Bamiyan continues to languish in its Stone Age state more than five years after the fall of the Taliban and the early promises of paving the roads leading to this keystone province, NPR reports.


Here is a hint: it ain’t got nothing to do with insecurity, lack of funds, lack of cooperation from the locals, or the capabilities of its pioneer woman governor Habiba Sarabi.

An Insurgency Premium?

Last summer when I was still an euphoric recent graduate and not yet the cynic that I am now, fully disenchanted by this town -Washington’s- ways and means, I used to attend talks and hearings with ritualistic regularity. In one such gathering I posed a question about the continuous neglect of some central and northern provinces, despite their relative security, the locals’ cooperation, and the ease of implementing reconstruction projects therein. By the way of illustration I singled out Bamiyan and Badakhshan, because I had witnessed for myself the awful road conditions and rampant joblessness in the former a year earlier, and had read about the horrific maternal mortality rates in the latter. Just as I had feared, my question produced only knowing glances that said “of course, another parochial Afghan making the expected partisan case for his ethnic group,” and no satisfactory answers.

After the meeting, a DoD official approached me and related a sardonic anecdote from when he had traveled to meet with elders in one of the central provinces. He said that at one of the meetings one of those present made a comment that raised wary laughter from the other participants. After asking the translator what the joke had been, the official told me, he found out that the man had said: “Maybe we should also blow up a few buildings and vehicles around here in order to get some attention.” He went on to say that the uneven distribution of reconstruction funds, reflected in the uneven development seen around the country, gave the people the wrong idea about an insurgency premium of sorts, while a more sensible policy would be to reward cooperation and security.


Kudos to NPR’s reporter Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson for taking the road literally less traveled by other reporters (who mostly follow in the footsteps of the military and the aid community.)


(Thanks to readers who have commented and suggested writing about the Iranian government’s harsh rabid mistreatment and deportation of Afghan refugees. This is not a good time for me or I would have done this sooner, and also kept my earlier promise to writing about the Ankara summit. I hope to get around to these soon.)


15 Responses to Unreconstructed

  1. strategist says:

    Good post, thanks. The NPR link was also interesting.

  2. homeinkabul says:

    have you seen Motherland Afghanistan? They show ‘Shuhada Organization” which is working in the Jaghory province and it’s amazing what they did (PRACTICALLY ON THEIR OWN). I agree with you, not enough help is going to those areas AND I bet that everyone will try to take credit for the inspiring work that they are doing.

    Public Service Announcement: I am not from Bamiyan or Badakhshan. :)

  3. afghanistanica says:

    Funny thing, the Soviets rewarded the (relatively) peaceful and cooperative areas of Afghanistan with numerous incentives. And in my opinion it worked quite well given the fact that the Soviets had a rather low level of legitimacy in comparison to the current group of foreigners.

    I can wonder what level of prosperity there could be throughout the center and north of Afghanistan if an appropriate level of resources were prescribed. I honestly thought by now I would be taking a mountain holiday in Badakhshan.

  4. […] asks whether or not there is an insurgency premium involved in attracting reconstruction funds in Afghanistan. Share […]

  5. Yasha says:

    It very unfortunate that most development agency’s employees come to Bamian to spend vacation or to take a photo in front of Buddah’s dead body. This is Bamian’s share of reconstruction.

    You may be aware of Counterpart International. If not, visit this link http://www.counterpart.org/Default.aspx?tabid=309

    In this massive civil society development initiative, there is no fruit for Bamian, or other Hazara provinces. Blaming the bumpy road to Bamian, the USAID financed Counterpart Interantional had chosen a Ghazni-based NGO which has no background of working in Central Highlands to play the role of Civil Society Support Center.

    There is certainly a need of blowing something.

  6. Azad says:

    Despite the growing ruthless insurgency in Helmand and Kandahar, let’s not forget that the “Mayor of Kabul” himself and many power brokers come from the region and have the potential to divert huge amount of funding and aid to the area, both directly and also indirectly by diverting attention away from the massive drug and arms trade in the area, run mainly by their acquaintances . Well, the main dilemma for the central provinces is that their representatives are too busy buying and selling housing schemes and plots in Kabul and other big cities. Haji Nabi’s housing scheme and Khalili’s chain of hotels and motels, to name a few.
    Those in the opposition, say Mohaqqeq and co, seem absolutely clueless about the situation and do not know where and who to turn to. Without mainstream political experience and longterm strategy, these so-called reps can only work on the reconstruction of their personal property.
    If people in the South are angry, they have means and people to reflect the anger in the Center but Hazarajat seems to have none – unfortunately.
    The main contributors to reconstruction in the center, for instance Jaghori, have been and will perhaps continue to be the locals with the aid of money channeled by relatives living and working abroad.

