Nine months after its establishment, the National Unity Government of Afghanistan has not been successful in accomplishing its basic goals.
Following the establishment of the National Unity Government (NUG) under the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghans were anticipating a genuinely better future for their country. The hopes were for social, political and economic security in a country that has been at war for more than three decades. The underlying assumption was that the NUG would be able to improve the economy, provide security and undertake serious measures against corruption that the new administration had inherited from the previous government of former president Hamid Karzai.
Despite massive national and international support for security, good governance and the rule of law, during two stints of president Karzai, corruption and insecurity remained pervasive and had found roots even in the highest ranks of the government. Since Mr. Karzai’s ruling strategy was to divide and rule, he and his trusted cronies did not focus on countering corruption and building state institutions that could tackle Afghanistan’s myriad challenges.
Moreover, Afghanistan’s nascent democracy in the context of changing regional dynamics for connectivity and prosperity in terms of economic growth and investment provided a unique opportunity with abundance international support that was wasted during this historical time.
For these reasons, there was an overwhelming optimism in the minds of the Afghan nation that the new government would serve them better particularly in areas of security and economic growth; both of which remain primary concerns for the Afghans. And the need for political stability was required more than ever in the nation’s history as last year’s elections were meant to alter the country’s social, political and economic landscape. Unfortunately, none of the these expectations materialized in the face of a weak and polarized NUG, which was formed after a long and contested elections that in fact did not produce any winner.
On the other hand, the Unity Government struggled from the very beginning due to different political leanings and constituencies among the two major political camps. The existence of such differences of opinion between the leaders of the National Unity Government (Messrs. Abdullah and Ghani) continue to persist and challenge the survival of the fragile Kabul government that is still stuck with stark political divisions. In addition to the prevalent internal problems, the unity government is also faced with dire security, political and economic challenges that have exacerbated as the U.S. and its partners have withdrawn for the most part, leaving Afghanistan without enough military and economic support.
These developments have rendered NUG unable to fully form its cabinet and fill other senior positions including defense minister whose role is critical in strategizing the counter insurgency efforts against the Taliban. Moreover, the appointment of the provincial governors which have not yet taken place is another important task before the leaders of NUG that ought to be addressed immediately in order to deliver basic services across the country. As the security situation has deteriorated with Taliban stepping up their attacks in various provinces, people have increasingly lost hopes and expectations in the performance of the new government. The Afghan people rightly point to the fact that the NUG has not even been able to form its own structures including key cabinet members let alone fulfilling their hollow promises of the election campaign.
As a result Kabul is stuck in a dangerous political stalemate among the Presidential Palace and the Chief Executive Office. The two power structures in charge of the NUG have major political differences on almost every major issue pertaining the country’s political prospects, which has prevented them to establish an effective government that can address the aspirations of the Afghan people who impatiently want peace and security in their country. But after almost nine months of the new government, it seems that political Kabul is totally dysfunctional and therefore unable to take concrete measures on reforms, create economic opportunity and launch a successful military campaign against the Taliban who are determined to destabilize Afghanistan.
Chief among other reform areas is the country’s electoral reform that the people including the Office of the Chief Executive have consistently voiced great concerns over the government’s lack of progress on electoral reforms. This issue has also been termed as a violation of the terms and conditions of the political agreement signed by Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah for laying the foundation of the NUG.
On the other hand, the electoral reform impasse has also caused a delay in holding of the parliamentary elections that according to the constitution must be held before June 2015. While the time is running out fast for the parliamentary elections, there is no political will in Kabul to appoint an independent commission along with its members in order to oversee the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Given the short period of time towards ending the mandate of the members of the parliament and getting closer to the elections, most Afghan and international actors seem to have tacitly acknowledged that the constitutional date cannot be met. The continuation of the present precarious condition would further undermine the authority and legitimacy of the NUG and alienate the people who have already lost hope in the effectiveness of the current administration. This is no good news for the Afghan democracy; neither does it bode well for the country’s economy and security. Therefore, the onus is on the leaders of the NUG to first reach a consensus among themselves and then work hard toward resolving the widespread internal and external challenges that surround Afghanistan and its people’s future. It is for the President and Chief Executive to abide by their political agreements and lead the country towards security, peace and prosperity.