Dialogue January-March, 2012, Volume 13 No. 3


Towards a Stable Afghanistan: The Way Forward

Report of a Joint Working Group from Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London and the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) in New Delhi*

* The Joint Working Group members consisted of United Kingdom
1. Sir John Scarlett, Senior Associate Fellow of RUSI and former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service.
2. Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Director of Research and Director, UK Defence Policy at RUSI.
3. Dr Jonathan Eyal, Director of International Security Studies at RUSI and Editor of the RUSI Newsbrief.
4. Dr Alexander Alderson, Director of the Land Forces Stability Operations and Counterinsurgency Centre and a visiting research fellow in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London.
5. Mr Shashank Joshi, Doctoral student of international relations at Harvard University’s Department of Government and an Associate Fellow of RUSI. India
6. Mr Ajit Doval, The Director, Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF). He retired as Director, Intelligence Bureau (IB) in 2005.
7. Ambassador Prabhat Prakash Shukla, The Joint Director, VIF. He recently retired as Ambassador of India to Russia.
8. Ambassador Satish Chandra, Distinguished Fellow at VIF. A career diplomat, he has served as High Commissioner to Pakistan and retired as Deputy National Security Advisor.
9. Lieutenant General (Rtd) Ravi Sawhney, Distinguished Fellow at VIF. He was Deputy Chief of Army Staff.
10. Brigadier (Rtd) Vinod Anand, Senior Fellow at VIF. He was a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses and the United Service Institution, New Delhi from India.
The views expressed in this paper; published in Jany 2012, are the author’s own and not necessarily of the RUSI or VIF or any other institutions they are associated with. Detailed statistical data appended to the paper can be accessed at www.vifindia.org. While few portions of the report have been deleted no changes have been made in the language and expressions of the presentation.


As Afghanistan approaches the 2014 deadline for the drawdown of most of the military forces in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), there is considerable, and justifiable, anxiety among all the stakeholders, including the government of Afghanistan, the countries contributing troops and assistance on the ground, and Afghanistan’s regional neighbours. Doubts persist about the enduring ability of Afghanistan’s authorities to prevent and repel a potential onslaught from Taliban forces and other potential rebels. There are also serious questions about the state of the country’s finances, as well as the impact of reductions in existing development programmes.

At the same time, there is a determination among all stakeholders to prevent a repeat of the unhappy experiences of the past, when military drawdowns were followed by international neglect and a fresh wave of violence, with serious implications for regional security. The considerable gains that Afghanistan has made since 2001 will need to be consolidated. And, concomitantly, the international community needs to adopt a longterm plan that results in reconciliation between the various forces inside the country, while conducting a smooth transition in an Afghan-owned process. No government believes that accomplishing these tasks will be either easy or quick. Nevertheless, provided the tasks are shared between all stakeholders, duplication is avoided, and efforts are concentrated on essential tasks and applied with due diligence, there is still a good chance for a new Afghanistan to emerge from the cycle of violence which it has now endured for over three decades.

Purpose of this Paper

While the US remains, by far, the biggest single contributor to both the military operations and economic reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, the UK is the second-biggest contributor to the ISAF forces, and India is a major aid donor, with a palpable and growing stake in the country’s security and its contribution to regional stability. Neither RUSI nor VIF make any claim to speak on behalf of their countries’ Experts from the two institutions met in New Delhi and London during October and November 2011. The opinions of a wider circle of government officials, academics and experts from the two countries were also sought and taken into account in the final draft of this report. They should not be regarded as reflecting the opinion of either government.

General Observations

Afghanistan has made considerable progress since the ousting of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Economic and social infrastructure has been reconstructed; a constitutional, democratic political system has been put in place, and has proven its functionality in several general elections; notwithstanding various imperfections, state institutions are functioning and are being strengthened, providing a modicum of stability inside the country. While there is a need to further consolidate these gains and keep Afghanistan on an upward development trajectory, there are substantial grounds for fearing that these gains may be fragile, should the Taliban and other Islamic radicals threaten government control over Kabul or the provinces. The international community – including Afghanistan’s regional neighbours – has a duty to ensure that investments made so far in the country, both in terms of financial and human capital, are not wasted, and that Afghanistan’s democratically elected government is able to remain standing beyond 2014, with sufficient capacity to contain insurgent threats and deter external intervention. The role of Pakistan remains crucial. Unless its border with Afghanistan is better policed, and unless it desists from either providing bases for the Taliban or turning a blind eye to their activities, the Indian members of the working group believe that efforts by other governments to promote stability are unlikely to succeed. However, the British contributors to this paper believe that efforts to consolidate Afghanistan’s security can progress in parallel with continuing efforts to convince Pakistan to extend full co-operation in the fight againt terrorism.

As key members of the international community, both India and the UK have made significant contributions to promoting peace, stability, security and prosperity in Afghanistan. India is among the major contributors to Afghan reconstruction. It has committed US$2 billion to the effort over the last decade. It has constructed major roads and power transmission lines and contributed to the country’s social services, particularly in the healthcare and education sectors. India has also recently signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan, designed to deepen co-operation between the two countries, including in the area of security. Meanwhile, the UK has been a key contributor to the international military coalition that ousted the Taliban regime in 2001 and has ensured the country’s stability ever since. As of early November 2011, a total of 385 British forces personnel and MoD civilians have sacrificed their lives while serving in Afghanistan, and around 10,000 troops are currently deployed in the country. The UK has also been a major provider of development aid, spending US$2.5 billion (£1.6 billion) in the country since 2001. It is planning to spend a further US$1.7 billion (£1.1 billion) in bilateral assistance in Afghanistan over the next four years.

