Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New Report Analyzes the Political System in Afghanistan
Press Release

RELEASE: New Report Analyzes the Political System in Afghanistan

Senator Franken (D-MN) and CAP Experts Brian Katulis, Caroline Wadhams, and Colin Cookman Discuss a New Report, Governance in Afghanistan, and U.S. Goals in Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, on a press conference call with Senator Al Franken (D-MN), the Center for American Progress released a report "Governance in Afghanistan: Looking Ahead to What We Leave Behind," which finds that the main challenges lie in Afghanistan’s highly centralized system and the international community’s lack of a clearly established end-state goal for Afghanistan. While tactical military operations continue to draw headlines, this report seeks to fill a gap in our understanding of the conflict’s political dimensions and how international policies have contributed to the challenges of Afghan governance.

Senator Franken on the end state goal:

"The end state is to create enough confidence in the Afghan government that they’ll have a stable government there and that people can feel confident that they are going to be protected from the Taliban.

And we’re not going to get there by military victories alone. We are going to have to build.

And building means establishing governance…What this report does is underline the question that I had there which is, “what is the Afghan government doing to establish civil governance there to make people feel like they have an investment in the Afghan government and that they feel secure enough to work on behalf of a country that’s taking this war over?”

CAP Senior Fellow Brian Katulis

"[The report] gets to the central question of what does the United States aim to leave behind in Afghanistan. When you add up the $20 billion of requests that President Obama submitted in February of this year to what we’ve spent already on the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, it will get us close to $70 billion, which is double what was spent in post war Germany from 1946 to 1952, inflation adjusted. And making sure that this additional tranche of money actually achieves better results than were achieved in the first several years of the effort there is central to the task…[The report] takes us beyond some of the more immediate questions to the longer term and to the broader question of how will this war end, and how will it end in a way that leaves Afghanistan better off than when we arrived."


Caroline Wadhams, co-author of "Governance in Afghanistan"


"There are two overall messages in this report. The first is that clearly stability in Afghanistan will not just depend on military victories, but the creation of a minimally effective government, one that has legitimacy, responsiveness to Afghans, transparency, and that is self-sustaining will be absolutely essentialThe second message is that our current approach may not be creating a sustainable state over the mid to long term…Our focus often is on short-term stabilization above and beyond political and economic reforms that will ultimately determine our long-term security…


"The bottom line is that the Karzai government continues to operate on a highly centralized patronage model in which power and resources are channeled through his personal and political allies…The system lacks connection, rules, checks and balances necessary to make Afghan leaders accountable to their population."

Colin Cookman, co-author of "Governance in Afghanistan"

"[The Obama administration] are looking to prepare a clearer picture and looking to get clearer commitments from the Afghan government in terms of what, after the clearing and holding and building, we transferring to .… [But] some of the issues mentioned in this report in terms of the ability of the Afghan people to access their government and the ability of that government to sustain itself from domestic sources, that’s something that, in these sessions here in Washington and in future conferences, I’m hoping to see a little more clarity from both Karzai and from the administration."

To learn more:

Listen to audio of the call, here.
Read the text version of the report "Governance in Afghanistan," here.
Read a related piece in Foreign Policy by Brian Katulis, here.