On Sunday, January 8, IWP founder and president John Lenczowski and trustee Paul Behrends joined a bipartisan Congressional delegation visit to Berlin headed by Foreign Affairs Subcommittee chairman Rep. Dana Rohrabacher for the purpose of meeting the leaders of the Afghan anti-Taliban resistance.
Representing a substantial percentage – perhaps even over half – of the Afghan people, the members of the Afghan delegation consisted of the tribal leaders of the Uzbeks, the Tajiks, and the Hazaras, as well as the former head of Afghan intelligence under the government of Hamid Karzai. These were the leaders who, with a couple hundred American special forces and CIA paramilitary officers, ousted the Taliban government from power in Afghanistan in 2002.
Several of these leaders, who have been widely described as classic warlords, have thousands of their own troops at their disposal to defend their communities. Since the earliest days of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, however, American policy has been devoted to a nation-building strategy focused on creating a strong central government to replace not just the Taliban dictatorship, but the previous pattern of a loose confederation of tribes, which for centuries was the traditional arrangement in Afghanistan.
These leaders, known as the Northern Alliance (although they represent tribes from the northern, the central, and the western regions of Afghanistan), have recently established the “National Front” in order to mobilize resistance to what they fear will be the re-legitimization of the Taliban through the negotiating process being undertaken by the Karzai government with the support of the United States.
They have been strongly critical of the constitutional presidential structure in Afghanistan set up under U.S. auspices, and which involves virtually no checks and balances on presidential power. IWP president John Lenczowski observes, “The establishment of the constitutional arrangements which we have overseen comes closer to the Putin model in Russia than to anything with an American or traditional Afghan genetic code.”
Currently, the President in Afghanistan has the power to appoint provincial and district governors and local positions down to the rank of ordinary teachers. The Parliament has no power of the purse, as does Congress in the U.S., and the allocation of funds in Afghanistan is controlled from the presidential office.
The leaders of the National Front are arguing for greater autonomy, more power for the Parliament, and more checks and balances within government, as just a few of the major features of constitutional reforms that they believe essential if Afghanistan is to avoid reverting to a Taliban dictatorship. They also believe it would strategic for America to allocate more aid and reconstruction funds to their regions on the grounds that areas that enjoy peace such as theirs should be rewarded for maintaining peace and stability. They argue that this would give an incentive to other regions to fight for their own local peaceful conditions.
At the meeting, the U.S. Congressional leaders called for:
- An Afghan national dialogue for constitutional reform;
- The participation of all major Afghan parties in any negotiations with the Taliban;
- Strengthening regional institutions that represent all the communities of Afghanistan;
- A reform of the electoral system to a nationally accepted variant of proportional representation that would give equal opportunity for both independent candidates and political parties;
- Another reform of the electoral system concerning the election of provincial and district governors and the empowerment of provincial councils so that they would have authority over budgets, police, education, and health care.
Dr. Lenczowski comments,
The United States should stand by its closest friends in Afghanistan who bore the brunt of the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Given that the Obama administration has decided to withdraw most of our troops from Afghanistan by 2014, the massive American investment of blood and treasure in the security and nation-building effort in Afghanistan needs an insurance policy. That insurance policy, in short, is the active support of the National Front so that the Afghans whom it represents will not be marginalized in any future negotiations over the nation’s fate. There is sad precedent in American history for the abandonment of such friends.
The members of Congress who participated were: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), and Congressman Steve King (R-IA). The Afghan delegation consisted of: General Abdul Rashid Dostum, Leader of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan; Mr. Ahmad Zia Massoud, Chairman of the National Front; Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, Leader, People’s Unity Party of Afghanistan; Mr. Amrullah Saleh, Former Director of the National Security Directorate; Dr. Hussain Yasa, Chairman of the Afghanistan Group of Newspapers; and Mr. Faizullah Zaki, Vice Chairman of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan.
The Congressional delegation meeting with the Afghans was attached to a major conference on Afghanistan organized by the Aspen Institute, Germany, which made heroic efforts to organize the meeting.