However, it is clear that economic and political realities in the UK, the US and other ISAF contributing nations mean that the military effort will be scaled down substantially over the next three years. The UK will be reducing its total military presence to about 9,000 by the end of 2012, and this pace is likely to accelerate in 2013, just as the US also draws down its forces further. By the end of 2014, there will be no UK forces in front-line combat roles, and a much reduced total military presence (mainly in training roles). Britain will continue to support the training and development of the ANSF, as well as broader capacity-building efforts of the Afghan state. Nevertheless, this effort will be on a smaller scale and Britain expects others, especially India, to shoulder an increasing share of the burden.

Creating and sustaining an Afghan system that is able to stand up and safeguard its security, when international military assistance and financial aid is expected to fall sharply, will not be easy. Yet, unless long-term plans for the development of Afghanistan are decided now, it is difficult to see how these will have any chance of success. State-building is the key to a stable and secure Afghanistan but such an endeavour needs to be supported and financed for the long term.

Given the scheduled 2014 draw-down, there can only be a political solution to the conflict. But the reconciliation process has to be Afghan-led and must deliver three outcomes. First, it must lead to a steep reduction in levels of armed violence, brought about through the demobilisation and/or reintegration of armed groups. Second, it must be supported – in practice ,not just in theory – by Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, in particular Pakistan, so as to ensure that all links with terrorist groups are broken. Third, it must be accomplished in a manner that is consistent with the basic principles of the existing constitutional order, including respect for the rights of women and ethnic minorities.

The Situation on the Ground

The Taliban has been pushed out of most population centres, and special forces operations have successfully disrupted Taliban networks, albeit at some significant cost to Afghan public support for ISAF, largely as a result of collateral damage. Areas under effective Afghan Government control have expanded, legal economic activity has grown and access to health has greatly improved, with up to 82 per cent of the population now having access to basic healthcare. The provision of education has also improved fast. In 2001, only one million children were in school, all of whom were boys. Today, 4 Towards a Stable Afghanistan there are 6.6 million, more than a third of whom are girls, and the figure is expected to reach 8 million next year if current trends continue.

However, notwithstanding these huge achievements, there is a military stalemate and the overall security situation in Afghanistan remains tenuous. Insurgency is still especially strong in the eastern provinces and is taking advantage of ISAF’s reduced operations in the north and west to expand its presence there. The pernicious production of narcotics has increased. Governance in Afghanistan is still afflicted by rampant corruption, misdirected and wasted donor assistance, as well as inept administration of funds, all threatening the popularity of the Karzai administration and lending support to those who oppose the existing constitutional order. Sectarian divisions remain strong and, although the eruption of a new civil war is not imminent, it cannot be excluded as a possibility after 2014. Critical in this regard will be whether Afghanistan can carry through an effective presidential transition in 2014, together with the ability of President Karzai’s successor to maintain a broad coalition of forces in support of the central government. Accordingly, it will be important that an appropriate enabling security environment is created in order to ensure that elections are held in as free and fair a manner as is practical.

Concerns about Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan also need to be addressed. Both the Haqqani organisation and the Omar-led Taliban organisation maintain bases inside Pakistani territory. Without the ability to use bases in Pakistani territory, the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan would find it hard to survive. This would also alleviate Pakistan’s own internal problems. As such, greater commitment from the authorities in Pakistan will be vital in the pursuit of a sustainable Afghan peace. Without such commitment, the prospects for lasting peace will be diminished and the difficulties in providing security for Afghanistan will be much increased.

Political Process: Governance, Reconciliation and Devolution of Power

An independent, democratic, pluralistic and viable Afghanistan, which is not transformed once again into a locus for terrorism and does not provide shelter to any terrorist group, remains the key objective shared by India and the UK, along with the rest of the international community. However, ISAF’s approaching draw-down has concentrated minds on what is achievable in the country, rather than what may be desirable. It is clear that the future of Afghanistan is primarily a matter for the Afghans themselves.

External actors can play a useful stabilising role, yet this should be in support of the policies and initiatives of the Afghan Government. Subject to this condition, a greater decentralisation and devolution of power should be encouraged in the interests of increased efficiency and governance accountability. This process may also have a role to play in providing space for reconciliation with those whose grievances relate primarily to local governance. The 2014 elections will be crucial for the future of Afghanistan as they will coincide with the last phases of the draw-down of combat forces.

All the evidence from previous interventions suggests that the best way to resolve conflicts is through negotiated settlements. Yet a hastily created and enforced reconciliation process is unlikely to result in sustainable peace. The process of reconciliation still appears to be seen by the Taliban as equivalent to government surrender and it is on this point that the international community must speak loudly and clearly. A dominant role for the Taliban in a Kabul government is not acceptable to the majority of Afghans or the international community. Non-Pashtuns and anti-Taliban forces should participate in reconciliation talks, and in view of their misgivings in the wake of Rabbani’s assassination, efforts should be made by the Taliban and their patrons to allay their fears and accommodate their aspirations.

