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Afghans want peace!

Interesting Article: Poll: Afghanistan turns from Taliban by TIM MAK / Kabul published Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An interesting article mentioned a recent poll taken in Afghanistan. According to a survey conducted by Asia Foundation, support for the Taliban among Afghans has steadily decreased in recent years and people strongly back a government peace initiative. The survey was released by the nonprofit San Francisco-based Asia Foundation on Tuesday and it indicates that the majority of Afghans are weary of insecurity and corruption, and distressed by poverty and corruption. The survey has found that majority of Afghan adults, 82 percent, are in favor of reconciliation and reintegration efforts of the Afghan government. The number of those who have said they sympathized with the aims of the Taliban has dropped to 29 percent compared to 40 percent last year and 56 percent in 2009, it said. The survey has also found that there is some confidence in Afghanistan's economic development, but it showed dissatisfaction with the state's ability to deliver both security and clean government. So what does this mean?

A quick look at the survey results show that there is some confidence in Afghanistan's economic development, but it showed dissatisfaction with the state's ability to deliver both security and clean government. It has identified a lack of security as the biggest problem in the country by 38 percent of those polled, especially in the south and eastern region where insurgency has been at its highest. Seventy one percent of those polled have said they did not feel safe travelling from one part of Afghanistan to another. Although roughly half of those polled thought the Afghan police and army were "unprofessional and poorly trained," a growing number of people thought they were steadily improving, the survey showed. The number of those who feel Afghan security forces can operate without international help has reduced, but the majority of people think they can't. The report says that nearly half of those asked, or 46 percent, thought the country was moving in the right direction. Reconstruction and rebuilding, good security in some areas and improvements in the education system were the main reasons. But for the first time since the survey began in 2004, a rising number now think that Afghanistan is moving in the wrong direction - an increase to 35 percent from 27 last year, it says. Those who thought the country was moving in the right direction, Forty percent who thought the country was moving in the right direction highlighted reconstruction as the primary reason. The survey took place between July 2 and August 11, and involved face-to-face interviews with 6,348 Afghan citizens across all 34 provinces. Speaking at a press conference with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, President Obama said a transition process was now under way to allow Afghans to build their capacity and take on a greater security role over the next two years. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also been setting out his vision for the country in speeches to the loya jirga, or national assembly. According to the 2004 Afghan constitution, loya jirgas (or grand assemblies) are held to take decisions relating to Afghanistan's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and the "supreme interests of the country," to amend the constitution or to prosecute the president. The current loya jirga is intended to discuss a proposed longer-term military relationship with the United States as well as ways to push forward reconciliation with the Taliban. The constitution also states that loya jirgas consist of members of the national assembly and the chairpersons of the provincial and district councils. However, tribal elders, religious leaders and representatives of civil society, also attend. In turn, a number of parliamentarians are boycotting the meeting. Jirgas originated as a means of resolving differences between different Pashtun tribes (or clans). Traditionally, Pashtun tribal elders and religious leaders held jirgas to meet to discuss problems, appoint new leaders and so forth. From the late 19th century representatives of Afghanistan's other ethnic groups -- such as Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks -- were invited and the process became more formalized. One of the main subjects for discussion at the loya jirga is whether to allow the U.S. to maintain a longer-term military presence in Afghanistan. Many Afghans believe that without a U.S. presence, their country will be vulnerable to interference by its neighbors, as well as to the Taliban. The Taliban is attempting to position itself as a force resisting occupation, so aside from simply demonstrating its military reach, the loya jirga may make a decision which undermines their primary demand which is for foreign forces to leave. At the same time, the other element of the loya jirga is to push forward reconciliation with the Taliban. There is widespread public support within Afghanistan for the reconciliation process but an absence of strategy over how to push the process forward, particularly in the aftermath of the assassination of the head of the High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, in September. However, amongst non-Pashtuns in particular, there is greater wariness of any moves that would allow the Taliban to return to power. Many of those most opposed have boycotted the meeting. The meeting provides a political strategy to deal with the Taliban, and then it would be deemed a success. On the other hand, if the meeting fails to deliver then Karzai's position will be weakened. Having chosen to sideline the democratic institutions, he needs to demonstrate that he does have a wider support base among traditional power structures. While notions of tribal identity remain strong, there will be a constant temptation to sideline elected institutions. At the same time, the "democratic" institutions also have an over-representation of "traditional" tribal leaders. Political power stems from gaining votes: tribal leaders frequently decide which way their group will vote in the hope of gaining access to patronage in the future. At the same time, political parties are also sidelined in the current political system, reinforcing a system in which access to power and resources stems from family links rather than political differences. Both factors suggest that the power of tribal elites, and hence of jirgas, is going to remain a factor in Afghan politics for a while. In time, if Afghanistan was to undergo a sustained period of economic development and urbanization it would seem reasonable to assume that traditional power structures would be replaced by newer democratic institutions, based on merit or political ideology rather than birthright. However, for the foreseeable future, that seems a long way off.

"Q&A: What is a loya jirga?". BBC News. July 1, 2002
Agha Amin, Resolving the Afghan-Pakistan Border Question, Journal of Afghanistan Studies, Kabul
"Grand jirga in Kalat decides to move ICJ". The Dawn Edition. September 22, 2006.
"Baloch chiefs to approach International Court of Justice" (PDF). India eNews. September 26, 2006.


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