Filling a void in Afghan government

{mosads}Much of our security planning in that poor, poor nation rests with the Afghans settling this most recent obstacle by ensuring a smooth transition to effective security sector leadership. Is that possible? Well, yes, it’s possible…but by no means is it all that likely.
The security sector ministers inquestion, former Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak, and Minister of Interior Bismullah Khan Mohammadi have both been seen as generally effective partners of the international community allied with the Afghan government. Indeed, our international military chief there, ISAF Commander, General John R. Allen, USMC, just publicly acknowledged their “extraordinary achievement”  in their key roles at their ministries over many years.
Their departures will mean there will be added burdens as all adjust to the new leadership in these two key security ministries. That’s especially so at the Ministry of Interior which oversees the police forces of Afghanistan – a nation where much of the police is essentially carrying out a front line paramilitary role with significant casualty losses. The MOI has not enjoyed the relatively stable leadership that has been the experience at the Ministry of Defense.
Both ministries have required heavy international assistance of all kinds – especially with respect to reform measures at the Ministry of Interior. Unlike the defense ministry which was virtually rebuilt from scratch after the international ousting of the Taliban government in 2001, the MOI has largely attempted to correct itself through internal reform, re-training and re-orientation – it’s a much more challenging and laborious task – and leadership intensive, as well.
All along, the effectiveness of the Ministry of Interior has been one of our biggest challenges. It’s various past leaders have been mixed in their reform efforts. One has even been the subject of damning intelligence reports indicating he was very much a part of the corruption and security problem…not the solution. But, recently, independent polling has suggested the Afghan public’s view of their police was improving. Will that remain so?
Now, with the building and equipping of the Afghanistan National Security Forces our most critical task prior tohanding off the war’s leadership role to the Afghans in 2014, can we afford to have ineffective leaders at the top of either ministry?
While selecting replacements forWardak and Mohammadi will be President Karzai’s decision, the blood and treasure of America, and its allies, means we should, and must, have a keeninterest in the selection of these new leaders
Looking back over the past ten plus years of America’s involvement with Afghanistan, it’s all too clear that numerous leadership deficits in key posts have plagued our efforts. While we’ve been blessed by some of the international and Afghan diplomats, generals and ministers who have ably served to deliver Afghanistan from the clutches of the widely unpopular Taliban, it’s also been the case that some international and Afghan public officials havebeen horribly inadequate – preventing needed progress during their tenures. They were certainly credentialed and perhaps able in another context, but some were inadequate for their critical roles in Afghanistan. That’s another way of saying, not every U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan has been as effective and useful as the just-retired U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker.
Lincoln learned – the hard way – the necessity of selecting just the right leaders during our own Civil War 150 years ago. It was a trial and error methodology on his part, but, thankfully, it worked in time to save the Union.
Do the Afghans have the ready talent to fill these key roles. I’d say, “absolutely”.
But some of the most talented Afghans may need to be persuaded to serve in President Karzai’s cabinet. That’s where the U.S. and the other influential partners of Afghanistan can play a useful role. We must encourage the very best Afghans to step up to the plate and take on these daunting tasks. We must assure them that our steadfast support will help them succeed. We must also ensure the very best are considered by Karzai. No compromises.
Hopefully, Washington is all over this and is busy behind the scenes. Every American should hope so since security, in the region, and here at home, depends on a good outcome in Afghanistan.
Shivers is a former senior policy advisor at the Department of Defense in the George W. Bush Administration and the former senior advisor on economics and finance to U.S. ambassadors Zalmay Khalilzad and Ronald Neumann at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. He is currently an adjunct senior fellow at the American Security Project in Washington, D.C..


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