What will the Afghanistan war legacy be?
Much of the Soviets' development work got wiped out by a civil war in the 1990s. But the scope of the effort then was limited compared with the work today.
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Rampant political corruption
Even if Afghanistan escapes the type of violence it experienced in the wake of the Soviet pullout, it will still face rampant political corruption, which often fuels instability.Skip to next paragraph
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Despite international efforts to bolster the Afghan government and create a more transparent system, a number of questionable figures continue to populate the ranks of national decisionmakers.
Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, for example, is widely believed to have invited Osama bin Laden into Afghanistan in 1996 and to have maintained ties with Al Qaeda, yet he currently holds a seat in parliament here.
Another example: Shortly after the US-led invasion in 2001, Abdul Shakoor Muslim returned to Afghanistan after living in Pakistan as a refugee. When he arrived at his family's land he found a prominent local police official had claimed it as his own. Mr. Muslim confronted him about it, but the high-profile squatter threatened his life.
Muslim then took the case to court. In two separate rulings, the court sided in his favor, yet the squatter's family, which had gained more influence in the Afghan police and Ministry of Defense, still refused to leave.
Recognizing the sensitivity of the case, the Kabul municipality offered Muslim a plot of land as compensation about three years ago. But when Muslim arrived at the new plot, he says, it had already been stolen by the driver of the Afghan vice president.
"If the Americans leave a corrupt government behind, then there will be problems. But if the Americans, and the world, try to establish a strong government in the country that can implement the rules on everyone equally – a minister, a farmer, everyone should obey the same rules – there won't be any problems," Muslim says.
Although such abuses of power and corruption are a real concern, they may not be insurmountable, says Ken Yamashita, mission director in Afghanistan for the US Agency for International Development.
USAID and other government agencies have committed to work in Afghanistan. Democracies take time to develop, and the country only just ratified its Constitution eight years ago, Mr. Yamashita points out. "In 2024, what we hope to see is an improving process of governance, an improving electoral process, and an improving accountability of Afghan political leadership to its people," he says.
"Our sense is that as that accountability improves, then ... individuals who have had a record of various actions that are not consistent with what the people want will not get voted in."