Why Can't Afghans Make Adequate Partners?

Discussion in 'Afghanistan' started by Shaukat Zamani, Jun 29, 2010.

  1. Shaukat Zamani

    Shaukat Zamani Rookie

    Jun 14, 2010
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    Shaukat Zamani

    June 23, 2010

    Afghans are increasingly being characterized as inadequate partners in the current last-ditch, American-led Western efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan.

    We are seen as unable to provide responsible governance, we are corrupt, we personify administrative ineptitude, and efforts to build the Afghan security and other vital institutions are faltering because of our all-round failures.

    It pains me a great deal to hear such characterizations for many obvious reasons, not least of which is the fact that the idea runs counter to the historical notion of what we call Afghanyat – Afghanhood or being an Afghan – which, among many of its common applications, means patriotism, courage, dignity and responsibility.

    My contention is that the failures referred to above are not a simple matter of the failure of the current Afghan regime. The failure of the current Afghan regime rather is symptomatic of a larger Afghan failure. Blaming the Afghan Government, corrupt officials, or the so-called warlords alone hides a much larger and an important truth about the current Afghan dilemma.

    We are failing as a nation today. And, above all, a collective will on our part, a collective sense of moral, social and political right and wrong, is grossly missing.

    Today Afghanistan has a comprehensive problem, underlined by the fact that we are tragically and conspicuously absent in the Western-led efforts to bring stability to our country. Rather, we seem to be part of the problem.

    The purpose of this article is to encourage a debate, one that starts from a position of being self-critical, in an effort to arrive at real, meaningful, objective, practical and pragmatic solutions to the problems we are facing today as a nation.

    We need to find a way to own the responsibility of restoring peace and stability to our country, for the Westerners will inevitably be gone sooner or later, and before that happens, we need to have mustered sufficient ability to stand on our own two feet, especially politically.

    More importantly, the fact whether we can stand on our own feet, before our Western friends are gone, will determine, in many respects, the very nature of our political and economic future. At stake is whether we as a nation can manage to shepherd our democratic experiment forward or become (or remain) a failed state.

    The onus thus to provide our future generations with better prospects than the ones you and I have had to put up with falls flatly on our own shoulders.

    We must act before it is too late.

    So what needs to be done?

    I do not purport to have all the answers. Rather I want us all to begin looking inward and start digging deep for answers, for solutions, and for action.

    I would like us to begin with looking critically at own our role, above all, as educated Afghans – especially those of us who have had the privilege of a world-class modern education in the West– and what is that we can do to become part of a possible solution to our seemingly insolvable national dilemma.

    I agree with the common notion that the Afghan problem is a combination of many external and internal factors, some beyond the reach of you and I. I agree that we are far removed from the centre of political gravity in Afghanistan at the moment. That counts too. But none of these directly translates to a position that we are irrelevant.

    We must seek to become relevant.

    To me, the external factors of the Afghan war today are less important than the internal factors. The internal factors themselves, I believe, are not just a simple matter, as commonly thought, of a lack of education in Afghanistan.

    The deeper causes of our inability to play a constructive role in our country, Afghanistan today, for me, are psychological and socio-anthropological.

    I believe our problems are as much the product of our neighbors’ interference in our sovereign affairs, as they are a product of our own propensity to pursue self-interest, but also, and more importantly, because of a persistent failure on our part to see ourselves, as individual Afghans, as being important agents of change in our country.

    The current Afghan Government, for instance, is not simply made up of warlords and a bunch of illiterates. During my recent trip to Afghanistan, to the contrary, I found the Government bureaucrats, almost at all levels, to be highly educated. (Where they lacked proficiency – for example English and information technology skills – it wasn’t entirely their fault. It is no secret that the Afghan elementary, secondary and tertiary curriculum is totally obsolete, and has been so for the past 50 or more years.)

    The current power structure and the higher echelons of Government bureaucracy in Afghanistan is home to many so-called Afghan “technocrats”, a fashionable term to describe progressive-minded Afghan expatriates, some with important Western pedigree. The fact is that there is not much to boast about the achievements of these technocrats in Afghanistan, though a handful have made important contributions in recent years. The tendency to fill our pockets with the billion dollar Western windfall does not seem to be limited to the warlords and local Government officials alone. The technocrats, and the many Western-based “businessmen”, seem to have outdone the local Afghans in this respect.

    I believe our failures are symptomatic of a rather larger tendency, or an embodiment of a certain Afghan trait, which I call the “me, now” factor; that it must be all about “me” and it has to be “now”.

    National interests and longer-term aims thus are renounced in pursuit of self-interest and shorter-term gains. Somewhat, the pursuit of self-interest seems to exist in our society in a much more obvious level, in a much more forceful manner. (Perhaps an embodiment of all primordial societies.)

    At the same time, we seem to exhibit, with an extraordinary docility, an ability to blame others, foreigners that is, for all the evils that have befallen our society.

    This unfortunately is symptomatic of a national weakness, rather an inability to consider ourselves as responsible for shaping our own destiny. Conspiracy theories seem to dominate the minds of most of us.

    As a digression, for many Afghans, for instance, the Americans and other Westerners are in Afghanistan today to manipulate us, to exploit us, and to colonize us. My own humble view is that the Westerners will be gone from our country sooner or later. There is a certain fatigue on the part of the Western taxpayer – the invisible ultimate player funding the war and the rebuilding in Afghanistan today– that does not bode well for our country and our people.

    Coming back to the main topic, I believe, it is our internal inabilities that encourage external factors to play a dominant role in our country today.

    So what do we do?

    I am inclined to say that what Afghanistan really needs today is a Renaissance, one that must start with a series of small, deep-rooted and important changes that must be driven by Afghans themselves.

    The Afghan Renaissance must be initiated, driven and actioned by the educated class, the Afghan intelligentsia, with the Afghan diaspora as the vanguard.

    The change we seek must start with a change of attitude. The starting point of this self-transformation must be to take responsibility for our own failures. Only, and only then, will we be able to forge together and take responsibility for our future.

    We must be courageous enough to admit our failures. By embracing our failures, we would have taken important steps towards creating a better, freer, and more progressive Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan is our country and only Afghans can be the true builders of stability, peace, progress, and ultimately justice in our country.

    I hope this article will lead to a long and hard debate by my fellow Afghans in order for us to find a common ground which will help us identify a common path, leading to the creation of a better Afghanistan for our future generations.

    I hope to build on some aspects of this article in a series of essays in the future.

    Shaukat Zamani is the founder of Help Afghan Education. He can be reached on: shaukat.zamani@helpafghaneducation.org
  2. editec

    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

    Jun 5, 2008
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    We are now BRIBING tribal warlords to allow us to build roads in Afghanistan.

    Billions of dollars are being shipped out of Afghanistan and put into banks (we're informed) in more stable Islamic nations

    Now think about this...

    In order for us to conduct a war in Afghanistan, we are bribing people so that the American people can build an infastructure that we (the people of the USA) will not use.

    Does this make sense to those of you who support this war?

    If so, please explain how bribing warlords in Afghanistan in order for us to be ALLOWED to build roads in Afghanistan is ADVANCING US interests.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2010

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