Afghanistan: June 7, 2002

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The Loya Jirga meets to select the government to rule Afghanistan for the next 18 months. Current interim president Karzai is expected to win, but only because he has been active and dedicated in lining up support from the many warlords and tribal chiefs who are the real power in the country. Karzai, or whoever the Loya Jirga picks, will face a difficult situation. Many of the warlords have overlapping (with their neighbors) demands and it will not be possible to give everyone all that they demand. Many warlords are not waiting for the Loya Jirga deals and are fighting it out with other warlords for things like trade routes (for drugs and legal goods) and real estate (control of arable land and towns.) The interim, and post Loya Jirga government, also has to deal with foreign donors suspicious of the $5.4 billion in foreign aid (pledged so far) will largely go to bribe warlords to behave. The government, and many prominent Afghans,  say this will not happen. But the history of Afghanistan says otherwise. It may require a triumph of hope over historical experience to get the foreign aid to where it is needed, rather than in some warlords pocket. Crunch time will come in July, when the Loya Jirga is over, the new government is in place and demanding the aid money. Foreign nations that have pledged aid have been sending aid specialists and accountants to Afghanistan to investigate how to make the aid work and have been discouraged by the culture of corruption they have encountered. 

 

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