At the same time, reconciliation should continue to be pursued by the Afghan Government and supported by the international community, including the UK and India. But it should be made clear that a successful conclusion to any negotiations must ensure three minimal outcomes: the Taliban and their associates must renounce terrorism in all its forms; these armed groups must be disarmed; they must accept the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The recent Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan expressed support for an inclusive Afghan national process of reconciliation, in accordance with the Constitution of Afghanistan. However, the international community will miss an opportunity if it does not help the reconciliation process by providing the most significant missing ingredient: an international consensus against non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan by any country, and the provision of a follow-up mechanism to ensure this actually happens. In addition, stronger international instruments need to be put in place to penalise any external interference or sponsorship of terrorism by any country, for, while the recently concluded conference has reiterated the principle of non-intervention, this now requires practical application.

There is a growing and urgent requirement for the international community to further develop alternative supply and logisitics routes for ISAF. The Northern Distribution Network, which now accounts for some 40 per cent of the supplies, should be further developed and utilised. The Indian members of the working group felt that those ISAF member-states that are able to do so, should also explore the possible use of Iranian territory for this purpose, as it provides a good alternative. However, British members of the working group were doubtful that Iran’s co-operation was either feasible or desirable at this stage, given Iran’s behaviour and broader difficulties with the international community.

The US should be encouraged to conclude as speedily as possible a Status of Forces Maintenance Agreement with Afghanistan; this will serve as the clearest indication that the international community remains serious in its support for the Government of Afghanistan, even after the draw-down in 2014.

Security Forces and Transition

The military and security situation remain fragile. While, as British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond recently put it, ‘the insurgency is under considerable pressure’, it is also a fact that, as Mr Hammond admitted, the insurgency’s ‘leaders remain committed to conducting a violent campaign, and the murder of former president Rabbani is a particular setback’. The very fact that the Taliban remain active and potent raises concern: the fear is that the withdrawal of ISAF will provide the Taliban with an opportunity to re-establish their influence over large swathes of territory in Afghanistan. To forestall such a development, it is important that the Afghan state be supported militarily and sustained economically well beyond the 2014 deadline. Unless the capacity of the Afghan state is built to withstand a Taliban offensive, and external intervention, its survival will remain in serious doubt.

In the initial years after 2001, the international community neglected the task of providing Afghanistan with a well-trained and well-equipped army and police force. Over the last couple of years, this lacuna has begun to be addressed: substantial resources are now being directed into developing the ANSF, building new facilities, investing in education and training and partnering at every level of capability. The process of transition to security leadership by the ANSF is now being accelerated, with most of the country likely to have transitioned by 2013.

While these efforts and investments are yielding dividends, they remain a work in progress which is unlikely to deliver a completely self-sustaining ANSF by the 2014 deadline. As a result, it will be important that ISAF remains present in substantial strength to provide mentoring and logistical support for ANSF counter-insurgency work. It will also be important to provide some continuing international special forces presence for other purposes.

Urgent attention is now being given by the UK, the US and other ISAF states to developing the leadership role of the ANSF in the most challenging and difficult areas, and to improving the capabilities of the Afghan military and police across the board. The UK is prepared to contribute proportionally to this effort after 2014, as are the US and several other states. India’s Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan – that envisages ‘training, equipping and capacity building programmes for Afghan National Security Forces’ – fits in well with the overall policy of the international coalition and its security co-operation is intended to help enhance ANSF capabilities. Such efforts should be co-ordinated through the Afghan Government.

While building the ANSF is primarily intended to ensure the Afghan state is able to combat effectively international terrorism, internal insurgency and organised crime, there is not yet full agreement between the Afghan Government and international community on what kind of army the country needs, or on how to build and finance such an army. There is a need to make a serious assessment of the ANA’s future role. We favour an ANA which can deter external interference and is as self-sufficient as possible. In addition, there is a need to strengthen mechanisms for political control over the armed forces in post-transition Afghanistan in order to ensure long-term political stability.

Some of the salient issues which merit attention are outlined below:

(a) The Shape and Composition of the ANA

The lack of resources imposes serious limitations on the ANA’s ability to respond to threats on its own. It is unlikely, for example, that the ANA will be able to confront the threat from insurgent safe havens along Pakistan’s border areas without significant assistance from US intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in the region. In addition, the ANA simply cannot afford a modern air force. US and NATO forces will therefore be required to provide air cover for some time to come.

The ultimate shape and composition of the ANA will also require careful consideration. At the moment, it is predominantly an infantry force. While there is a clear recognition from a number of senior US and NATO officers of the need for a greater balance between light infantry and other combat arms (mechanised, artillery and engineers), further action to address this issue will be needed.

(b) The Afghan Police

Security and crime remain a significant concern for Afghan citizens, but perceptions of security and justice, and the state’s role in providing them, vary across the country. Since 2001, the Afghan National Police (ANP) has been used principally as a paramilitary force and as security guards. In recent years, its capabilities have been expanded to include a national gendarmerie and local auxiliary village-focused police forces, and it is now undertaking a more civilian policing role in some major cities. This process should continue so that it can progressively assume an ability to secure the population and uphold the rule of law.

