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#12 - JRL 7069 - RAS 16

SOURCE. Henry E. Hale, The Federal Option for Afghanistan. East-West Institute Policy Brief at http://psp.iews.org/highlights.php?view=detail&id=31

How can the US and the international community bring about the "stable, integrated Afghanistan" that is essential to security and cooperation throughout Central Asia? The Bush administration urges the Afghan Interim Authority to build a unitary state and to guarantee that ethnic and regional interests are represented within central government. The author argues that this strategy is not working and cannot work:

* It takes too little account of the real power of local warlords. No government based in Kabul can control the country as a whole.

* Ethnic quotas in state structures cannot reflect the full social complexity of Afghanistan and are doomed to fail.

* The new government will be perceived as dominated by Karzai's Pashtuns and/or by the Tajiks who control the new military.

Therefore, the author argues, consideration should be given to alternative constitutional structures of a federal character. For this purpose he suggests convening an international commission under UN auspices, to be advised by a council of experts on federalism.

A stable federal structure, Hale warns, cannot be designed exclusively along ethnic lines. One-to-one correspondence between federal regions and core ethnic areas is destabilizing, as Yugoslav experience demonstrates. Regions should be defined with a view to de-emphasizing the most dangerous ethnic cleavages and accentuating subgroup and sub-regional divisions. Successful examples of this approach are Nigeria after the war with Biafra, Malaysia, Spain, and the Russian Federation.

In the Afghan case this would mean breaking up the predominantly Pashtun areas into several federal regions. Unfortunately this seems to be the only specific point that the author makes about the arrangement that he envisages for Afghanistan. Would the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, unlike the Pahstuns, have their own ethnic regions?

Most crucially, how exactly would a federal structure deal with the problem of local warlords? Is the argument that it would be more effective than a unitary structure in curbing their power and eventually supplanting them? Or that it would be more effective in co-opting them? Perhaps the federal units could even be designed to institutionalize, legitimize, and stabilize their fiefdoms.

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