Afghan President Hamid Karzai has commissioned a team to prepare for and organize a Loya Jirga in Kabul to consult and decide on the fate of the bilateral agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States.
As part of public awareness about the event, colorful banners and posters can be seen across Kabul. The event planned to occur in November seeks to aid understanding, consultations, and approval of the vital security compact between Afghanistan and the United States. Will it do so?
Loya Jirga, or a Grand Council, is an organic and democratic Afghan institution and cultural event which meets to consult and make important decisions that matters to the Afghan people.
Participants in the council are de facto and elected officials from across the country that negotiate and agree unanimously on a relevant issue. Its decision is legally binding on all sides concerned.
The consultative jirga in November is important to Afghans and the world for a number of reasons.
A major issue is that consultations will lead to a collective Afghan decision on defining and agreeing to the US military presence on Afghan soil post 2014. Another reason is that the jirga will give Afghan President Hamid Karzai political legitimacy to sign the pact. In that sense, it resembles the western concept of a referendum.
The security compact between Kabul and Washington is also an unprecedented treaty. As Afghans continue to take full responsibility and ownership of their nation’s future post-2014, the treaty is essential to keep international attention on Afghanistan. It will also provide support to the Afghan government and its security establishment to evolve into a fully capable entity thwarting internal and external threats.
Moreover, the security compact is vital to avoid the devastating consequences of the Soviet-Afghan War and subsequent civil war after Russia’s withdrawal in 1989.
As a result of this tragedy, conflicting regional and geo-political interests, a lack of international attention, and a failing state helped Taliban come to power.
Thanks to present-day international re-engagement in Afghanistan, Kabul has made significant and extraordinary progress. Democracy is maturing, life expectancy has improved, major highways are paved, communication and banking have flourished, the economy is growing, and Afghan men and women are being educated in thousands of public and private schools across the country.
Afghan women, in particular, are able to contribute more productively to the development of Afghan society outside their homes. They are now in parliament, schools and hospitals.
However, much work still needs to be done.
Afghanistan lags behind many countries on many development indexes. More efforts should focus to further education, especially for women, and enable Afghans out of poverty, which breeds radicalization. To make this happen, Afghanistan requires continued international support.
The presence should improve Afghanistan’s self-reliance and reconciliation; it should help in the establishment and furthering of good relations with its neighbors and help maintaining an environment in which all Afghans continue their march towards a more pluralistic, democratic and peaceful society.
The Loya Jirga may endorse Afghan President Karzai to sign the treaty if it is really meant to achieve these goals.
Moheb Arsalan J. is an Afghan analyst and commentator on political, conflict, and socio-economic affairs in the Af-Pak region. He studied economics at Kabul University and Bard College, NY as a Fulbright, and holds a graduate degree in governance and public policy from Willy Brandt School in Germany as a DAAD Scholar. Moheb is based in Kabul and can be reached at email@example.com. Read other articles by Moheb.