Much remains to be done and continued support from the international community will be necessary. This means the ANP will have to develop core capabilities beyond simply the paramilitary. More broadly, the Government of Afghanistan’s efforts, enabled by NTM-A, now have to embed the ANP more firmly into broader reforms of the Afghan criminal justice sector. It will have to address the balance of state and non-state security and justice provision, the question of central or decentralised governance, the balance between security and core policing and also that between guarding and policing. The process of producing a capable and appropriate police force could be helped greatly if Afghanistan were able to reflect and draw upon the experiences of neighbours, whose policing needs have many similarities to its own. In this regard, India has a significant part to play in developing the ANP, since it has both experience across the full range of necessary capabilities to help and the capacity in its Federal and State Police Forces to assist practically. Specific areas in which we believe that it could help are: the development of police law; development of police institutions at national and provincial level; development of police intelligence capabilities; and the introduction of oversight and accountability measures and procedures(including the development of an Inspector General). We believe the UK could play a significant part in this, facilitating greater Indian involvement and through its own continuing role after 2014.

(c) Intelligence Reorganisation

With the draw-down of most NATO forces, the Afghan Government will have to depend much more heavily on its own intelligence resources. Both for policy formulation and execution, the Afghan Government will require the institutional capacity to monitor the impact of its policies, assess and anticipate the moves of its adversaries, maintain close surveillance on forces of destabilisation or disruption, and take actions to deny the perpetrators their objectives. The National Directorate of Security has done commendable work, but more needs to be done to build a strong and professional intelligence apparatus that can provide capabilities at both strategic and tactical levels.

With this in mind, there are important roles that the UK and India could play in advising the Afghan Government as to how to reorganise its National Directorate of Security, for example, examining the breadth of its remit and its organisational structure. With both the UK and India having some experience of handling multicultural societies with intra-societal conflicts, there could be opportunities for offering assistance in training and establishing indigenous training facilities. Advice can be offered on co-ordination mechanisms at the local level, as well as on relationships between intelligence agencies, the ANA and police. Our two countries could also offer assistance on the establishment and development of secure national intelligence communication networks, improvements in border intelligence capabilities and the development of technical defensive intelligence capabilities.

(d) Manpower Policies

Attracting and retaining quality recruits who are suitable, committed and educated sufficiently to serve both in the ranks as well as the officer cadre will continue to pose difficulties. Given the low levels of education provision in Afghanistan, it is not surprising that approximately 70 per cent of the ANA is functionally illiterate. To mould them into an effective army will be a challenging task. There is also the imperative to have an ethnically diverse army; while the presence of Pashtuns at all levels corresponds to their general proportion of the population, Tajiks continue to dominate the officer and NCO ranks. Pashtuns from the south of the country, together with Hazaras, Uzbeks and other minorities, remain significantly under-represented. These discrepancies have the potential to fuel factionalism and deepen patronage politics.

(e) Logistics and Administration

The existing logistics systems are ineffective, inefficient and often rudimentary. Inadequate logistics and supply chains often hinder operational effectiveness. This serious lacuna must be immediately addressed. In their quest to have a modern army, both the Afghan legislature and the executive must be assisted in adopting a comprehensive body of law or decrees to define the army’s administrative structure, as well as its role.

(f) Resource and Funding Requirements

The medium-term viability of the ANSF depends critically on funding being available beyond 2014. Undoubtedly, the Afghan Government will be unable to fund fully the ANSF which, according to rough estimates, would require a yearly budget of US$2–3 billion. While this sum is considerable, it should be put into perspective: it remains an insignificant amount in comparison with expenditure for maintaining the current complement of US forces in the country, as well as all the other nations contributing to ISAF, which will be able to reduce their expenditure by a considerable amount after their 2014 draw-down. So, although it is accepted that the individual contributions of various donors will have to be re-apportioned, it is vitally important that the international community moves rapidly to secure funding commitments from participating states.

Both the UK and India are expected to contribute significantly to training support for the ANSF. The UK is committed to maintaining a force of (at least) several hundred military personnel in-country in order to support Afghanistan’s new ANA staff academy and to facilitate its establishment. Further contributions to ANA mentoring and training are also anticipated, and should be supported. India, for its part, is expected to increase its investment in training and equipping the ANSF, as envisaged in its recent agreement with Afghanistan. We believe that this investment should be substantial and rapid. Opportunities for an in-country training role for Indian military personnel should also be seriously examined, with their security provided by ISAF and ANSF forces.

Training will not be enough. Both the UK and India should also seriously consider making substantial financial contributions to the upkeep of the ANSF after 2014. While US participation in ANSF funding will be key, it is unlikely to be prepared to fund these costs entirely by itself. In the UK’s case, a commitment of around US$100–200 million per annum might beappropriate.

(g) Afghanistan’s Security Structure

There is an immediate need to strengthen, as well as to ‘institutionalise’, a cohesive structure for security planning. At present, vital decisions on important questions (such as force size, equipment and infrastructure expenditure) are taken mostly on an ad-hoc basis. There is a requirement to further enhance the capabilities of the Office of the National Security Council (ONSC), as the leading Afghan institution in charge of advising on security sector priorities and associated expenditures.

