First job for Afghan MPs: Find office
With barest essentials, new ministers face major logistical challenges in efforts at nation building.
They begin with start-up kits to nation building: The United Nations is giving each of Afghanistan's 30 new government ministers a desk and a chair, some paper clips and other office supplies, and a car to use on official business.Skip to next paragraph
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But even the minister for reconstruction - ostensibly one of the new government's most important jobs - doesn't yet have an office in which to set up shop. Amin Farhouny spent the day Monday driving around town to survey what has survived of Kabul's government buildings, browsing for office space in a city that, after more than two decades of war, looks something like a bleak wasteland painted by Salvador Dali.
In Afghanistan, even the most raw materials of governance are far from given. The night before the inauguration of Hamid Karzai, who was sworn in over the weekend as the head of this tattered nation's six-month interim government, the young adviser
charged with translating his speech to English had to be let in by flashlight to the one office in the entire government that was known to have a working printer.
"There is an incredible lack of resources," says Daoub Yaqub, a lawyer and the executive director of the Washington-based Afghanistan-American Foundation. Mr. Yaqub, an eloquent, 30-something Afghan-American who fled this country's war at the age of 11, was just named a spokesman for Karzai.
"This is a totally disrupted society," he says, stirring sugar into his green tea with the end of a fork, while new ministers twice his age came to congratulate him. "We should be very realistic about the expectations we have of this administration."
Karzai - a Pashtun tribal leader with a pro-Western tilt and fluid English - is taking hold of his country's fractured reins this week in an attempt to bring stability and authority to a nation whose name has become synonymous with war and extremism.
But the challenge of keeping this nation's diverse tribal and ethnic groups on board the peace train looks as formidable as the hunt for Osama bin Laden. And faced with the daunting tasks of nation-building that will range from disarming tenacious militia groups to appeasing the country's various tribal factions to getting basic services to some of the most deprived people on earth, some here ask whether the enormity of the job fits the length of time and resources he has to do it. The Bonn Agreement gives him six months to start repairing Afghanistan and convene a 700-member loya jirga, or consultative council, which should lead to national elections in two years.
Karzai's inaugural promises sound good to Western-oriented ears. He says he will give out jobs based on merit and give women the rights they deserve. But implementing such sweeping changes and holding together a land of people who don't see themselves as Afghans so much as Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, and a hodgepodge of other tribal, ethnic, and ideological identities could prove as tough as finding a place to print out the boss's speech.
"How will he meet the expectations he created in the minds of the people?" asks Hashmatullah Moslih, a political analyst who served as an adviser to outgoing President Burhanuddin, who resisted the Bonn Agreement.