Ambassador Ludin writes about the changes in the Afghan Cabinet

Ambassador Jawed Ludin wrote an article about the recent changes in the cabinet of Afghanistan. Below is the article which was published the Afghanistan Times in October 2008.

Updated: (10.22.2008)

Karzai’s best move to curb insecurity

Despite the mixed reactions that President Karzai's recent cabinet reshuffle has received, it represents a watershed in the process of government reform and addressing the problem of insecurity. The cabinet reshuffle includes, inter alia, Mr Hanif Atmar, whose competence as minister has been proven more than once by his performance in his two previous portfolios of rural development and education, nominated for ministry of interior. Mr Atmar’s appointment is undoubtedly a welcome step in that it injects vital impetus in what is the most crucial cabinet portfolio. It is also a very timely step because it comes at a time when the security environment has deteriorated beyond measure while no strategy to remedy the situation appears in sight.

As recently stated by Afghan Defence Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, earlier this week, Afghanistan is experiencing a growing sense of insecurity as “the level of violence has increased every year and 2008 has been the worst of all”. While a greater influx of foreign terrorists into Afghanistan is mainly to blame for the worsening security situation, there is no denying the fact that the weakness of our own security institutions, primarily the police, is in no small part responsible. A combination of factors, including a slack police reform process, the chronic neglect of police training and equipping by our international partners, have left the task of developing a clean and effective police force critically hampered and lagging.

Therefore, President Karzai’s decision to bring one of his most competent and dependable ministers to the interior ministry is an appropriate response to the insurgency as well as the growing sense of insecurity around the country. Atmar is not a military leader, but he has a strong track record as an able manager and a clean, incorruptible leader – qualities that are key to success in the interior ministry. If anyone in President Karzai’s existing team had any chance of succeeding in this portfolio, it would undoubtedly be Atmar.

Once confirmed by the Wolesi Jirga, the parliament, this week, Atmar will be shouldering a task that is harder than any he has faced before. From a stiffening Taliban insurgency along the Pakistani border to the menacing drug trade, from the criminal gangs in Kabul and other cities who are responsible for kidnapping and robbery to the widespread corruption within the ministry itself, the challenges are enormous. The greatest of his challenges is to do what is possible to bring enough security to the villages and districts of Afghanistan to allow the conduct of next year’s general elections. In this task, Atmar is seriously running against a tight timeline.

Despite the challenges, however, Atmar can also draw on significant opportunities and assets for his success. Foremost, he may utilise the unfailing commitment that President Karzai has shown to reform in the ministry of interior to great advantage. President Karzai’s unreserved backing will be crucial if Atmar is to drive the reform agenda forward within and outside the ministry. Secondly, the international community at present has a huge commitment to support the establishment of rule of law in Afghanistan and build Afghanistan ’s police force. With a staggering financial commitment that stands at two billion US dollars a year, the United States remains as the strongest partner, followed by the European Union which is helping with police training through the EUPOL mission. These partners, alongside the United Nations, have warmly welcomed Atmar’s appointment. Above all, Atmar’s strongest asset as interior minister will be the aspiration of the Afghan people, across the villages and towns of the country, who want the new minister to take decisively on the crucial tasks of counter insurgency, police reform, anti corruption, counter narcotics and so on.

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