Afghanistan Peace: Possibility or Pipe Dream. Legitimate Governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan are Essential

By Zulmay Afzali together with Barry Bowen

I don’t see how meaningful peace negotiations are possible when both Afghan and Pakistan governments have corrupt or ineffectual officials. The Afghan government is a mixture of warlords and drug kingpins, many with links to foreign intelligence services such as Pakistan’s ISI and Iran’s ITlaat. And the constitutionally elected government of Pakistan is subservient to the military and the ISI.

I have seen three criminal enterprises operating in Afghanistan. 

The first is a powerful drug mafia. Ninety-three percent of the world’s opium is produced in Afghanistan. The Afghan Ministries of Interior, Defense, Tribal Affairs, some parliamentarians, and some directorates of NDS- Afghan National Directorate of Intelligence, are tainted by the drug trade.

I refer to another criminal enterprise as the double citizenship mafia. Many Afghan’s arrive in the US and Europe with fake asylum stories and manufactured documents. Many false asylum-seekers take advantage of social welfare funding while arriving with considerable cash. I think there are significant national security concerns if immigrants are not treated both with respect and with caution. Both are essential.

After September 11, 2001 many US and European Afghans found an opportunity to work with the Afghan government. Some now hold high posts as ministers, advisers, and consultants. They are well-paid, perhaps as much as $7,000 a month. A college professor may earn only $1,500 a month. Some senior advisers and ministers receive about $22,000 per month from US and NATO coffers.

An enormous amount of much needed capital is not making it into the hands of needy Afghans. That money is being exported to the US, Europe, Dubai, and other locations, as estates and businesses. Corrupt officials are cheating needy Afghans, the countries who fund them, and the taxing authorities wherein they smuggle the cash. Diplomatic visas exempt them from being searched.

Then there are warlords and those collaborating with foreign intelligence services, including Pakistan and Iranian intelligence services. Some of these people work in the presidential palace; Ministries of Education, Interior, Defense; and National Directorate of Intelligence. They support the insurgency and assassination of tribal elders and government officials.

Some honest government officials have been threatened or assassinated. The recent killings of Arsallah Rahmani, Burhanadin Rabani, and others depict a mafia war between Iranian and Pakistani intelligence.

It is disturbing to watch officials speak emotionally about peace, ending hunger, and caring for Afghan orphans, but do nothing to solve Afghan’s real problems. Some prefer to spend large sums of money on Dubai (UAE) night-life. But Afghans blame the US and NATO when their economic life does not improve. This is why it is essential that the US and NATO redress government corruption in Afghanistan.

Now, consider Pakistan.

The military is the controlling entity. Political parties were never in control. The US State Department does not publicly say it, but they know it is true. Whenever a ruling party defies the military’s wishes significantly, they are deposed. The military and the ISI is a “state within a state”.

Perhaps the thought of a nuclear-armed Pakistan having an illegitimate government has the US and Europe living in denial. Pakistan is fundamentally involved in the fate of Afghanistan and has a very tense relationship with a nuclear-armed India.

Corruption is not something new for the Pakistan People’s Party.  Thousands of cases of bribery, corruption, and murders are filed against the members of the current party, including cases registered in the high courts of Pakistan against Zardari, Yousuf reza Gilani, and Minister of Interior Rehman Malik.

Millions of dollars, resources, and time are wasted on peace negotiations with the Taliban, every time Pakistan is seen as not behaving in good faith regarding Afghan security and the Taliban. The recent Chicago conference was yet another example.

I question to what degree some Afghan officials want peace. It seems some see more profit in strife.

Pakistan’s General Pervaiz Qiyani has made several visits to Afghanistan with a clear message. If Afghanistan wants no insurgent violence, they must close Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad, and cease any support for the resistance in Baluchistan province. The demand proves Pakistan believes they can control insurgent activity within Afghanistan. Why doesn’t the US make that the price tag for foreign assistance?

The civilian government in Pakistan and the government of president Karzai are both corrupt. After more than a decade we should have learned, the essential step is to promote an honest government in Afghanistan that cares about the people first and government officials’ bank accounts second. That, and any peace negotiations, must include the Pakistani ISI. If they are not on board, there can be no peace in Afghanistan.


Zulmay Afzali is the former chief of staff and spokesperson for the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan. He worked as a Senior Terrorism Analyst at Afghanistan’s Office of the National Security Council in 2006. He is a recipient of the highest government certificate for civil service in 2006 and 2007, as well as the recipient of President Hamid Karzai’s Medal of Take-zafer for his civil service.

Barry D. Bowen is a policy consultant, and writer.