AREU Synthesis Paper Series
narratives of secularism and communist economic policy as implemented under the PDPA in the 1980s; in the post-2001 era, many suspect “democracy” of being an externally-imposed imperialist project, a view fuelled by fundamentalist groups which denounce it as anti-Islamic propaganda. This is not to say that many in Afghanistan do not recognise the potential benefits that a political system based on democratic politics could bring; there is widespread support for elections, for example, and for a potentially inclusive decision- making body such as the Wolesi Jirga—if it were to be truly inclusive. But the weak structures of democratisation that have been put in place since the Bonn Process began have not served to inspire Afghan confidence in the system’s potential ability to challenge corrupt, violent and entrenched powerholders who now seem richer and more influential than ever before.
2.2 Today’s Afghanistan: A world away from 2001
Issues of democratisation in Afghanistan also need to be considered in the current context—much has changed in ten years and there are now a different set of factors at play. Security has decreased significantly over this time and there are an increasing number of areas under insurgent control. For many Afghans, administrative corruption has also reached new heights in recent years, contributing
to a dramatic turnaround in general perceptions of the Karzai government—now bitterly resented by many.37 Furthermore, the continued context of insecurity in which there is neither outright war nor consolidated peace has created substantial opportunities for the enrichment of powerful elites. The lack of concern paid to how donor funds are actually spent while attention is diverted to stabilisation efforts has allowed certain key public figures to accumulate vast wealth, a fact not lost on the rest of the population.38 These three factors raise serious doubts about the capability, legitimacy and political will of institutions ostensibly designed to promote the furthering of a democratic agenda in the country. In doing so, they thus threaten the sustainability of the democratisation process as a whole.
Another dynamic currently at play within the Afghan context is the growing possibility of negotiations and talks with the Taliban in the context of the broader exit strategy for international forces. These have been contributing directly to discussions on democratisation in Afghanistan, in the talks about “red lines”—the bare minimum requirements of the international community in terms of the functioning of the state if and when the Taliban are included; in discussions about women’s rights and how they might be affected by these negotiations; and in the possibility of power-sharing in any eventual settlement, which could directly contradict methods of selecting government by democratic means.39
Karen Hussmann, Manija Gardizi and Yama State or State-Crafted Corruption? Exploring
Torabi, “Corrupting the Nexus Between
Andrew Wilder and Stewart Gordon, “Money Can’t Buy America
c o m / a r t i c l e s / 2 0 0 9 / 1 2 / 0 1 / m o n e y _ c a n t _ b u y _ a m e r i c a _ l o 21 April, 2011). v e
Success in Afghanistan: What can the US accept?” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2010, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66450/ stephen-biddle-fotini-christia-and-j-alexander-thier/defining-success-
in-afghanistan (accessed 21 April 2011).