The Afghan security forces will continue to depend on US and international assistance for the foreseeable future. There is therefore an urgent requirement to further develop NTM-A and the Combined Security Command- Afghanistan (CSTC-A), led by NATO and the US respectively, which together deliver the funding, expansion and development programmes for the ANSF. While retaining their characters and roles, the US and NATO member-states may consider whether the character of these bodies should be further developed in order to incorporate new in-country training contributions from non-NATO states such as India. Such a new body might take the form of an International Military/Security Assistance Commission for Afghanistan. Its purpose would be to provide an international mechanism for integrating ANSF training efforts under the joint leadership of the Afghan Government and major providers of training assistance. The objective will be to oversee the evolution of the ANSF into a more professional, trained and equipped force for the rest of this decade and beyond; an international security presence will remain a sine qua non, helping in the transition process. Working together, international and Afghan forces should then be capable of putting in place further measures to curb the spread of small arms in the country.

The regional meeting in Istanbul in early November 2011 declared ‘dismantling terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens, disrupting all financial and tactical support for terrorism’ as one of the principal objectives. The Istanbul joint communiqué also asserted the states’ commitment to ‘resolutely combating and eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and violent extremism, and preventing safe havens for terrorists and terrorism in the region’. The challenge, however, is to put this aspiration into practice.


Both India and the UK have made significant contributions to development and reconstruction in Afghanistan, which have made a real difference. Apart from the serious strides made in the education sector – which were mentioned earlier in this report – there have also been some remarkable improvements in terms of health facilities, roads, bridges, power lines, dams, telecommunication services and construction. However, nobody doubts that the requirement for support will endure well beyond 2014 and that, in some respects, the needs will be more acute, not only because the political drive for this effort may slacken, but also because the delivery of the aid will increasingly become the responsibility of the Afghan Government and will, therefore, depend on the efficiency and probity of local services.

There has also been a downside to the development process, not least the economic and financial distortions regularly observed in war economies. Over the last decade, there has been far too much reliance on international donors to fund the business of the Afghan Government. Making the situation worse, some of the international assistance has been poorly conceived and implemented and the lack of robust monitoring has led to misappropriation of funds by both local and foreign contractors and consultants. Donors have focused too much on prestige capital projects without sufficient planning for their sustainable use. Furthermore, security problems have limited the possibilities for development in many areas.

Despite its own fiscal problems, the UK will probably be prepared to make long-term funding commitments to Afghanistan, amounting to some US$150 million annually for development and a further US$100 million or so for supporting the ANSF. And, as already mentioned, the Indian aid effort is also likely to endure, and may actually be expanded. Meanwhile, the Afghan state’s own tax revenues are rising – albeit from a very low base – and there is the prospect of increased revenues from mineral exploitation projects. In order to make Afghanistan self-sustaining after 2014, the country should be supported in its efforts to become an economic bridge between South Asia and Central Asia, and the venue for multimodal corridors. This requires that the transit of goods through Pakistan and Iran should be free of all restrictions. Not only would this generate additional revenues for Afghanistan, but it would also encourage investment, thereby spurring further economic activity. Efforts to diversify Afghanistan’s trade routes will also require the Afghan Government to provide the environment – most of all security, but also the regulatory and political framework – that is needed.

The UK and India should also take a proactive role in the international effort for a more coherent and comprehensive aid-sharing arrangement among national donors. It is essential that countries pledging financial assistance to Afghanistan undertake tasks that contribute to a coherent effort and honour their commitments. Development aid should be organised and delivered both on a bilateral and multilateral basis. A well-defined international structure for oversight and co-ordination of aid efforts, in consultation with the Afghan Government, is a high priority in this area and we therefore believe that both the UK and India will want to support the efforts of the UN and its agencies to strengthen their roles in this regard. The aid absorption capacities of the Afghan Government will need to be enhanced as part of this effort.

Role of External Powers

More than a decade after the initial US intervention, it is time for the local and regional actors to take a greater share of the burden of stabilizing Afghanistan. The critical responsibility here lies with the Government of Afghanistan, but Russia and China are also important stakeholders and can contribute significantly, as part of the international community, to usher in peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Both India and the UK have no intention of treating Afghanistan as part of a wider regional game for influence. The recent strategic partnership agreement between India and Afghanistan should not be seen as part of a regional strategy but, rather, as a positive and benign development that could be followed by other regional states should the Afghan Government consider this appropriate. However, it will be important that India’s efforts at improving Afghanistan’s security remain synchronised with those of other security providers, and vice versa. The UK, together with its allies in ISAF, should encourage Pakistan, in particular, to become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.


Given ISAF’s inevitable draw-down over the next three years, there is now an urgent requirement to consider what further measures will be needed in order to support the provision of security and stability in Afghanistan after 2014.

The international community – including the US, India and the UK – has contributed to building Afghan capabilities in a significant way, but much remains to be done. Political, ethnic and tribal divisions continue to militate against the achievement of peace, stability and security. Poor governance, weak administrative structures, poor enforcement of law, narcotics trafficking and a weak economy are weighing too heavily on the ANSF, adding to stakeholders’ apprehensions about the viability of the Afghan state beyond 2014. The final phase of the draw-down may also coincide with crucial presidential elections and will require careful monitoring.

There will be a continuing need for strengthening the ANSF, so that they can play a progressively more central role in maintaining security and containing the insurgency. The ANA will remain dependent on US and NATO intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and other military assets for some time to come. An international military/security commission to oversee the development of ANSF (building on the work of NTM-A and CSTC-A) might be useful in overseeing the task of developing ANSF capabilities in a manner that is consistent with Afghan realities.

