What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Good governance robots needed in Afghanistan?

Not following anything too closely at this time of the year, I learned of Tooryalai Wesa's appointment as governor of Kandahar province via Ghosts of Alexander. As Christian notes over there, about the prospects of a man coming from "the mean streets of Coquitlam (Vancouver)":
"... the post is challenging. No kidding. It will be interesting to see how Wesa manages it."
I feel like a particular passage from the Walords of Afghanistan site's bio of Gul Agha Shirzai may serve as a kind of warning in this context:
"Sarah had a good virtuous Afghan picked out to replace Shirzai, but he would have disappointed her. Any governor of Kandahar must extort and embezzle. His fellow tribesmen expect largess from such income, as well as the plum jobs. A Kandahari who fails to provide for his tribe is immoral. Reforming Kandahar is not as easy as replacing the governor; we have to teach modern institutions to the people. Crazy as it sounds, this is possible. Athens and Rome, the very founders of modern government, started with tribes. But it can't be done in a day. It takes generations, and we haven't started."
I mostly agree with the part on one man's replacement never being enough. The entire province just can't be replaced with Switzerland. All these issues of governors and others to be replaced are very much related in my view to the West's general Hamed-Karzai-complex WRT Afghanistan ("if only we found the Right Man to be Our Man!"). That's my main point in this post.
One of the most interesting things to look out for in this particular case could be how Wesa deals with poppy eradication in Kandahar. Will he allow for eradication to take place outside the (relatively) carefully designated target areas? Will he cut deals to that end if it serves stability, or, say, Canadian troops' operational security? Will he accept such deals? How much will he be able to deviate from patterns observable under Gul Agha Shirzai or Assadullah Khalid? The Canadians really didn't prefer Khalid very much. There was the quarrel, even, between Canadian FM Maxime Bernier and Hamed Karzai in the past, over Khalid's removal (with Karzai only given some face-saving time in the end, before he did have to bow to Canadian pressure).
That Wesa plans to "work from the grassroots level," does not tell us much of how he plans to operate in Kandahar and how he looks to handle the poppy issue.
Will he be able or willing to perform there like a good-governance-robot? And if the answer is yes, just how much is a good-governance-robot able to change in Kandahar, ceteris paribus?

1 comment:

WASVL said...

I couldn't agree more. In fact Torialai just gave a long interview on Kandahar's TV station Hewaad ('Nation'). He's sticking to emphasising three things - security, electricity and infrastructure.

He's been pretty good on electricity so far, in my estimation. Since he arrived we've had electricity for at least 10 or 15 hours per day every day. No small feat. He just bought 6 generators in Dubai, and at least a million litres of fuel, and everyone in town is talking about this, (and praising him for it).

So don't underestimate him. He may have a Canadian passport, but he doesn't seem as clueless as some would have you believe...

Alex