I ended up going to Afghanistan in 1993, unfortunately at that time the Soviets had pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989 and it was in the early 90s that we thought that the hopes for post-conflict reconstruction is Afghanistan were real that after this horrific decade plus of conflict that Afghanistan had experienced with the Soviet invasion that it was going to be a time for renewal and that the international community would come together and help Afghanistan recovery.  Unfortunately, as we all know that is not the case.  I made plans to go to Afghanistan to work for the United Nations in 1992, I ended up getting there in early 1993 and between the time when I planned to go and when I arrived the civil war broke out and as we know Afghanistan then spent the next several years in this terrible after the soviet war and this terrible civil war, which was very damaging to the fabric of the country.  It became an ethnic soviet whereas the soviet conflict had not been, it became an Afghan conflict whereas again you know, of course there had been Afghans involved in the Soviet war on the side of the governments and the Soviets, but for the most parts it wasn’t a war that tore the domestic fabric because most Afghans were opposed to the Soviet occupation, but when the civil war happened the country divided up into all of these different warring systems and it became a much deeper problem for the Afghans and the reason it is very important to understand that period in how it affects us today is really two things.  The first is that the conflict that happened in Afghanistan during the 1990s isn’t over.

There was a civil war that basically got pushed aside by the arrival of the Taliban and a lot of those tensions between the different regions of Afghanistan and the ethnic tensions, they are still very present and there hasn’t been an effective way to deal with them.  One of the things that we at the US Institute of Peace focus a lot on is how do you deal with societal reconciliation after conflict? And one of the ways that you deal with that of course is to acknowledge the conflict, is to acknowledge the damage that the conflict caused, the abuses that happened and to deal with them and that hasn’t happened at all in Afghanistan and so there is this lingering element of the conflict.  The second reason it is so important to understand what happened in the 1990s as it effects today and the decisions that are being made today in Afghanistan and the insurgency is that when the civil war broke out and the country became so chaotic and the lack of law and order, the lack of rule of law, the corruption the despotism of the war lords that we have all heard so much about was so dramatic that when the Taliban came on the scene, many people associate the Taliban with this sort of religious leadership, this religious moment, but in fact what it attracted Afghans to the Taliban was not anything about religion, it was about law and order.  The Taliban were essentially a law and order moment and when they swept aside these commanders and war lords, what they put in place was a very rough form of justice, but it was justice, it was law and order.  And in any society Western society, Eastern society people will always choose law and order over chaos and what the Taliban offered was stability and people appreciated the Taliban because of the stability that they offered.

Now that is not true all of the country because there were ethnic tensions, but still the success of the Taliban very much depended on the stability that they brought in the areas that the y conquered.  And so one of the things that we are seeing today is that the reason that the Taliban are succeeding is not because they have some winning ideology or that the vast majority of Afghans even in provinces where they are strongest support them, it is because the Afghan government and those associated with the Afghan government the warlords are so problematic. They are either weak and they haven’t provided security and justice to the people or because they are in fact bad and they provide insecurity to the people and they are corrupt.  And so one of the main reasons that we are in the place we are today in 2009 with the level of instability, the strength of the insurgency is in fact for these same reasons because the Afghan government together with its international partners have not offered a strong enough, a viable enough and a credible enough alternative to the Afghan people.  And so that leads us then to a discussion of the election.  Everybody who was paying attention say 9 months ago as the selection process began to unfold knew that there would be serious problems with the election.