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Foreign Fingers in Afghan Pie
 
By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse, Islamabad May 08, 2008

As about 47,000 Nato-led international troops and another 31,000 US forces battle Taliban-led insurgency to help President Hamid Karzai establish his writ out of Kabul, the country remains in the of violence and lawlessness, and in the clutches of former warlords, corrupt bureaucracy that is in cahoots with the drugs barons. The country also lacks financial and human resources to offset the fall-out of years of war, civil war, insurgency and brain drain.
That is why, so it looks, the US-led international community decided to put together a Policy Advisory Group (PAG) to run and manage the insurgency-stricken Afghanistan. This also explains why the Karzai government remains hamstrung on several issues such as to talk or not to talk to the Taliban.

The group meets regularly, almost every fortnight if not weekly, and advises Karzai on issues such as security, anti-terror war operations, narcotics and internal security etc. Its composition is also quite interesting. General Rahim Wardak, the minister for defence, Interior Minister Gen Bayani, Deputy Interior Minister Gen Daoud, A. Karim Khurram, Minister for Information and Culture, Naimatullah Sharani, Minister for Hajj Affairs, Amrullah Saleh, chief National Directorate of Security (NDS) represent the Afghan government in the group. Three advisors - Dr Ishaq Nadiri, chief of staff of the presidential palace - the ARG, and Eng. Salim, adviser - also assist the minister.
US Political counselor based in Kabul leads the international coalition in the PAG. Other members include T Jagger, Political Adviser to CIMISAF/Nato, Ambassador Fransec Vendrell, European Union (EU), British deputy chief of mission (DCM), Ambassadors of Germany and Netherlands, Brig. R. Nugee, ISAF/Nato and Brig. R. Nugee, ISAF/Nato, political secretary Canadian Embassy, Kabul. A few other non-Afghan members also sit on the group which discuss the state of affairs and helps the government devise strategies to cope with the issues confronting Afghanistan inter alia
1. Security Situation Assessment
2. Auxiliary Police Initiative
3. Update on joint security plan Kabul
4. Ministerial Visits abroad
5. Updates on situation in Kandahar und Helmand
6. Sharing updated strategic communication messages

From the areas that the group deals with, it becomes quite evident that it oversees, if not controls, even the foreign visits of the Karzai government ministers. Discussions on police and army development in the group are understandable because the US, Canada, Germany and a few other countries are spending time and money on the rehabilitation and reformation of the security services. But the group also has access to strategic communication messages within the Afghan government, which means the allies usually know what the government is doing. Diplomats defend this as “scrutiny and accountability of the financial resources they are putting into Afghanistan.”
But this accountability also undermines the independence of a government that often finds itself under fire, particularly when the US or allied forces lob missiles and bombs on areas they suspect are sheltering Taliban.  

In this context, reports from Germany, for instance, which said that German intelligence service BND had managed access to Afghan ministry of economic affairs, also caused furor.

According to a private weekly newsletter called "Newsletter" (http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/de/fulltext/57220) German agents intruded into minister Amin Farhang’s private and official mail, bugged ministry computers and also hacked passwords of several key officials.
Afghan officials were upset over the revelations and have raised alarm as to whether the government can at all conduct itself independently.

It is understandable the international community is helping us but intruding into privacy or spearheading our policies through the PAG is an affront to our political integrity, said an official at the ministry of foreign affairs.

These officials find increasingly difficult to assert themselves as the World Bank and other donors tighten screws, in many cases rightly so, on the financial management to eliminate corrupt practices. But what many Afghans ask are the limits to which foreigners can guide and control their government.