Building a New Afghanistan


In the wake of the Taliban nightmare, Afghanistan must tackle serious problems before it can emerge as a confident, independent nation. Security in this battered state continues to deteriorate; suicide bombings, convoy ambushes, and insurgent attacks are all too common. Effective state building will depend upon eliminating the national security crisis and enhancing the rule of law. This book offers a blueprint for moving the embattled nation toward greater democracy and ...

See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (9) from $8.68   
  • New (3) from $16.85   
  • Used (6) from $8.68   
Sending request ...


In the wake of the Taliban nightmare, Afghanistan must tackle serious problems before it can emerge as a confident, independent nation. Security in this battered state continues to deteriorate; suicide bombings, convoy ambushes, and insurgent attacks are all too common. Effective state building will depend upon eliminating the national security crisis and enhancing the rule of law. This book offers a blueprint for moving the embattled nation toward greater democracy and prosperity.

Robert Rotberg and his colleagues argue that the future success of state building in Afghanistan depends on lessening its dependence on opium and enhancing its economic status. Many of Afghanistan's security problems are related to poppy growing, opium and heroin production, and drug trafficking. Building a New Afghanistan suggests controversial new alternatives to immediate eradication, which is foolish and counter-productive. These options include monetary incentives for growing wheat, a viable local crop. Greater wheat production would feed hungry Afghans while reducing narco-trafficking and the terror that comes with it. Integrating this land-locked country into the Central Asia or greater Eurasia economy would open up trading partnerships with its northern and western neighbors as well as with Pakistan, India, and possibly China. Developing a sense of common purpose among citizens would benefit the economy and could help to unite the nation. Perhaps most important, bolstering better governance in Afghanistan is necessary in order to eliminate chaos and corruption and enact nationwide reforms.

Fresh and insightful, Building a New Afghanistan shows what the country's leadership and the international community should do to resolve dangerous issues and bolster a still fragile state.

Contributors include Cindy Fazey (University of Liverpool), Ali Jalali (former minister of the interior, Afghanistan, and National Defense University), Hekmat Karzai (Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies, Afghanistan, and Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, Singapore), Alistair J. McKechnie (World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan), Paula Newburg (Skidmore College), and S. Frederick Starr (Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University).

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This collection of essays by experts with substantial reform experience on the ground, many in official capacities, provides readers with an excellent overview of the current situation in Afghanistan. It also offers both a comprehensive model of state-building and an understanding of the intricacies, vicious cycles, and practical dilemmas inherent in international development assistance....this book makes a powerful addition to the state-building literature." — International Journal on World Peace

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Robert I. Rotberg is director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict, Conflict Prevention, and Conflict Resolution at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and president of the World Peace Foundation. Rotberg is the author or editor of numerous books, including State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror (Brookings/WPF, 2003).

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Building A New Afghanistan

Brookings Institution Press

Copyright © 2007 Brookings Institution Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8157-7569-0

Chapter One

Renewing the Afghan State

Robert I. Rotberg

State building anywhere in the war-torn developing world is hard and exacting. Land-locked Afghanistan represents an extreme level of difficulty, not least because of the destruction of national political institutions during the Russian occupation and the Taliban hegemony. Today's Afghanistan is only very slowly learning how to build upon the wreckage of those years-how to create a government that succeeds for all Afghans. Establishing a nation in the full sense will continue to be a work in progress for many years. For now, it will be enough to establish a framework for good governance and for the administration of President Hamid Karzai to begin consistently to deliver a high order of political goods-security, rule of law, political freedom, and economic opportunity.

Return of the Taliban

As the chapters in this book and the daily news reports from Kandahar, Kabul, and elsewhere in Afghanistan make abundantly clear, the political good of security is only very slowly, very painfully, being realized in parts of the country. Throughout the country, especially in the strongholds of the newly revived Taliban, the writ of the Karzai government runs intermittently and only when enforced stringently by NATO and U.S. forces. In Helmand beginning in May 2006, there were major bursts of Taliban-instigated violence, causing many casualties. Throughout the rest of that spring and summer, attacks and firefights continued, testing recently arrived soldiers from Canada and Britain and undercutting the legitimacy of the Karzai government. As the head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency told Congress as early as February 2006, well before the major battles of the summer, the renewed Taliban insurgency presented a threat to the authority of the Karzai government more severe than any since 2001. "Something has gone alarmingly wrong in Afghanistan," the New York Times editorialized in June.