  7. Péter says:

    Hello there, everyone, especially to JZ,
    Well, I’m just greeting everyone nicely as someone from a small country should. My small country is involved in doing a PRT in Afghanistan – a rather small PRT, of course. Guess where it is? Well, it’s in the north, in a relatively peaceful province. That was the best option for my small country – getting involved in anything bigger would have not been fitting. Actually it’s this perspective of a small country – as well as seeing even relatively sacrifice-ready contries, like the Netherlands, hold back significantly in places like Uruzgan in the south – that makes me think that while JZ definitely struck an important chord with this post on the negligence of more peaceful provinces, it’s also important to point out that those countries are present in those provinces that are less sacrifice-ready to start with (either because they are small or just because, so to say.) So I think they just don’t offer much in the way of any kind of premium.

  8. Ahmad says:

    The problem is corruption and how it has been encouraged by the current Karzai administration (meaning those who control it, the Pashtuns). It is an active conspiracy against the Hazara people by the those in power to keep them and their communities underdeveloped. All USAID activities are channeled through Afghan finance ministry and minister Ahadi has done a great job of directing the funds for projects in the south of Afghanistan in return for tolerating massive corruption within NGO community in Kabul. It is like give my ethnic group their share and I don’t care what you do with rest of the funds. Also, Hazaras suffer from foreign contact due to their historical political disadvantage. The frustration for me is the revelation of how corrupt foreign NGOs are and the failure of the Hazara people to address their grievances to the right audience. What we need to do is form an interest group in Kabul and small branches in other countries. Also we need to protest in Kabul condenming the nature of development which basically discriminates against the Hazara people and hold foreign donors responsible for it, mainly Britain, Dutch, American, UN and Karzai governments.

  9. Ahmad says:

    By the way, your writing ability which is filled wiht oxygen and flows like a pristine river is unmatched so long I have read blogs from various regions. Your writing is equal to or better than washington post, herald tribune or the new york times…..you get the idea. You are just gifted. It will be a great loss if you did not write and write more often. Appreciate your efforts.

  10. jzde2nd says:

    I totally agree with Ahmad, specailly on this later comment. It is indeed a great loss if you did not write!

  11. غرجی says:

    و این بار تو نمی نویسی عزیز… تو هم به تشویق ضرورت داری؟

  12. hassrat says:

    after besr regard , let me appreciate and thank you for the above written . actually what is going on here ( afghanistan ) is not the things that we see and it is better to go beyond the current political proccess , so called nation building or democritisation which i do not know exacly that in fact is going ahead or coming back .

  13. hassrat says:

    after best regard , let me appreciate and thank you for the above written . actually what is going on here ( afghanistan ) is not the things that we see and it is better to go beyond the current political proccess , so called nation building or democritisation which i do not know exacly that in fact is going ahead or coming back .

  14. Omid says:

    By now, it is firmly understood that U.S. has no desire to see Afghanistan succeed as a stable, democratic and ecnomically self sufficient country. Its multi-billion dollar aid is spent on “building” the so called “Afghan Army” while devoting the fair-share of the “aid” to Pashtun communities to appease them. This will backfire as other ethnic groups will finally say enough is enough and rise up against CIA backed regime in Kabul. One wonders how would US and its CIA withstand a revolt by other ethnic groups by detonating a car bomb in one of the busiest market centers in Kabul. This would literally drive the middle and business class out of Kabul and paralyz the Karzai government and the nation at once. You only need a bunch of these car bombs with some number of rumors to make the public panic. CIA agents are professionals but how come they ignore and not see these things coming beats me. They need to take the frustrations of other ethnic groups seriously and respect their plea for theer fair share of reconstruction dollars.

  15. […] column goes on to advocate for a peace and cooperation premium in areas hitherto neglected and unreconstructed: We can do much more to show people the benefit of cooperating with the coalition… Our best […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: