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Following the disputed 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan, a National Unity Government (NUG) was formed by a bilateral agreement between two run-off candidates, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, brokered by the United States.
Five miserable years have passed on since the establishment of the NUG, believed to be Afghanistan’s “worst times” since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
The economy has badly dwindled, security situation has worsened, unemployment ratio has increased, civilian and military casualties are at the record-high level in the last two decades, public distrust has increased; and more than anything else, the lack of will, competence, and sincerity of NUG leaders have brought Afghanistan to the edge of the cliff and has left the nation divided!!
NUG leaders have failed to deliver on their promises. Electoral Reforms, parliamentary and district council elections, and convening the Constitutional Loya Jirga to create the prime minister position were the “key” promises to happen during the first two years of NUG. Five years have passed on, but none of the promises that NUG leaders had made, were fulfilled!
The main reason for NUG’s failure and inability to deliver its promises and improve the status quo was the incessant disagreements and distrust among the leadership, and also due to the structure of the NUG, which has no constitutional definition yet.
Their rivalry and partisanship continued to grow even after five years in office with no breakthrough on the horizon to reverse the course of the diminishing faith and confidence the Afghan people have toward the NUG. (A small “group” of Advisors “young repatriates from Europe and US” based at the Presidential Palace, has widely influenced Ghani’s political decisions and has increased the tension between the two blocks in power.)
Afghans had lost hope in NUG and were deeply concerned about their future. This public distrust could be easily found in an interview of Sir Nicholas Kay, Senior Civilian Representative of NATO in Afghanistan on 28 October 2019, wherein he commented on NUG:
I haven’t met a single Afghan who wants to see that repeated. The Afghans I speak to want to see a clear result and a clear win for one candidate or the other, and no one wants someone from the outside to have to come in and help resolve what is an internal Afghan political problem. So this time I really hope the election result will be credible because it will be based on a clean, transparent and thorough process.Sir Nicholas Kay, NATO SCR
Corruption and embezzlement of public money became a hallmark of the NUG and were widely condemned by Afghans and the international community.
The US commented on Afghanistan saying the corruption within the Afghan government has reached such unacceptable levels that it had to freeze its $160m aid in September 2019.
Relations of NUG with the parliament were also never good in the last five years. More than 60% of NUG cabinet members don’t have the approval of the Afghan parliament. The “defamed” parliamentary elections in 2018 was a major failure and shame for the NUG. Vote rigging, fraud, and widespread corruption overshadowed Afghan elections in 2018.
The security sector, despite the bravery, decisiveness, and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform, witnessed major problems in the last five years. Reports of corruption and embezzlement of both material resources and funds, from within both the Afghan military and government, have led to the resignation of Afghanistan’s defense minister and a massive shake-up of the country’s military establishment. Furthermore, military defections and the use of “ghost soldiers” within the military have weakened the Afghan military’s ability to effectively counter Taliban’ increasing offensives, further diminishing government influence and authority.
The counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations also had many loopholes and shortcomings in the last five years. Taliban became stronger and more aggressive, ISIS spread its influence and presence in many eastern provinces and was able to carry out numerous attacks in Kabul and other cities against Shia religious minority in order to create ethnic and religious differences amongst Afghans.
The economy also suffered a lot during the five years of NUG. Afghanistan still relies on international aid and donations to support its budget and fiscal deficiencies. The poverty ratio was 33% in 2013 and jumped to 50% in 2020. International economist firms reported that the Afghan GDP has also significantly decreased.
The much-publicized “Mega Projects” of (KASA1000) and (TAAPI) were just merely announcements on TVs but never happened. President Ghani promised to mechanize the agricultural system of Afghanistan in order to produce sufficient wheat that Afghans need, but even after five years, Afghanistan still imports wheat from Kazakhstan.
On the diplomatic stage, the NUG also left a bad legacy. The NUG was not able to improve its relations with our two major neighbors (Pakistan and Iran) but instead, due to the lack of consensus in making an inclusive foreign policy, relations with these two countries have deteriorated.
Despite the signing of a strategic agreement (BSA) with the US, diplomatic and “personal” relations were not in “good terms” with the USA. Taliban expanded its diplomatic presence (from Pakistan and Qatar) to Iran, Russia, and China. Taliban were able to start “direct” negotiations with the US ignoring the NUG. While the “shaky” and instable NUG era is coming to an end very soon, but Afghanistan is still on the threshold of political collapse.