By Ronald Bennett
I have read, on several occasions, articles that cite progress in the midst of violence in Afghanistan. Individuals have gone on to mention President Ashraf Ghani’s staunch efforts to fight corruption and rally the country, however, this is far from the truth and blatantly misleads the public.
After a long reign by President Hamid Karzai, the country endured a longwinded and hotly contested election in 2014. The race which had three primary candidates, Abdullah Abdullah, Ashraf Ghani and Zalmai Rassoul, suffered through multiple rounds of voting and, per usual in politics, battled wide scale corruption. “You wouldn’t even believe the extra-curricular efforts to tilt the scale in voting,” said an Afghan official who spoke on a condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. “Ballot boxes for one candidate were removed and replaced overnight with ballots indicating votes for another candidate. This is how it works here.”
…the concept of a National Unity Government in a country that is among the most ethnically and politically divided on the planet was an absurd notion in the first place and continues to show its weakness as the country edges closer to a coup and further civil disruption by the day…
After much debate and deliberation, the drawn out process could not satisfy the Afghans and their foreign partners alike, so they created a National Unity Government. Ashraf Ghani was elected to serve as President and the country created a new position of Chief Executive, which Ghani’s opponent Abdullah Abdullah now serves in. However, the concept of a National Unity Government in a country that is among the most ethnically and politically divided on the planet was an absurd notion in the first place and continues to show its weakness as the country edges closer to a coup and further civil disruption by the day.
Still, since Ghani and Abdullah assumed their respective roles, many have lauded the arrangement in the press and cited progress, a positive sound bite for the Afghan administration. Since day one, President Ghani has emphasized his public desire to quell the rabid corruption within Afghanistan while simultaneously padding his own pockets and those of his closest Pashtun allies. The Afghan official stated that the “corruption and kickbacks do not come in small forms, we are talking millions upon millions for those who are willing to follow suit and back Ghani.”
However, dissatisfaction within the country is not all related to politics or even among the ethnic and tribal spats that riddle the war-torn country. The more alarming fact is that the Taliban now control, by some estimates, more than fifty percent of the country, which only places the country closer to the precipice of war. As stated in a separate article, this fact is frequently hidden by the Ghani administration in order to produce a public message of order and stability.
So to say that the administration is making progress is a misleading and an inaccurate statement that causes readers across the globe to see a glimmer of hope in a country that is speeding for disaster on numerous fronts. While it is not my desire to see such negative activity in a country that I spent so many years in, my experience also helps me be acutely aware of the fact that there is no storybook ending in store for Afghanistan. In the case of the current political quagmire, I would be shocked to see the status quo remain through the new year, but as with all things in Afghanistan, one never knows.
Ronald Bennett is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and former Air Force veteran. Following his time in the Air Force, Bennett performed more than thirty deployments to the Middle East in order to perform covert action and counterterrorism operations for the United States Intelligence Community.
See more OpsLens content on Afghanistan: Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani Doesn’t Want the World to Know How Much Territory the Taliban Controls