Similarly, an international mechanism to oversee aid and capacity-building efforts should be developed. Regional countries also need to share more of the burden for stabilising the Afghan state, by helping to diversify the country’s trade links and ensure generation of sustainable revenues, with minimum corruption and waste. Shaping the future of Afghanistan will not be an easy task; nevertheless, there is now an opportunity for both the UK and India to take leading roles in the debate on providing the answers to these problems.

Summary of Recommendations

1. An independent, democratic, pluralistic and viable Afghanistan, that does not provide shelter to any terrorist group remains the key objective shared by India and the UK.

2. The prospects for reconciliation with the Taliban leadership do not look good, particularly as a result of the assassination of former President Rabbani. The space for a negotiated settlement has narrowed. A dominant role for the Taliban in any future dispensation in Kabul is clearly not acceptable to the majority of Afghans or the international community. Reconciliation must lead, at a minimum, to the following three outcomes: the disarmament of all terrorist groups; breaking off of all links with other terrorist groups and their sponsors; acceptance of the Constitution of Afghanistan.

3. Any arrangement that results from the process of reconciliation must be respected not only by the Afghan parties, but also by Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours – in particular Pakistan. The international community must ask Pakistan to become part of the solution to the Afghan problem.

4. We recommend the establishment of an international mechanism to monitor external interference or sponsorship of terrorism by any country, which will have the power to sanction violations of this commitment.

5. India and the UK share the objective of supporting the Afghan state, both militarily and economically, well beyond the 2014 deadline. We urge both governments to devote significant resources towards this end. With this in mind, India and the UK should urge the US and Afghanistan to conclude as speedily as possible a Status of Forces Maintenance Agreement for the period after 2014. We recognise that our two countries also have responsibility to support the efforts towards post-2014 stabilisation.

6. We welcome India’s Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan, which envisages, among other things, ‘training, equipping, and capacity building programmes for the Afghan National Security Forces’. We believe that this agreement fits well with overall policy of the international coalition in Afghanistan and should be implemented in close co-ordination with other bilateral and multilateral assistance programmes, which, in turn, should be implemented in co-ordination and consultation with India. We urge the Indian Government to at least maintain the current levels of annual development assistance to Afghanistan. We also welcome India’s commitment to increase the scale of its assistance in providing training and mentoring to the ANA, ANP and other security forces. We recommend that India should also be willing to deploy training personnel within Afghanistan, in addition to providing these facilities in India itself.

7. We welcome the UK’s stated willingness to continue its substantial contribution to the security and development of Afghanistan after it withdraws its remaining combat forces in 2014. We recommend that the UK should make a long-term commitment of development funds to Afghanistan, with a particular focus on ensuring that the Government of Afghanistan is able to fund core administrative and development activities. We strongly support the UK’s commitment to build and support a new officer training academy for Afghanistan. We believe the Indian Army could make a valuable contribution to this effort and recommend that our two countries explore this option further.

8. The UK and India should take a proactive role in the international effort for a more coherent aid-sharing arrangement among national donors. It is important that countries pledging financial assistance to Afghanistan undertake tasks that contribute to a coherent effort and honour their commitments. A well-defined international structure for oversight and co-ordination of aid efforts, in consultation with the Afghan Government, is a high priority in this area; we therefore believe that both India and the UK should support the efforts of the UN and its agencies to strengthen their roles in this regard. The aid absorption capacities of the Afghan Government will need to be enhanced as part of this effort.

9. The ultimate shape and composition of the ANA will require careful consideration. While there is already some recognition of the need for a greater balance between light infantry and other combat arms (mechanised, artillery and engineers) further action to address this issue will be needed, always bearing in mind the need for any force structure to be affordable.

10. Developing a more effective police and justice sector – including courts, prosecutors and detention facilities – will be a key priority for Afghanistan, and the UK and India should consider whether they can collaborate more closely in providing assistance in this area.

11. Both India and the UK should work together in order to assist the Afghan legislature and executive to continue the process of security sector reform, helping to ensure that the security sector is both effective and accountable to democratic authorities.

12. It is imperative that the international community agree to a ten-year plan for funding the ANA in order to ensure predictability of financing and the achievement of the right priorities. We urge India to consider making a long-term financial commitment for the development of the post-2014 ANSF. The UK should also make a substantial and predictable contribution to the post-2014 ANSF costs. Such commitments would be particularly valuable if India and the UK were to take a joint initiative in this regard.

13. There is a requirement to further develop NATO’s Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A) and the Combined Security Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A), led by NATO and the US respectively. While retaining their character and roles, the US and NATO members should consider whether the character of these bodies should be further developed in order to incorporate training contributions from non-NATO states such as India. Such a new body might take the form of an International Military/Security Assistance Commission for Afghanistan.

14. There is a growing and urgent requirement for the international community to develop alternative supply and logisitics routes for ISAF. The Northern Distribution Network, which now accounts for some 40 per cent of the supplies, should be further developed and utilised. The Indian members of the working group felt that those ISAF member-states that are able to do so should also explore the possible use of Iranian territory for this purpose, as it provides a good alternative. However, the members of the British working group were doubtful that Iran’s co-operation was either feasible or desirable at this stage, given the current state of relations between Tehran and key members of the international community.

