On December 15, GMF and the U.S. Mission to NATO organized a discussion in Brussels with H.E. Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi, governor of Kunar province in Afghanistan, and H.E Halim Fedaiee, governor of Maydan Wardak province in Afghanistan, as guest speakers. The event was attended by representatives of official European institutions, think-tanks, and media.
Both governors began the discussion by positively noting that in the last few years the level of development has significantly progressed in Afghanistan. Infrastructure and irrigation projects are being developed, the educational system has expanded, and health care availability has increased. This is real progress compared to the situation before the war in 2001, but this good news is often understated in media coverage from Afghanistan, Fedaiee said. The media focuses on violent incidents and does not distinguish between common criminals and insurgents, nor does it notice that the religious propaganda does not reflect the reality of the unpopularity of the Taliban among the Afghan people, according to the governors. Finally, the coordination with the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces has been very constructive, Wahidi emphasized, and the Afghan people much appreciate their great efforts.
However, both provinces share similar security concerns. Insurgents and criminals are still highly active in the provinces. The most imminent strategic goal to fight this disruption is to find a better balance between security and development efforts. "Poverty and insecurity cannot be eradicated solely by arms," Fedaiee said. Instead, strong and fair governance is needed. Efforts to develop a more integrated security and development strategy will take time, since it is much easier to destroy than to reconstruct. By eradicating poppy production and fighting corruption, local governments try to do their part. But they need the strong support from international forces and donor aid to achieve these goals. They cannot alone provide poppy producers with a viable alternative livelihood or combat the unpopular insurgents and fight local corruption.
The governors' demand for more international troops does not contradict their positive assessment of the current security situation, they argued. Troops and donor aid are needed to train and equip local security forces to prepare them for a renewed Afghan monopoly on the use of force, Wahidi explained. Currently, Afghan national police are not fit for the tasks they are presented with, due to low payment and an overburdened task list.
To successfully sustain the progress the international community has made in Afghanistan, the international development effort has to be long-term. Currently, widespread poverty, foreign religious extremists, plain criminals, and analphabetism all undermine the modernizing impulse of Afghan reconstruction. In Kunar province, Pakistani refugees and an uncontrollable border add to the fragility of the security situation. Yet despite the bleak situation, the governors concluded that with time and perseverance, stability, and democracy could have a chance in Afghanistan.