duress in the extreme conditions of an unexpected global upheaval. It does not include certain countries that are influential in regional and sometimes broader terms, like Egypt, Nigeria or Iran. And it has not been clear about its methods.

To avoid mistakes the G-20 must be transparent and work closely with the U.N. At least once a year, its summit meetings should be held at U.N. headquarters. It should submit a report for substantial discussion to the General Assembly.

Last but not least is the question of the scope of its work. Should the G-20 be confined to the global economy, or will it address political problems? The answer is not self-evident.

Those who object to a political role would obviously argue that the world community has entrusted the U.N. Security Council with primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Therefore, our main concern should be to strengthen that body’s role. It is indeed true that all attempts to ignore or bypass the Security Council, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, have always ended badly.

It is also true, however, that the Security Council’s main role is to respond promptly to immediate crisis. We know from experience that it is not as well-equipped to address long-term, conceptual issues. Furthermore, the long delay in reforming the Council has left it less representative than the G-20, which is particularly well-suited to consider the global challenges of security, poverty and the environment.

I believe that the G-20 could find a key place in the architecture of world politics. If it helps to reverse the economic crisis, it will earn the credibility to lead.

One of the problems ripe for debate is the militarization of world politics and economics. Militarization deflects resources from the real economy, stimulates conflicts and creates an illusion that military rather than political solutions are viable. By initiating a serious discussion within the G-20, world leaders can build momentum for the work of those U.N. organizations that are responsible for progress in this area – the Security Council and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Following the London summit meeting, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain called the gathering a step toward a “new progressive era of international cooperation.” Though there is still a way to go before that becomes a reality, it is the direction in which we must move.

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union and is president of the International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies in Moscow.

source: The New York Times

Pakistan Rebuffs Taliban Advance


Pakistan showed signs of heeding U.S. calls to robustly battle the Taliban as government troops, backed by helicopter gunships, clashed with militants near the Swat Valley and an official who brokered a peace deal with the insurgents was removed.

The Obama administration has been talking with Pakistan’s leadership in recent days to “encourage” its military not to cede more ground to the Taliban, according to senior U.S. officials. To support the effort and bolster stability in Pakistan, the State Department is seeking to accelerate delivery of $1 billion in aid, senior U.S. officials said.

“Pakistan is in an emergency situation,” Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, said in an interview Sunday. “An argument could be made for the acceleration of the aid.”

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Associated Press

Pakistani paramilitary maintain a position on a high post in the troubled area of Pakistan’s Lower Dir district Sunday. Pakistan launched an operation against militants in a district covered by a government-backed peace deal.

Islamabad’s commitment to the truce in Swat was tested again Sunday when militants ambushed a convoy of paramilitary police in Lower Dir district, west of the Swat Valley.

The army responded by shelling militant positions and strafing them from helicopters, said a senior military officer. One policeman and several militants were killed, Pakistan’s military said.

The paramilitary unit, the Frontier Corps, wrested at least one of the district’s towns from Taliban control by late Sunday, Pakistan’s military said. How much of the district remained under Taliban control was unclear.

The Swat Valley has become a major militant base since the government struck a peace accord with the Taliban in mid-February. Militants have since advanced to surrounding districts.

The government looked likely to abandon what has largely been its one-sided truce unless the Taliban completely pulled back to the valley, Pakistani officials and Western diplomats said.

President Asif Ali Zardari’s spokesman insisted Sunday the accord in Swat remained “intact,” suggesting the military operation would be limited to Lower Dir.

The accord saw the army pull back and the Taliban impose a harsh brand of Islamic law on Swat. The militants have also kept their weapons, which a Taliban spokesman said Sunday they needed to enforce the rulings of Islamic courts being set up under the peace deal. Taliban “do not lay down weapons,” he said.

Pakistan’s military moved in to Lower Dir after the Taliban, who had come from Swat, reportedly began kidnapping prominent residents for ransom, a Pakistani official said. An indefinite curfew was imposed on the district, where 12 children were killed Saturday while playing with a bomb.

The violence in Dir came after hundreds of Taliban fighters from Swat pulled out of the Buner district, south of the valley, which they seized last week. The government and Taliban officials said “local” Taliban remained in Buner — 70 miles from Islamabad — dug in at mountain camps and manning checkpoints in remote parts of the district. The Taliban have also sent scores of young men from Buner to training camps in Swat.

The U.S. has pressed Pakistan to move against the militants, fearing they will build on gains in Swat to push further into the heavily populated heartland.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen has talked with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, in recent days, according to senior U.S. officials. Mr. Holbrooke is having regular discussions with Mr. Zardari, opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. President Barack Obama has been leading the U.S. response, officials said. Mr. Zardari is due in Washington on May 6-7 for a meeting with Mr. Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai to be focused largely on better coordinating the fight against the Taliban. The meeting will also now focus on finding ways to quickly strengthen Islamabad’s finances and fighting capabilities.

Washington pledged $1 billion for Islamabad this month as part of a wider five-year $7.5 billion package, and that first installment can be distributed more quickly if Congress decides to do so.

In another indication Islamabad may be having second thoughts about the truce, the top administrator for Swat and surrounding areas, Syed Mohammed Javed, was replaced over the weekend for allegedly maintaining close contact with wanted Taliban commanders — although his local ties got him the job.Mr. Javed earlier this month met Faqir Mohammed, a Taliban commander whose forces have been battling Pakistani soldiers in the nearby Bajaur region. Intelligence officials in Islamabad say he has also met with al Qaeda’s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.Mr. Javed said he was being moved from Malakand as part of a “routine” transfer and denied having any contact with Mr. Zawahiri or other wanted militants. He said he hadn’t been told his new assignment.

Mr. Javed was named last year the commissioner of Malakand — a region that includes Swat, Buner and Dir — because of his close relationship with Sufi Mohammed, a radical cleric whose son-in-law leads the Taliban faction in Swat, say analysts.

His replacement, Fazal Karim Khattack, now must contend with the Taliban and a peace deal that has begun to look increasingly one-sided.

Corrections & Amplifications
The Lower Dir district of Pakistan is west of the Swat Valley. A previous version of this story incorrectly said it was north of Swat.

source: The Wall Street Journal