March 05, 2008

DNI Debates

A week ago, Mike McConnell, US Director of National Intelligence, declared that the Afghan National government held control over 30% of Afghanistan while the Taliban held 10% and traditional elders administered the remaining territory.

The Afghan government was, shall we say, not sanguine about the assessment. Two days ago, Amrullah Saleh, the Afghan equivalent of Mike McConnell except that he actually has command authority, shot back.

Amrulleh Saleh said that eight of the country's 364 districts, which account for about five percent of the land and two percent of Afghanistan's population, are outside central government control.

"While in America, an administration fully backed by tribal chiefs or dominated by tribal chiefs may be seen as a liability," said Saleh. "But here we see it as a very strong asset."

Now, Kip has the utmost respect for Saleh and his organization (the NDS or National Directorate of Security), which has totally been overlooked by the military forces in Afghanistan. And, Kip understands the need to respond and the way traditional government has ruled in Kabul. Yet the truth is that the Afghan government under Karzai, unlike previous successful leaders such as Nadir Shah and Abdur Rahman, has failed to reach out to the tribes and other traditional leaders. The Ministry of Kuchi and Tribal Affairs is essentially one old building with one old bureaucrat established not for tribal outreach but instead to preserve the governments ability to reject the Durand line.

As an example of the ineptitude, a huge, multiple eastern province tribal jirga organized by the Tribal Liaison Office, an Afghan NGO, and covered by Tolo and Ariana TV in November 2007 was an indicator of the sentiments of the tribes (we hate the central government and ISAF for corruption and breaking their promises) and the lack of both government and international interest in the tribes as indicated by the low-level central government and non-existent ISAF participation in the event.

While it is normally Secretary Gates' job to get NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's panties in a knot, Kip suspects that the future of Afghanistan will be determined by the 60% of Afghanistan's population not ruled by the Taliban or the Kabul regime.