Appendix 1: UK Aid to Afghanistan

Source: Department for International Development (DfID)

The UK’s development plan in Afghanistan focuses on three key areas to help increase stability and tackle poverty. For the UK Government, the military efforts in Afghanistan need to be matched with political progress, backed by development, for a long-term peace to be achieved in Afghanistan. The UK’s civilian effort is focused on supporting the Government of Afghanistan to stand on its own two feet. The present plan marks an intensifying of DfID’s effort on the ground and will focus on three key areas:

l Improving security and political stability

l Stimulating the economy

l Helping the Afghan Government deliver basic services.

Over the last ten years (from 2001–02 to 2010–11), the UK has disbursed £1.6 billion of aid to Afghanistan, equivalent to US$2.5 billion at current exchange rates. Of this total, £1.3 billion was bilateral assistance, with a further £0.3 billion being the UK share of funds provided by multilateral donors (the European Union, UN agencies and the World Bank). Out of the bilateral funding £150 million was provided for humanitarian assistance, mainly in the two years immediately after September 2001. The remainder was spread over a wide range of projects, most of which took place on a relatively small scale. Over the next four years, from 2011–12, DfID is committed to increasing its bilateral aid commitment to Afghanistan to £178 million per annum – a 40 per cent uplift on previous levels.

DfID’s Programme

The key priorities include:

Improving Security and Political Stability

The UK Government is working with international partners to help stabilize over sixty key districts of Afghanistan by helping to establish local government that is capable of delivering basic services to its people, and supporting more inclusive politics by helping communities resolve their disputes peacefully. The UK Government has allotted £60,319,029 through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund for the Government of Afghanistan to improve its delivery of basic services. It has also allotted £35,091,200 to the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund to improve the transport network, access to power and water supply. Work is ongoing to construct the Lashkar Gah-to-Gereshk road, to improve freedom of movement and access to markets in the main economic corridor in Helmand Province – the project budget for which is £13,488,703.

The UK Government wants to help ensure that the forthcoming elections in 2014 are better planned, with reduced fraud and greater voter participation, to put into practice the lessons from previous elections and ensure that future elections at community, district and provincial level are organised to represent civilians fairly, especially women.

It believes that investment needs to be carried out to improve the quality and effectiveness of the police across Afghanistan through the Ministry of Interior Affairs. The Afghan people must be able to believe in a police force that can protect them and a justice system that works for them.

Stimulating the Economy

The UK Government wants to build the Afghan Government’s ability to generate its own revenue, such as through the encouragement of investment by creating greater transparency in the Ministry of Mines.

The UK Government has assigned a budget of £24,626,940 to the programme of Strengthening the Afghan Tax Administration through reform and development of an effective, modern and broad-based tax system, in line with the Ministry of Finance’s five-year revenue reform plan.

It also aims at creating 200,000 new jobs, including vocational training for 45,000 young people, to teach them vital skills like plumbing, electrics and plastering, to which a budget of £36 million has been allotted as an ongoing project until 2013.

The plan is to extend the reach of the National Solidarity Programme to bring community-driven development to improve health, education and job creation to 10,300 communities in hard-to-reach, more insecure areas. The UK Government has allotted a budget of £31 million for the National Solidarity Programme.

The Microfinance Investment Support Programme is aimed at helping microfinance service institutions expand access to financial services to meet the needs and demands of many poor Afghans, especially women. The budget allocated to this project is £30,011,338.

Through funding and building the Bost Agri-Business Park, the plan is to boost economic development in the region and help provide state-of-the-art business premises in Helmand, for which the UK Government has allotted £93,008.

Helping the Afghan Government Deliver Vital Basic Services

The aim is to help the Government of Afghanistan to improve its civil service and increase support to tackle corruption at the highest level.

The UK Government aims to continue building on the surge in literacy rates since the fall of the Taliban and accelerate progress towards the target of more than six million children attending school by 2013.

The government is ready to increase support for the Afghan Government to help it make better use of donor money, including reducing corruption by improving auditing and accountability. The government has an operational budget of £7 million for forensic audits. It also contributes £6,630,001 to the UNDP Accounts and Transparency programme.

Appendix 2: Indian Aid to Afghanistan

India has played an important role in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan. Indian policy towards Afghanistan is based on the understanding that democracy and development are key instruments in ensuring that Afghanistan becomes a source of regional stability and does not slide back into extremism. The cumulative level of Indian assistanceamounts to US$2 billion, out of which a total of US$1,229,793,372 has been allotted to various development projects. For a country like India, which is not a traditional donor, this is a significant contribution.

Figure 1: Composition of £133.4 million UK Bilateral Aid to Afghanistan, 2009–10.


Source: Department for International Development (DfID).

