Almost twelve years have passed since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but peace remains elusive. Four interlocking challenges with internal, regional, transnational, and international dimensions impede Afghanistan’s stabilization and reconstruction. Each challenge facing Afghanistan feeds off the others, and together they have engendered a vicious circle that is destabilizing the country.
The challenges currently facing Afghanistan and the US-led international coalition are cumulative. They did not pop up overnight. They have been evolving since the Taliban was driven from power in late 2001. In the case of narcotics trafficking, failure to properly assess the problem’s causes and effects is encouraging misperceptions.
After decades of violence, the opium poppy crop remains one of the few stable income sources for poor Afghan farmers, who cannot be effectively persuaded to end poppy cultivation without being granted alternative ways of making a living. In 2005, most farmers complied with the poppy ban set out by the Afghan government with the understanding that legal alternative means of survival would be provided. But when the promised aid failed to materialize, drug production quickly rose again.
Canadians are growing increasingly jittery about their country’s military participation in Afghanistan. A majority of Canadians now wonder if the political cost of maintaining troops in Afghanistan is too high. They should realize that the cost of not being there would be even higher.
After 31 years of violence and elusive peace, the opium poppy crop remains one of the few stable income sources for poor Afghan farmers, who cannot be effectively persuaded to end poppy cultivation without being granted alternative ways of making a living. Most farmers usually comply with the frequent poppy ban set by the Afghan government with the understanding that legal alternative means of survival will be provided. But when the promised aid fails to materialise, drugs production quickly rises again. This is a repeatedly learnt lesson that must be heeded.
Now is the time to finish the job we began in Afghanistan five years ago. Last year saw a desperate and vicious onslaught by a new generation of Taliban forces with enhanced logistical and financial support. More than 4,000 Afghans, many of them civilians, were killed in military actions in 2006, a three-fold increase from the previous year. Suicide attacks — a phenomenon unknown to Afghans before 2002 — jumped to 118 from 21. As our intelligence capabilities improve, we are finding and arresting more boys who arrive in Afghanistan fresh from ideological brainwashing in foreign madrassas. They weep when they are caught, not out of remorse, but because they have been denied their martyrdom. And despite the presence of aid workers from more than 60 countries in Afghanistan, 44 Afghan women die each day in childbirth.
India’s initiative to host the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan tomorrow is a welcome step forward in enabling the country to achieve long-term economic self-reliance, in line with the key objectives of recent international conferences. The one-day summit intends to showcase Afghanistan’s economic potential and attract foreign investment, while exploring possibilities of cross-country investment partnerships and collaborative ventures from within the region and beyond as a regional and international confidence-building measure.
We often hear about Afghanistan’s domestic, regional, and transnational challenges each posed by the country’s abject poverty, the Taliban’s cross-border insurgency, and terrorism and drug trafficking that collectively destabilize Afghanistan. But we seldom pay attention to the greatest challenge posed to Afghanistan’s nation-building process by a lack of aid resources coupled with weak strategic coordination of aid implementation by the international community. Some of these challenges deserve special mention both to help overcome them and to avoid collective failure in a country where the international community continues to have the highest chance of success in view of Afghans’ optimism for a better future and their unlimited support for the international peace-building efforts in Afghanistan.
This past November, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released its annual survey of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for 2017. As ever, the survey’s findings are hardly surprising. They reflect the periodic fluctuations in the amount of opium poppy cultivated and produced in the country. Last year, cultivation increased to 328,000 hectares and production to nine thousand metric tons—a 87 percent increase over 2016.