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properly describe the present situation and the ongoing conflicts, economics,
regional developments, and the political situation of Afghanistan in 2017 a few
detrimental elements have to be put in perspective first. It should be noted
that before the United States declared war on Al-Qaeda in 2001 in a joint NATO
operation as a result of the September 11 attacks, Afghanistan was the epitome
of an underdeveloped country, in dire need of nation building. Afghanistan’s
development when most countries started industrializing and modernizing has
been severely obstructed for the most part of the last 200 years due imperial
rivalries and tensions, namely that between the British and Russian empires.

The imperial tensions and rivalry effectively reduced Afghanistan to one of the
most isolated buffer states in the world, and strategically left underdeveloped
throughout this time. These ongoing tensions and conflicts left Afghanistan in
a dire state; some would also call it stateless with transnational actors and
proxies fighting for control and influence. Before imperialism, however,
Afghanistan was at the center stage of the Silk Road, catering to the booming
commercial and civil interactions between the East and the West. That central
location, though, served against them in the years thereafter, becoming the
battling ground for those proxies and transnational actors. The 2001 war in
Afghanistan can be seen as the new beginning of the country, with the US
leading the nation building efforts and stabilization of the area after decades
of unrest and development of terrorist organizations, which used the stateless
territory of Afghanistan as their safe heaven and training ground. Looking back
at Afghanistan in 2017 cannot be done through the regular scope, we need to
keep in mind that the Afghani state has only existed for 17 years now and has
been dealing with an ongoing war on terrorism throughout each of those years.

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The hard-earned gains of the years since the US intervention in 2001 in the
areas economics, politics, regional stability, and military achievements will
be further examined in this paper for 2017.


and its economy: One-step forward, two steps back?

October 7th, 2001 marks the start of the War in
Afghanistan, code named Operation Enduring Freedom. However, 17 years later, a
more adequate name seems to be Operation Enduring War. The effects of the
conflict have been calamitous and multitudinous and as expected, the political
and military turmoil have made the Afghan economy extremely volatile. Even prior
to the 2001 invasion, Afghanistan was considered a LEDC1 country and has consistently ranked amongst the
poorest in the world, however the war destroyed most of the existing
infrastructure and sent the country in a worse spiral of decline. In the past
decade, the economy has been largely dependent on foreign aid with the
international community being “committed to Afghanistan’s development, pledging
over $83 billion at ten donors’ conferences between 2003 and 2016″2. In order for the economy to improve and progress, a
secure environment is necessary as many sectors are directly influenced by
safety such as tourism and foreign investment. Furthermore, from the one hand
the repeal of international troops in 2014 meant that the conflict was ending,
but from the other hand it meant less foreign aid and a more insecure
environment for foreign investment. Since then, “Afghanistan’s security
environment has continued to deteriorate, with the increased crime and conflict
holding back business and consumer confidence from recovering fully from the
impact of the security transition in 2014 that saw large numbers of foreign
troops leave.”3 This translates to the majority of the population
suffering from lack of food, housing, clean water, electricity, and jobs.

In order for the economy to grow, the right
conditions in two different but intertwined aspects need to align: Firstly, the
uncertainty around the presence of international troops needs to subside,
especially concerning the U.S. strategy for their troops in Afghanistan.

Secondly, the Afghan government needs to deliver the right combination of
fiscal and policy reform. Although the international community is committed to
aiding Afghanistan’s population recover by pledging in 2016 “an additional $3.8
billion in development aid annually from 2017 to 2020″4,
this help will only be effective if a number of challenges are overcome such as
high levels of corruption and poor public infrastructure.

After thorough research, I have come to the
conclusion that the economic situation in Afghanistan is improving marginally
and President Ghani seems dedicated to fighting corruption, however all reform
takes years to implement and the country is doomed to remain dependent on
foreign aid for the foreseeable near future.


and its politics: Fighting corruption is the name of the game

As has been the case with most nations embracing
democracy after end of the cold war, Afghanistan has suffered greatly from
institutional corruption. President Ghani has made it one of his main points,
tackling the widespread corruption to secure the future of its youthful
population with 70 percent under the age of 255.

