Naser Koshan



“Words are opinions, action is the real truth”

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor

State building is a rigorous process that requires untiring stewardship and perseverance. Political rivalries and hegemonic interests have always been a solid factor in structural state failures and economic turmoil around the world. The transformation from a deeply crisis ridden society to that of a robust and solvent state does indeed require a steadfast and unconditional efforts at different levels. Prudent politicians and awakened citizenship are the key factors in attaining such crucial milestone. Global history suggests that war and destruction eventually lead to an agreed consensus and collaboration among opponents in moving towards a viable and organic state building process.

The state building process in Afghanistan witnessed turbulent ups and downs since 2001. Afghanistan on one hand has a tremendous potential with vast underground mineral resources, it is believed that the estimated value could reach a multi trillion dollar industry, on the other hand, the prevailing government can easily facilitate the environment for foreign and domestic stakeholders to extract and materialize on the profits to accelerate economic parity and political stability, after all, they are the key elements in accessing a thriving state. President Ghani an internationally acclaimed intellectual and co-authoring “How to fix failed States” was considered the torchbearer of a dynamic change in state building efforts in 2014 elections. He was perceived as a reformist with a broad vision, capable of branching out state bureaucracy from president’s desk, entrusting subordinates as the elected leader. Unfortunately, despite notable achievements, the pace to fix things at home and put a credible civil service in place is rather slow and vulnerable.

Political pundits largely differ when it comes to debating about prioritizing nation building as opposed to state building, some believing that generally a unified and integrated nation has a comparative advantage in accelerating state building efforts, in contrast to a fragmented and divided society. Realistically speaking, state building often precedes nation building; it is through a comprehensive state building policy that lays the very foundation, for gradually turning a disoriented nation, into a unified society. This strategy should begin with a zero tolerance policy on corruption, discrimination, nepotism; as well as easing bureaucratic hurdles. It should promote an open door policy in delivering public services and undivided accessibility to state bureaucrats at any given time, transparency and accountability should be a precedence at all levels.

Historically speaking almost every country has surpassed a relatively similar experience in coping with a devastating outcome associated with state failure. France with industrial revolution, Europe with the Marshal Plan and South Africa post apartheid are some of the success stories that can be easily replicated in today’s failed states. Essentially country specifics and social dynamics determine the pace and efficacy on how the general public, and state bureaucrats, assume responsibilty in an effectively elaborated and vision oriented approach.

For instance, even the United States emerged as a unilateral superpower in 21st century only after experiencing a devastating civil war and a despicable racial inequality at home in 20th century. Nevertheless, the American forefathers and subsequent policy makers took the initiative, to gradually put an end to these miseries, and move towards a constitutional democracy, that equally sets the limits of jurisdiction on all government branches. In fact, the only reason that they proposed a strong congress was to keep a tangible check and balance on the executive branch from becoming rogue and too powerful.

The question that arises in fixing failed states is how to effectively channelize all resident resources towards a shared vision, with an aim to achieve a systematic long - run economic growth and foundational social stability. No doubt, foreign aid can act as an inducement in accelerating state building efforts in conflict ridden countries, but it is not the only determinant in bringing about a prosperous society, charismatic leadership and budget austerity are equally important. On the contrary it can also sink failed states into even deeper crisis. It is worth mentioning that The Marshal plan was only an aid package, the tendency and prudent Europe politicians had a clear cut vision on how to gradually turn Europe into a formidable Economic power, self reliant and a trustworthy trade partner with the rest of the world. We should not forget that goodwill donations are usually followed, by hefty loans that further pushes failed states into an even greater economic recession, defaulting on repayments as the last resort.

Naturally third world politicians are intrinsically inclined towards self enrichment, and prone to corruptible consciences. These financial aids that are meant to be spent on long-term national projects and state building efforts are often channeled into offshore personal bank accounts, and private business interests abroad. Afghanistan is a great case study in this regard. Subsequent Afghan administrations lacked the prudency and determination to emphasize on transparent spending of an unprecedented foreign donations flowing to the country, failing to set up stricter guidelines for public servants, emphasizing on conflict of interests; as well as having a special investigator’s office in place to question, and prosecute any wrongdoings at any level within the government.

Globalization has created an increasingly growing supply and demand chain around the world. This phenomenon is urging small and big states to mutually partner in economic partnerships and political alignments. In this particular set up, countries such as Afghanistan with huge riches and favorable economic connectivity routes, can actively engage with its neighbors as well as the region in futile dialogues and business ventures. Afghanistan’s geostrategic and geo-economic location gives the country an edge with tangible challenges, and feasible advantages at the same time. Having friendlier neighbors is a great help along the process, regretfully Afghan neighbors have always pursued a hegemonic sectarian approach on Afghanistan, primarily aiming to exploit its social and political vulnerabilities and stalling any potential state building endeavors at its core. For instance, Pakistan sensing a national security threat from a stable and well to do Afghanistan, is still reluctant to let go off its infamous strategic depth policy on Afghanistan, unsuccessfully aiming to create a buffer zone along the eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan in case an imminent Indo-Pak war ignites on its western border.

Iran on the other hand, is economically motivated to interfere in Afghanistan. The crippling U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil have forced the leadership in Tehran to lookout for alternative markets elsewhere to offset the losses incurred from diminishing oil revenue; a great portion of the Iranian economy largely depends on its exports of goods and service to Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic also faces an imminent danger of drought in most of its provinces; any initiative taken by the Afghan government, in managing its water has always raised equal concerns in both Tehran and Islamabad. The region needs to find a common ground for mutual partnerships, and indulge in active diplomacy with each other, assisting in respective efforts of state building on home grounds.


Author: Naser Koshan


Washington, U.S.

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