Most of India’s development projects in Afghanistan have been divided into four categories: Large Infrastructure Projects; Humanitarian Assistance; Capacity Building Initiatives; and Small Development Projects. Humanitarian Assistance gets the major chunk of Indian aid to Afghanistan, out of which US$324.1 million had been disbursed by February 2011. Medium and Large Infrastructure projects and Capacity Development projects are the next two biggest programmes, with US$189,754,000 disbursed to the former and US$324.1 million to the latter.

a. The Government of India has taken on a number of medium and large infrastructure projects as part of its assistance programme in Afghanistan. Some of these are: construction of a 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram to facilitate movement of goods and services to the Iranian border (the project has been completed and handed over to the Government of Afghanistan); construction of a 220kV DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul and a 220/110/20 kV substation at Chimtala to bring power from those countries on the northern border to Kabul (completed and handed over); reconstruction of Salma Dam power-cum-irrigation project in Herat Province (ongoing); construction of the Afghan Parliament (ongoing); construction of two electric substations in Doshi and Charikar (construction to commence shortly); setting up of five toilet-cum-public sanitation complexes in Kabul (completed and handed over); upgrade of telephone exchanges in eleven provinces (completed and handed over); expansion of the national television network by providing an uplink from Kabul and downlinks in all thirty-four provincial capitals for greater integration of the country (completed and handed over). The above list is not exhaustive.

b. India’s humanitarian assistance initiatives include supply of free medical services and medicines through five Indian Medical Missions located in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Herat and Kandahar (each medical mission includes a small team of doctors and paramedic staff); provision of food assistance of 1 million tons of wheat in the 23 Towards a Stable Afghanistan form of high protein biscuits distributed daily to about 1.5 million school children under a ‘School Feeding Programme’ administered by the World Food Programme; reconstruction and renovation of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health (in Kabul) in various phases and the gifting of ten ambulances.

c. The education and capacity development sector has been an area of critical importance in India’s assistance portfolio. Some Indian activities in this sector include: reconstruction and renovation of the Habibia School in Kabul; the awarding of 500 Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) long-term university scholarships (for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees) and 500 short-term Indian Technical and Economic Co-operation (ITEC) vocational training slots for Afghan nationals annually from 2006–07 onwards (three years ago, both ICCR and ITEC slots were increased to 675 annually); deputation of thirty Indian civil servants under the UNDP’s Capacity for Afghan Public Administration (CAP) programme; ongoing Indian contribution to the UNDP’s ‘National Institution Building Programme’, which aims at attachment of Indian civil servants as Capacity Development Advisers in Afghan institutions and the signing of ‘twinning agreements’ between related Indian and Afghan ministries; setting up of an India-Afghan vocational training centre for training 3,000 Afghans in carpentry, plumbing, welding, masonry and tailoring; as well as a similar project by the Indian NGO SEWA for setting up a Women’s Vocational Training Centre in Bagh-e-Zanana for training in garment making, nursery plantation, food processing and marketing.

d. A significant addition to India’s development portfolio in Afghanistan was a special programme to foster community-based, small development projects in the fields of agriculture, rural development, education, health, vocational training and so forth, that can have a direct and visible impact on community life, and with focus on local ownership and management. Under the first two phases of this programme, more than a hundred projects have been undertaken, about a third of which have been successfully completed. The implementation of the projects is done entirely by Afghan Government agencies (with advisory input from the Indian Embassy), which helps build local capacity towards project management.

The future contours of India’s assistance programme in Afghanistan were highlighted during the visit of the Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, in May 2011. He announced a further increase of US$500 million to India’s aid commitment, thus raising the cumulative Indian commitment to US$2 billion.

The prime minister also announced a number of new schemes that India will be undertaking in Afghanistan to utilise this new financial commitment. These included:

1. A fresh commitment of US$100 million for the third phase of India’s Small Development Projects programme, over and above the previous pledge of US$20 million.

2. Donation of 1,000 buses for Kabul and other municipalities, with provision for maintenance support, training and infrastructure.

3. A medical package consisting of the treatment of Afghan patients in select disciplines and hospitals in India over the next three years, to be implemented through the Afghan Ministry of Public Health; the rehabilitation and professional upgrading of the National Malaria and Leishmaniasis Centre of Afghanistan; and an upgrade of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health, including a neo-natal and maternal care unit.

4. The upgrade of the agricultural department at the Kabul University to an agricultural university, providing scholarships for the study of agricultural sciences.

5. Donation of 500 tractors for Afghan farmers; provision of seeds and other assistance for the agricultural sector.

6. The early finalisation of a US$50 million Buyers Credit Line to promote exports and attract Indian business to Afghanistan.

7. A grant of US$10 million for preservation and revival of Afghanistan’s archaeological and cultural heritage and cultural exchanges.

8. Another grant of US$4 million to the Government of Afghanistan for the restoration of the historic Stor Palace in Kabul.

9. Assistance in setting up an Afghan Institute of Mining.

10. An increase in the number of India’s ICCR scholarships for students from 675 to 1,000, with special focus on encouraging female students.

11. Assistance in setting up a computer laboratory at Habibia School.

12. Support for the second phase of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Skills Development Programme for providing vocational training to Afghan nationals.

13. Establishment of a Jawaharlal Nehru Chair of Indian Studies at Kabul University.

14. Reiteration of the commitment to donate 250,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan to meet its requirements this year.

Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) and agreements between India and Afghanistan are in place in the fields of diplomacy, media and information, civil aviation, agricultural research and education, healthcare and medicinal science, tourism, education, standardisation, rural development, public administration, electoral management and administration, small development projects and local governance. A series of fresh MoUs are being signed between Afghan ministries and their Indian counterparts under the aegis of the UNDP’s ‘National Institution Building Programme’, to which India is a major financial contributor.

Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

                                               Astha Bharati