Political stalemate driving Afghans mad

A hundred days after Ashraf Ghani took office, a cabinet has yet to be formed and many people are growing impatient.


    One hundred days after Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president, ruling alongside his former presidential rival Abdullah Abdullah, many Afghans are sceptical the unprecedented coalition government will work.
    One of their main concerns is that after three months there's still no cabinet, and that further complicates the already paralysing maze of bureaucracy and corruption that makes it difficult for ordinary Afghans to get anything done.

    Long lines of mainly men clutching documents are now the norm outside nearly every ministry in Kabul. And even when they can get the required signature on the requisite document, it's by a caretaker minister or official, and so hard to enforce.

    Abdul Wahid's car was stolen along with his brother's weeks ago. The thieves were caught and he has a court order to get the vehicles back, but no one will help him. The thieves still have his cars.

    "My problem would have been solved if there were a cabinet – they are just passing our papers from one office to another," he complains.

    Sher Ahmad blames the problem on the president.

    "I voted for Ashraf Ghani so he could uncover the mafia, but now he himself covers up the mafia. I made a big mistake, voting for such a traitor."

    The president's spokesman, Nazifullah Salarzai, says the administration is aware of the people's concerns.

    The president acted quickly where needed, he points out, signing security agreements with the United States and NATO, reopening the country's biggest corruption case, working on the peace process, and exploring the weaknesses of the current government system. 

    "We did identify all our problems in the last 100 days," says Salarzai, "but now it's time to act upon those problems." He says that's the plan for the next 100 days.

    It's an ambitious one. Ghani is basically trying to change the whole structure of government on both the national and local level to introduce better accountability. In the western city of Herat, he has fired officials at all levels, and not replaced any of them.

    Afghans have been monitoring government progress closely, helped by a daily TV programme produced by Tolo News, called 100 days.

    The head of the news department says when the programme launched they thought they would have trouble keeping up with the progress of the government. Instead, they've focused more on the lack of a cabinet, developments on the corruption investigation and the president's trips to China, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. 

    Security and peace

    At the beginning of 2015, Afghan forces took over control of the country's security from NATO. But in an indication that they still need help, Washington extended the combat mission into 2015 for some US forces.

    They are authorised to bring in air and other support if the Afghans request it. About 10,600 US forces remain in Afghanistan, just over half of them part of NATO’s new 'Resolute Support' mission, the other half on non-NATO counterterrorism, logistic and force protection operations. There are about 12,600 NATO forces in Aghanistan.

    US President Barack Obama plans to withdraw all American troops by the end of 2016, but Ghani told CBS News he would like that deadline re-examined. He is expected to visit Washington in early 2015.

    Ghani has also re-engaged with Pakistan and would like a peace dialogue with the Taliban, although he won't publicly talk about specific efforts.

    He told CBS News: "The job of an elected president is to overcome the past and change the playing field. My people are bleeding. It is precisely because of that that I need to make sure that peace comes."

    The Taliban have launched attacks across the country. Their fighters now control large parts of the countryside both in the south and east. Afghan security forces are taking huge losses, with about 13 soldiers and police killed every day, casualties both Afghan and NATO officials say are unsustainable.


    The lack of a government means the economy remains stagnant – it's been that way since the presidential election season began in April.

    People hoped things would turn around once Ghani was inaugurated at the end of September, but the political stalemate drags on.

    A recent survey from the World Bank says businessmen for the first time are more concerned about the political instability than they are about security.

    The economy has taken a heavy beating during the protracted political deadlock. The [partial] withdrawal of international forces, and the closing of bases, has put a lot of people out of work. The government's budget is heavily dependent on international aid. The failure to appoint cabinet ministers has stalled many aid and development projects.

    Members of civil society are getting impatient. They've demanded the government be named within days or they are threatening to take to the streets.

    It's not clear how many people they would be able to muster if they called for demonstrations. Salarzai, the president's spokesman, says the administration is close to naming a cabinet and that will reflect the diversity of the people - and that it will be worth the wait.



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