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

Monday, March 30, 2009

New ECFR report on European policy towards Afghanistan

Daniel Korski is shaping Europe's Afghan surge in the European Council on Foreign Relations' new policy brief.

Daniel Korski: Shaping Europe's Afghan Surge. European Council on Foreign Relations policy brief, ECFR/11, March 2009, available at http://ecfr.3cdn.net/4599862142844e090e_oum6bzv4y.pdf, downloaded on 30 March 2009.

I found the brief interesting all the way, but even so I have to frankly say that I cannot endorse everything that is in there. For me, talk of arming Pashtun tribes or of getting Karzai to become ready to meaningfully negotiate with the Taliban is just something that doesn't conform to my understanding of the situation in Afghanistan at all. Afghanistan is not tribal, and the question is how to get the Taliban to meaningfully negotiate with us (not the other way around). I also made the point, several times, that the problem in Afghanistan is not a "liberal state-building project," but any kind of state-building project that was talked of a lot but was not adequately resourced or realised.

Otherwise the brief does offer food for thought in its proposals. For an example, what do you say about a PRT for the capital Kabul? How is that for an ink blot approach to the problems in Afghanistan? Honestly, I have to say it doesn't sound entirely good to me. The political head of such a PRT would remind me of a Kabul-based superenvoy, taking further ground from under Karzai's feet. And with only a tiny little fraction of the ridiculously low amount of money spent on Afghanistan spent by the Afghan government itself, I'm not sure it's less of the Afghan government that we want in the name of state-building.

There is much talk of the light footprint approach being practiced in Afghanistan up to these days. But if we look at the footprint left by the donors on the aid flow, that footprint is not light at all, in terms of its proportions.

Talking about the money, here are some measures from the very telling data provided in the ECFR policy brief.

Firstly, from page 11, data on how important Iraq was, for a long time, even in the European Commission's spending, compared to Afghanistan.

Secondly, from page 12, data on a sample of EU countries and their aid in 2007 to a number of key recipients, including Afghanistan. Watch out for an interesting indicator of Germany's stance on Iraq.
The brief draws attention to this irrationally unconsidered aspect of the Afghanistan project. Just a couple of days ago I was telling people at a lecture how the above-700-billion dollars were spent by the US in Iraq, while Pakistan received more than 10 billion from the US for its part since 2001 (some of which was counter-productive; some of which financed weapons purchases from China against India). Those figures in themselves are frustrating enough when one hears people finding it a waste to spend one more dollar in Afghanistan. But when one is even faced with higher or similar EU aid flows to countries not experiencing problems on the same level, it is a tipping point.

It is at this (tipping) point where one has to draw attention to the fundamental obstacle to the endeavour that Europe should shape Afghanistan policy. Saying that we are going to run away, and do not have much (time, money and human sacrifice) to spend there, is not a good bargaining position from which one could have a very decisive say.

No comments: