Afghan government is failing: Washington Post

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Afghan government is failing: Washington Post

KABUL : In the frigid winter air in Kabul, there is a deeper sense of anxiety that things are out of control, that the government is failing to serve the public and consumed by political power struggles. People fear the destructive menace of the Taliban and the Islamic State, but their anger is directed at leaders, especially President Ashraf Ghani, who many feel have abandoned them, Washington Post reported on Monday.

“People did not suddenly become afraid, but this time the violence has added to their frustrations with the government. It showed a total failure of institutions and leadership,” said Haroun Mir, an independent analyst and former government security adviser.

Like several observers, Mir said Afghans feel increasingly frustrated with the National Unity Government, which they see as preoccupied with combating domestic political opponents and courting international favor, while many ordinary citizens can’t find jobs or feel safe walking the streets.

“Security has become the privilege of the elite,” he said. “The rest of us are in the hands of God.”

The insurgents have continued to gain far-flung territory and launch devastating urban attacks, even as the U.S. government embarks on a new initiative to strengthen and expand the Afghan defense forces, bringing in thousands of new U.S. military trainers in close cooperation with Ghani and his security advisers.

In west Kabul, where so many mosques have been attacked in the past year that some are now guarded by local militiamen and others have closed, people are especially nervous and disillusioned.

“This government is destroying itself and the country,” said Khudadad Allahyar, 65, a resident of Dasht-e-Barchi, a district of west Kabul dominated by Shiite ethnic Hazaras. “When we leave home to go and pray, we are not sure we will come back safely.”

Ghani has responded swiftly to the recent spate of terrorist attacks, although with mixed results. He visited survivors in hospital wards and announced the removal of numerous police and military officials. But he also offered contradictory remarks by giving an emotional speech at a mosque about “avenging” the violence followed by a televised lecture about the urgency of seeking reconciliation with the Taliban.

Several of Ghani’s aides said he remains focused on his other top priorities as well as the insurgent threat. One priority is reforming a public sector known for bloat and corruption; another is preparing for local, parliamentary and then presidential elections in the coming months. But that process has been marred by technical and political problems, and last week officials announced that the first polls slated for July probably will be delayed until October.

The other issue challenging Ghani’s authority is public fights between the president and current and former officials that have dominated headlines for weeks. Such power struggles, instead of being handled through negotiations, have threatened to politicize intelligence agencies, pit regional strongmen against the central government and potentially divide the national defense forces.

“These political distractions are becoming more dangerous than the Taliban,” said Javid Faisal, a senior aide to the government’s chief executive officer, Abdullah Abdullah, who ran against Ghani in 2014 but later agreed to share power with him after a fraud-plagued and inconclusive election. “You expect the Taliban to act like terrorists, but you don’t expect friends to behave like enemies.”

The most potentially destabilizing quarrel is with Atta Mohammad Noor, a wealthy former militia leader and longtime governor of Balkh province in the north. After months of negotiations in which Atta demanded more official perks and power, Ghani abruptly fired him in December. Atta refused to resign, and the president threatened to dislodge him by force until he was dissuaded by the White House.

Critics blame Ghani for needlessly humiliating a powerful and vengeful rival whom he could have appeased with blandishments, while his supporters blame Atta — who threatened to lead violent protests when Ghani claimed victory in 2014 for behaving like a warlord while reaping the benefits of a modern democratic order.

The second, newer brouhaha is between Ghani and another high-profile opponent, Rahmatullah Nabil, who quit as head of the national intelligence agency two years ago in a policy dispute with Ghani and since then has co-founded an opposition party. Nabil, who recently accused Ghani of fraudulently manipulating the 2014 election, suddenly was barred from returning to Afghanistan while visiting the United States last month.

These fights, while providing endless talk show fodder, also have added to concern that Afghan leaders are more worried about undermining each other as potential electoral rivals than about restoring public confidence and strengthening a democratic system that still is floundering badly after 17 years. Many Afghans fear presidential elections will not be held at all by next year, defying the constitution and public demand.

“Ghani is trying to divide and rule, when what Afghanistan needs is to be united. It might help him for now, but it could destroy the country” Analyst Haroun Mir said.