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(Re)Constructing Afghanistan: After the Bonn agreement

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The first fundamental problem: Security in Afghanistan.
    1. The underestimation of needs and the dubious security strategies.
    2. The warlords: A major threat for security.
    3. Regionalism and ethnic conflicts.
    4. The difficulties to build a valid Afghan police force.
  3. State building and constitutional basis: Difficult projects and contrasted results.
    1. An extremely hard political context to build a democratic state.
    2. The need for a strong central state.
    3. The Afghan constitution: an important first step.
    4. Results and perspectives of the state building.
  4. Building a legitimate state.
    1. The difficulties of providing a satisfying ethnic representation without throwing the bases of a new legitimacy for the warlords.
    2. The heavy hand of foreign actors.
    3. The elections: The end of the transitional process?
  5. Financing the reconstruction.
    1. The afghan dependency to foreign donors.
    2. Building a formal economy.
    3. Understanding the drug economy in Afghanistan.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. Reading list.

The 5th of December 2001, the Bonn agreement was the first text attempting to build a basis for a new start of the Afghan nation after the American invasion. It was set by international actors as different as the UN, who supervised the conference, the US, the EU, Saudi Arabia and the World Bank. The preamble sets out the overriding goals of the transition process, it should build Afghanistan as a society with a fully representative government ?in accordance with the principles of Islam, democracy, pluralism and social justice.? As ideal guides for the transition process, these goals have no timetable for implementation. The second and main part of the agreement is a precise outline of structures and processes to be realized within two and a half years. This is a strategy of action and is described as a ?step towards? the ultimate goals. To understand these goals, it should be taken into account the very specific history of Afghanistan. This country had to undergo more than twenty years of war and conflicts situations. Starting from 1973, Mohammed Daoud Khan took control of Afghanistan thanks to a military coup. Daoud abolished the monarchy, abrogated the 1964 constitution, and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as its first President and Prime Minister.

[...] The central government that the Bonn Agreement wanted to establish has never been strong enough. Warlords constitute a major threat for security because they recognize no other authority than theirs. The rule of gun prevails. They are terrorizing the population to prove their strength and legitimate their status of local chiefs. By intimidating the proponents of the ?loya jirga?, the traditional grand council, they can keep the control of their region. In the Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper Afghanistan: Return of the Warlords, we can read very interesting testimonies such as the one of ?loya jirga? commission observers for a local election: ?There was a leader named Wakil Dost Mohammad Khan, who was an elder, not a military commander. [...]

[...] After the end of the war, they were considered as winners, so they had the possibility to participate in large scale to the Bonn process, whereas no member of the former taliban administration was invited in Bonn. It appears that the members of the conference wanted to change the balance for Afghanistan not to be Pashtun state? anymore. In fact, there was also a widespread idea among the international community that Pashtun representatives would be more easily sensitive to pressures coming from the Pakistani Pashtun community. [...]

[...] Consequently, the implementation of the political part of the Bonn Agreement suffers from a chronicle lack of legitimacy. The sources of power are not enough in the hand of the Afghan state. They are widespread between the warlords, the government and the international actors. There was an important hope for the election to redirect this power into the elected organs of the state, but the youth of these organs make them vulnerable to intern divisions linked to the ethnic diversity of the population. [...]

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