At least four southern Pashtun-dominated provinces-Helmand, Uruzgan, Zabul, and Kandahar-were deeply penetrated by the Taliban by May and June 2006. A villager told the Boston Globe in June that he had no choice but to help the Taliban. "They come in groups of five, ten, or twenty. Some are local, others are speaking Urdu ... and Arabic.... They ask for food, but you can't refuse. You can't argue with men with guns." Clearly, villagers in these unsafe provinces feel caught between the Taliban and the weakened government. "To be honest," one said, "we cannot fight anyone. We don't like either side."

The villager's dilemma is the national one. As the chapters by Ali A. Jalali, Hekmat Karzai, and Paula R. Newberg express at some length, in 2006 security in Afghanistan became increasingly elusive. Despite major initiatives to transform the Afghan National Army into a capable and strong military force, in 2006 it possessed insufficient firepower, hardly any indigenous air support, and no secure operational budget. Insecurity vitiated both the state-building and nation-building projects, undermined every conceivable recovery initiative, and made the four years from 2002 to 2006 seem like a bubble of opportunity that had been burst by the U.S. failure to extirpate Taliban remnants and locate Osama bin Laden and his protectors and by the Karzai government's refusal or inability fully to take charge and appear credible to villagers and warlords alike. On the positive side, as Newberg makes clear, reasonably free and fair national elections had been held in 2005, and a legitimized parliament had emerged that effectively challenged Karzai's executive prerogatives. Kabul had grown in size and wealth, and NATO or U.S., and sometimes Afghan, troops had managed now and then to push back Taliban and other insurgents. New roads had been constructed. Communications within the country were much improved. But villagers and inhabitants of several of the more significant regional centers, with their own overlords, hardly believed that the Karzai government was anything more than a distant, quasi-foreign implant.

The security situation continued to deteriorate throughout 2006. Each week brought renewed confrontations. Although NATO contingents in the Pashtun provinces of the south inflicted many casualties on the Taliban, they also lost surprising numbers of their own British, Canadian, Australian, and Dutch troops. The British commander of the NATO force admitted that the task of pacification was much more difficult than he had anticipated; the Taliban were much tougher and better equipped than he had been led to believe. He and the American commander of NATO called for substantial reinforcements from Europe.

The violence in southern Afghanistan also prevented NATO from winning local hearts and minds. Arguably, most Afghans were less secure in 2006 than they were under Taliban rule. No greater number of Afghans had access to electric power than they had in Taliban times. NATO, with money to spend, was not able to build bridges and market stalls, drill wells, construct schools, and otherwise enable villagers to go peacefully about their daily lives. In fact, as several chapters in this book hint, by mid-2006 it was clear that the Taliban, with rear bases in Pakistan, had seized the initiative from the United States and NATO. Whole rural areas became nogo areas for foreign troops. There had been a Taliban resurgence that persisted throughout the remaining months of the year.

Given these ominous developments in the southern countryside, suicide bombings in Kabul, the failure to find either Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar, and the massive income from narcotics trafficking and the resultant flow of arms into Taliban areas, it is no wonder that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that Afghanistan could become a failed state. She argued strongly against abandoning the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Indeed, toward the end of 2006, it was clear that Afghanistan had never really recovered from its early convalescence as a failed nation-state.

Without the ability to project state power beyond Kabul, and without a monopoly of force, the new state is bound to continue weak and troubled. If its writ fails to run very far, if the state seems more and more unable to protect villagers from the Taliban and from criminal gangs, and if the moral authority of the state seems weaker rather than stronger, state building becomes a much tougher project than ever before. Security at the personal level is critical and among the fundamental determinants of nation-state effectiveness. So far, personal security throughout the proto-nation remains a rhetorical aspiration. Consequently, nearly every other item on the state-building agenda will continue to be held hostage to security weaknesses and failures. Other political goods-together the germ of state building-are capable of being delivered best when a state is thoroughly secure.

There are many remedies. More foreign boots on the ground is one; in 2006 the NATO force battling the Taliban in four key southern provinces reached 20,000, plus another 12,000 American troops transferred to it from anti-al Qaeda duties, when at least double that first number were needed. Another answer was for the NATO and American troops on the ground to fight "smarter," engaging the local stakeholders more fully and providing realistic alternatives to whatever is being supplied by the Taliban. Villagers will back winners, as well as whichever party can offer them security and a proper economic future.