Corruption weakens Afghanistan’s fragile state and empowers transnational
actors who do not have the Afghani interests to heart. It is one of the biggest
threats to Afghanistan’s stabilization and sustainable development. That is why
fighting corruption has topped the reforms agenda of the Afghan National Unity
Government (NUG). Both President Ghani is firmly committed to fighting
corruption systematically across Afghanistan’s governmental institutions. To fight
and eradicate corruption, Ghani recently launched a national anti-corruption
strategy. The strategy rests on five pillars: national leadership; security
sector reform; improving the quality of civil service recruitment; and
increasing our ability to oversee how money is transferred and spent. This step
builds on the achievements of the Afghan anti-corruption justice center, which
has tried more than 300 cases of high-level corruption cases. This includes the
punishment and jailing of senior security and civilian officials.6

Parallel to its anti-corruption efforts, the NUG
remains firmly committed to credible, transparent, and inclusive elections. The
parliamentary elections are scheduled for July 7, 2018, and the presidential
election in the following year. The reform of the Independent Electoral
Commission (IEC) is ongoing, as the president and the chief executive want to
ensure that the Commission executes its mandate responsibly within the
electoral law framework. Last October, IEC held the second national election
forum, which facilitated a consultative dialogue with electoral stakeholders to
discuss their issues of common concern and interest with respect to the
upcoming elections.7


and its war on terrorism: Eradicating drugs means eradicating terrorism?

The war on terrorism and drugs continues to be a
priority for both the government as well as transnational actors such as the
United States. The Afghan army and police forces have continued to fight what
is a regional and global war against terrorism and organized crime. It has long
been clear that the conflict in Afghanistan is an imposed one. It is not a
civil war among Afghans but a war over Afghanistan where more than a dozen
regional and transnational terrorist groups have met to undo the country’s
gains of the past 17 years, to weaken and possibly overthrow the Afghan state,
and to use the territory for launching attacks against targets in the region
and beyond.

The Taliban, which are widely known to enjoy support
from Pakistan, provide an enabling operational environment for all other
terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Without the presence of the Taliban in
Afghanistan, foreign militants could not have gained a foothold to destabilize
Afghanistan and the region. These networks of terrorist, on its turn, drive
drug production in Afghanistan. The profits deriving from the drugs finance their
terrorist activities across Afghanistan and beyond. An increase in terrorism
ever since the emergence of ISIS has also seen an increase in drug trafficking.

It also accounts for most of the 8,000 civilian casualties between January and September
this year. Moreover, in a special report on terrorists targeting places of
worship, religious leaders, and worshipers, the United Nations Assistance
Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 850 civilian casualties that resulted
from 51 attacks, most of which were planned outside of Afghanistan.8
Therefore, the Afghan government has welcomed and supports the new U.S.

strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. The strategy’s full implementation
will help address the challenge of narco-terrorism in three aspects. First, the
strategy’s regional component focuses on shutting down terrorist safe havens in
Pakistan. This effort targets the root of the narco-terrorism threat, not just
its symptoms. Second, an increase in the number of U.S. and NATO forces has
already begun making a difference in favor of Afghan forces in the battlefield.

Third, the new strategy has given increased authorities and resources to the
Resolute Support Commander in prosecuting a results-driven war against the
Taliban. This is done in close collaboration with the Afghan forces, who have
been leading all military operations against the enemy since December 2014.

Unlike 2016 and 2015, when Afghan forces defensively
fought to prevent the fall of provincial and district centers to the Taliban,
in 2017, they have gone on full-scale offensive against the Taliban, the Haqqani
Network, and ISIS. In the last year, Afghan special forces successfully
defended Kunduz, Lashkar Gah, Tarin Kowt, and Farah. They defeated the
Taliban’s “red” units and destroyed ISIS. Some 1,800 ground and air operations,
which targeted ISIS last year, killed three of their leaders and 2,500 of their
diehard fighters. Consequently, ISIS failed to establish their so-called
caliphate in Afghanistan, where their remnants are on the run and being

Moreover, offensive operations have helped reduce
Afghan military significantly in the recent months, while the sustained
pressure on the enemy has driven their casualties high. As a result, they have
increasingly changed their tactics, focusing on capture of certain districts
and carrying out frequent suicide attacks in Kabul and provincial centers. In
the remainder of this year and throughout 2018, Afghan forces will continue to
carry out offensive operations against the enemy, while consolidating their
gains so far. This includes their counter-narcotics efforts this year, which
have destroyed numerous tons of opioids.

As Afghan forces battle these intertwined regional
and transnational security and criminal threats, the message of the Afghan
government to all armed groups, including the Taliban, is clear: They will not
win in the battlefield so long as they continue fighting. But they can choose
to accept Afghan government’s offer to negotiate a political settlement for
peace. Indeed, peace is not simply what the Afghan people desire but need to
thrive toward a secure future in peaceful and prosperous co-existence with all
their near and far neighbors.

That is why Afghans often emphasize the complete
leadership and ownership of the peace process. Its success foremost hinges on
the resolution of Afghanistan-Pakistan undeclared hostility, which the Afghan
government stands ready to address on a state-to-state basis. In early 2018,
the Afghan government will hold the second meeting of the Kabul Process,
outlining a roadmap for peace with specific deliverables to be met by
Afghanistan and Pakistan, in order for genuine peace to take root in
Afghanistan and its wider region.



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