Interview with MG Abul Faisel, Minister of Inspector General and MG Habibi, Inspector General of the General Staff Interpreter: Mr. Badi Badiozamani. By Anita Joshi (International Affairs Forum, 3/13/2005)
International Affairs Forum: How has the presidential election affected your view on the reconstruction of Afghanistan?
MG Abul Faisel: The presidential election was an unprecedented phenomenon in Afghanistan. Although the people were acquainted with the terms republic and republic government, in their real world they had not seen anything like that. They had not experienced it. First off, it was Sadar Dahoud who called it a republic in 1974. And after him the regime was called a republic. But the people never went to electoral polls to cast votes. It wasn’t until the last presidential election that the people went to polls to cast their votes. For the first time, they elected their president. The people were very happy about the election process. The people became very optimistic about the future. You saw young girls who had just attained the legal age at the polling stations, as well the elderly who could not even walk.
The election was carried out in a very open and peaceful environment. Although there were some technical problems marking fingers, and there was some controversy with some candidates saying this was a fraud but people didn’t pay attention to this propaganda. They went to the polls and cast their votes for their favorite candidates. If you have peace and tranquility, there will be development and economic progress and people will become more interested in their own lives. They will strive to improve for the betterment of their own country’s economic situation. Now you can clearly see economic activity throughout the country and people are very optimistic about the future.
IA-Forum: How does the current support for Taliban exist among the current population and society in Afghanistan?
Mr. Faisel: I don’t see much support per say for the Taliban today. The Taliban are regarded as aliens and, of course, people Afghanistan have been very famous for their wars against the enemies of the country. Some of the destructive things seen today are organized by the Taliban and also in cooperation with Al Qaeda. But The Taliban does not have any popularity among the population; people hate the Taliban extremely. The general peace that is prevalent throughout the country is an indication of the people’s support for President Karzai. It is such that in every home you can find lots of arms, and if people didn’t support President Karzai there would be no peace. Within the last three years, the Taliban and the al Qaeda were defeated and a new government was established with the help of the coalition forces, especially the United States of America. Presently, the Taliban do not exist as a system.
IA-Forum: How has the coalition focus changed from combat missions to reconstruction?
Within the last thirty years, both the defense infrastructure and the economic infrastructure were destroyed. The first priority of course was to re-establish and renovate the defense sector. Because if there’s no peace you can’t accomplish anything. And rebuilding and reforming the defense sector and the economic infrastructure is very costly and time consuming. In the defense sector, the Afghan National Army was established and expanded, to the extent that the ANA in many areas is now able to carry out its responsibilities and in other areas with the help of the other coalition forces. Also, many effective steps have been taken regarding the establishment of the National Police and in the judicial area many serious decisions have been made.
Although the priority has been in the reconstruction of the rebuilding of the armed forces, many decisions and plans have been and actions have been taken in the economic sector regarding reconstruction and development efforts. For example, there is a national plan that has been developed and undertaken for the reconstruction of different individual provinces.
There are plans for reconstruction called PRT’s. These are plans being implemented by coalition forces that include building schools, bridges, and hospitals. They are actually helping the people. A highway network that connects the North to the West of Afghanistan and to the South and East, the plan is being implemented. The Kabul to Kandahar road is being rebuilt and ready for usage. And the road from Kabul to Jalalabad is close to completetion. The Salang road that extends from Kabul up to Nazar-e-Sharif has been repaired. Also, in order to curb drug trafficking and poppy cultivation some farmers have been receiving chemical fertilizers and improved seeds and wells are being dug.
MG Habibi: It can be said that in the last three years, plans for the defense sector, economic sector, and urban development sector have made and are being implemented. It is worth repeating that over the last thirty years all these sectors were destroyed and there are plans for reconstruction all sectors. And the most important point is that the people of Afghanistan have become very optimistic about rebuilding their country; groups of Afghani émigrés that had gone to other countries, like Iran and Pakistan, even Europe, are coming back to the country and their home, and people do not want in war anymore. They are very interested in rebuilding their own country. A lot of Afghani professionals in different fields are returning home and contributing to the development.
IA-Forum: Has funding from the US been adequate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan?
Mr. Faisel: Of course it is not sufficient. As you know, and I have said before, in order to rebuild Afghanistan there is a need for huge sums of money. But we are very happy with the decisions that have been by the Afghan leadership and the US leadership in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Although the U.S. and other friends of Afghanistan have been helping the country, the economy is so badly bankrupt that it is very difficult to fill all the holes and gaps.
Mr Haibibi: Of course, people are very interested in rebuilding their own country and the development of the economy. They are not really looking for much help form abroad. As we say, in Dari, “A piece bread will suffice.” However, there is a question among other people: the issue is that economic assistance from the US and other friendly countries and the implementation and expenditure of these funds is not really apparent to the ordinary people yet. Those who have the responsibility of expending these dollars are more interesting in, so to speak, “window-dressing” rather than doing fundamental things. For instance, if I am a general who is a member of the defense ministry and want to get a vehicle, I try to get the most cost-effective vehicle for the most reasonable price. The people who are working for the NGO’s and international groups, their vehicles cost $100,000 and never under $50,000. The house that I rent cost $200 dollars a month, a chairman from those types of institution rents a house that cost $5-10,000 a month, so it goes back to the point that a lot of these organizations unfortunately use these funds and their budgets for their own organizations so to speak. There is a 90% gap between the salary that I receive as a general and a person who works for one of these NGOs with a comparable position. That is why we are suggesting that spending these monies should be directed in a way that helps rebuild the country so people will have more trust and faith in these organizations. Within the last 3 years millions of dollars of assistance have been poured into the country but the end result has not been proportional. People mostly think that all these assistance monies are being wasted and misappropriated. That affects people’s perceptions of reality.
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