Rule of Law

The rule of law is in part what an effective national government promises. Otherwise the guns of the steppe govern, and the ability of Afghanistan's central administration to act with authority becomes more and more questionable. In any new state, and especially in a traditionally rough and dangerous area such as Afghanistan, creating a robust rule of law practice and atmosphere is critical. Doing so is essential if Afghanistan seeks to revive its economy and provide hope and opportunity to its long-battered constituents. Alastair J. McKechnie offers a diagram that expresses these interrelationships-what he terms "the informal equilibrium," with rule of law at the center and macroinstability and a poor regulatory framework on the periphery.

Afghans understand and appreciate both the common law and the sharia approaches to jurisprudence. Parts of Karzai's modern-tending state want desperately to follow a fully Western-based system that embraces individual rights and thus human rights. It also wants to strengthen a Western-style method of contract that is well adapted to international commerce. But Karzai's new Afghanistan also acknowledges the cultural vitality of traditional forms of lawmaking and adjudication. In domestic matters and in other large swathes of life, the clan-based notions of right and wrong are still potent. These inherent contradictions and ambiguities are reflected in the composition of the revived judicial system and are also intrinsic to the shifting manner in which justice is accomplished in a country that needs consistency and clear focus if it is to begin to create the institutions of a modern state.

Religiously conservative countries will always have difficulty establishing Western style democratic institutions and believing fully in them. Or, as Barnett Rubin writes, "The lack of judicial reform has become a bottleneck for security, governance, and economic development." The justice system is corrupt and ineffective, whether in the cities or in the villages, where customary, Islamic law still prevails despite the fine words of the new national constitution. The latter promises freedom of speech and sexual equality, but mullahs prefer to base their decisions on the constitutional article that says that no law can contradict the beliefs and provisions of Islam.

In the commercial arena, as Hedayat Amin Arsala discusses, a 1955 commercial code establishes dispute resolution procedures for businesses, side by side with sharia law and traditional systems of informal justice. Commercial entities, especially foreign ones, prefer greater predictability and certainty, and a much reduced expectation of corrupt practice. Arsala relates the government's anticorruption strategy, which includes a strengthening of public sector management and the legal system.

Judges are poorly paid, and most are clerics with little knowledge of or interest in the secular laws now being promulgated by the executive and legislative branches of the Afghan government. Some of the judges are barely literate, and prosecutors and police investigators are no more thoroughly trained or capable. Lengthy new legal codes may therefore be difficult to administer, much less translate into practice. Italy has been in charge of Western efforts to assist the Afghan judicial system, and some new judges and prosecutors have been trained, but the prevailing political culture of jurisprudence has not yet begun to alter significantly. Ali Jalali suggests that the court structure is outdated, personnel are unqualified, and corruption is deep-rooted.

In other words, any attempt by the Karzai government to deliver a high order of political goods across Afghanistan's critical sectors will be hindered-possibly fatally-by the regime's seeming need to placate or neutralize traditionalists, Islamists, and quasi-Islamists, and every leader whose base of support is rural and antimodern. Carlotta Gall called Karzai "a consummate tribal politician." But Karzai's administration also needs traditional and Islamist associations to help counter renewed appeal to Afghans by the Taliban. That is presumably why President Karzai attempted in 2006 to reappoint Fazel Hadi Shinwari as chief justice of the Afghan Supreme Court. Shinwari heads the Ulema Shura, or Council of Clerics, a group of 100 religious clerics from across Afghanistan. It meets monthly and approves President Karzai's decisions on many issues. Ultimately, the new parliament rejected Shinwari because of his lack of education, compelling Karzai to choose again. He then appointed and parliament approved a strong group of new jurists who were professionals and reformers, and included well-respected legal theorists. Abdul Salam Azimi, a moderate Islamic scholar and constitution framer, became chief justice.

Engines of Growth

Postconflict transitional polities need urgently to jump-start their economies-to revive a sense of purpose and give people reasons to think positively about the new or growing state. That is exactly what foreign donors sought to do in postconflict Timor Leste. With foreign capital, roads and schools were rebuilt and hospitals were refurbished and reequipped. Radio stations and newspaper presses were repaired and turned over to new employees. With a renewed infrastructure, Timor could begin to function after its severe trauma. Most of all, with wages growing, money began to circulate, and a virtuous cycle of development commenced.

In Afghanistan the arteries of commerce still need to be refurbished-urgently. Communications facilities remain rudimentary, especially for a reviving economy. But an equally significant obstacle to jump-starting the Afghan economy is its human capital deficit. Fifty-seven percent of Afghans are under eighteen years of age, and that cohort and the young adult cohort (ages eighteen to thirty-five) have very little opportunity for employment. How to create jobs for indigenous Afghans, and not for the better trained Iranians and Pakistanis who now provide a part of the low-skilled national labor force, is a major issue with severe consequences. Capacity building is an immediate as well as a critical medium- and long-term imperative.

Afghanistan is also among the poorest countries on the globe. Most of its inhabitants subsist on less than $1 a day. In 2005 the average annual per capita GDP was estimated to be about $300. Taking poverty and other social indicators together, in 2004 Afghanistan ranked 173rd of 178 countries on the UN Human Development Index.

Yet in 2007 the biggest problem for Afghans and for the Afghan state is how to transform its primary export commodity and its dominant source of both foreign exchange and internal prosperity-opium, raw and processed-into an engine of growth. In 2005 opium earnings constituted about 50 percent of the country's export earnings (47 percent came from foreign assistance and 32 percent from nonopium agriculture) and approximately 35 percent of national GDP. Afghanistan supplied about 92 percent of the world's heroin and 90 percent of that consumed in Europe. Inside Afghanistan opium also contributed significantly to the country's rampant levels of corruption as well a rising internal consumption problem. Transparency International rates Afghanistan among the most corrupt of the world's countries (117 of 159 in 2005). It was unrated in 2006, presumably because of troubled conditions in the country. Narcotrafficking always corrodes a country's moral fiber and distorts its economy and trade.

Achieving Legitimacy

For the Afghan state to attain legitimacy, many reforms are essential in addition to those focusing on substitutes for the poppy crop and opium processing. Narcotrafficking envelops the state; it also adds measurably to existing corrupt practices. If and when the Karzai government can curb corruption, it will immensely boost its legitimacy as a governing entity. But every anticorruption maneuver creates problems for a fragile regime. Ostensible political allies are liable to be implicated; all of the warlords who support the balance of interests on which Karzai's fragile leadership rests are capable of being compromised. As a leaked UN report suggests, all of the key power brokers of modern Afghanistan are implicated in one or more ways in past or current attacks on persons, groups, and the state. Many have looted the state as well as committed atrocities. Serving the interests of the emerging nation-state and its constituents often clashes with maintaining the interests of powerful political and military brokers. A central problem for President Karzai is how to achieve a workable balance and legitimacy for himself and his government. Otherwise, state building cannot succeed, and the once promising Afghan state will crumble as destructively as its predecessors.

Is President Karzai making the best or the right choices? For example, it was reported in mid-2006 that European diplomats in Kabul were outraged that President Karzai had appointed thirteen former regional militia commanders with links to drug smuggling and organized crime (the country's twin plagues) to senior police positions. The new chief of police in Kabul has been tied to theft and extortion rings. As Declan Walsh commented wisely, these appointments and the controversy over them were "indicative of the dilemma facing the Karzai government: how to balance the demands of international donors who seek accountability for past crimes and merit-based appointments for government jobs [against] the ethnic and political demands of powerful interest groups such as the former mujahideen fighters."


Excerpted from Building A New Afghanistan Copyright © 2007 by Brookings Institution Press . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:

Map of Afghanistan

1. Renewing the Afghan State - by Robert I. Rotberg

2. The Legacy of War and the Challenge of Peace Building - by Ali A. Jalali

3. Strengthening Security in Contemporary Afghanistan: Coping with the Taliban - by Hekmat Karzai

4. Neither Stable nor Stationary: The Politics of Transition and Recovery - by Paula R. Newberg

5. Rebuilding a Robust Afghan Economy - by Alastair J. McKechnie

6. Revitalizing Afghanistan's Economy: The Government's Plan - by Hedayat Amin Arsala

7. Regional Development in Greater Centra Asia: The Afghan Pivot - by S. Frederick Starr

8. Responding to the Opium Dilemma - by Cindy Fazey

9. The Place of the Province in Afghanistan's Subnational Governance - by Sarah Lister and Hamish Nixon


Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)