Report from Afghanistan

ZW - afghan_couple

Guest Blog:  Zaher Wahab, Ph,D,

NOTE:  This just in from my mentor, friend and colleague, Zaher Wahab.  This is Zaher’s second guest blog to this site.  He continues as the director of the graduate program in Education with American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).  While still a professor in the graduate school at Lewis & Clark College, Zaher gave years of service to the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan.  That led him, upon retirement, to a new post:

Starting January 1, 2014, I was persuaded to accept a full time position with the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). Though the University then did not have a single professor in education or any education program, it was lured by money from the World Bank and the Ministry of Education toZW - 425480 launch an MA program for instructors from the 42 two-year Teacher Training Colleges in the country. It seems that administrators cannot resist $, no matter. And, I was given the task of making this happen! 

Today, Zaher offers his update of conditions in Afghanistan alongside survey input from 30 of his students.  My thanks to my friend.  mmc

It has been exactly a year since the Washington-crafted so-called ‘government of national unity’ (GNU) headed by Dr. A. Ghani the President and Dr. Abdullah the Chief Executive Officer, was inaugurated in Afghanistan. The first round of inconclusive presidential elections had been held on April 5, 2014. But due to massive fraud and contestation, a second round was held on June 14, 2014. There was so much tension, conflict, rumors of civil war, and people arming themselves prior to the run-off election on June 14, that the American University of Afghanistan(AUAF) was forced to close for ten days and all expatriate employees evacuated to Dubai.

In retrospect, the second round turned out to be more fraudulent than the first. With the country on the brink, Mr. J. Kerry came twice to Kabul and finally imposed the GNU. To this day, citizens have not been told how many people voted, total – or for each of the two candidates. This ‘government in a box,’ made in the U.S. embassy in Kabul and written in English plunged the constitution, the country and the state into a profound crisis.

The GNU’s patrons and apologists hailed it as a great “democratic and technocratic” solution, and the first peaceful transition of power in Afghan’s history. It took the President and CEO about seven months (until August 1, 2015) to finally form a cabinet, minus the Minister of Defense. In this Kerry Afghan democracy model the president and the CEO appoints half the government such as the ministers, governors, Mayors, the Supreme Court, the author general, the local governors, etc.

As for peace, vicious and deadly insurgency continues to rage in most of the provinces. According to UNAMA, this year has been the deadliest since 2009. The economy is in freefall; only 1.9% growth in 2014 with more than half of the 16 million labor force un- or underemployed. Per capita income is less than $500. According to the World Food Program 80% of the Afghani people are either hungry, food insecure or malnourished.  Just 15% of women and 35% of men are literate.  Just 4% of college ages are enrolled in colleges.

In Afghanistan, child mortality and maternal deaths are still near the top in the world. According to UNICEF millions of children are out of school and engaged in hard and dangerous labor to support their families. According to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty international and AIHRC, violence against women is actually at an all-time high, hence the rise in women’s suicide, (especially by immolation, and drug overdose) prostitution and AID’s. Signs of the sociocultural fabric unraveling, are all around. One such indication is the institutionalized pedophilia and child sex slavery, including on US/NATO military bases, as recent expose by the NYT documented once more.

Massive Exodus

At this writing, Afghans constitute the second largest group, after Syrians, migrating to Europe. They include infants, children, entire families, old and young but mostly young adults, academics, journalists, professionals, illiterate peasant, urban and rural, men and women. People are liquidating whatever they have and embarking on the risky and arduous journey. This being the fifth such massive exodus of the best and the brightest since 1973, the government is waging a big campaign urging the educated young to “Stay and build Afghanistan.” But absent any hope for the country’s or their own future, people are voting with their feet and pockets and are escaping in droves.

All the while, Afghani people see the Taliban as an American project; a new project pursuing old objective. The Afghan-US Bilateral Security Agreement and Status of Forces deal, signed a year ago, has not made Afghanistan more secure or peaceful, but in fact much worse. A just-issued UN report says Daesh is active in 25 of 34 Afghanistan’s provinces. Taliban and Daesh are created, trained, armed and supported by Pakistan. The US knows this full-well, but does nothing. This conflicted, multi-headed, divided, weak and dysfunctional state was crippled from its start on September 29, 2014.

AFUF Study

Below is a survey given to 30 of my undergraduate students.  While arguably limited, the responses are from everyday Afghanis and, in fact, mirrors the country/nation at large. Nationally, less than 20% of the people trust, like, have faith or confidence in the government. They snicker in response to the phony calls to, “Stay and build the country.” They see their country made unlivable and these calls irrelevant given their origin with wealthier Afghans with dual citizenship and children live abroad. The young – under 25 – who constitute 65% of the country, feel marginalized, disenfranchised, divided, abandoned and misled by the ruling clique.

I continue to wonder if there might be an “Afghan Spring.” I also wonder if the current brain drain will deliver to the country a massive and fatal stroke. Time will tell.

American University of Afghanistan (AUAF)
Kabul, Afghanistan
Poli Sci-130 Class Survey (September 2015)
Instructor: Dr. Zaher Wahab
1 Gender/Sex: Male 15
Female 14
Blank 1
2 Year at AUAF Freshman 2
Sophomore 13
Junior 12
Senior 3
3 Your Major
Political Science 16
Political Science/Public Policy 1
Political Science/Public Administration 5
Political Science/Business Administration 1
Law 4
4 Province: Kabul 7
Ghazni 3
Parwan 3
Logar 2
Paktia 2
Wardak 2
Bamyan 1
Herat 1
Khost 1
Kunar 1
Badakhshan 1
Nangarhar 1
Nuristan 1
5 Are you on Scholarship? Yes 13
No 17
6 Do you work? No 18
Yes 12
If yes, hours/per week:
35 hours on average
7 Did you vote last year? Yes 15
No 15
8 Your interest in current political affairs/event Very Strong 12
Strong 6
Some 8
None 4
9 Your daily time spent on getting the news? 30 minutes 13
One hour 11
1. 1/2 hours 6
None 0
10 Where do you get your information about government and politics from? Internet 25
Radio 2
Friends 3
TV 24
Papers 5
Family 8
11 How do you view the current government? Very favorably 1
Favorably 6
Unfavorably 13
Very Unfavorably 10
12 Do you plan to work for the government? Yes 20
No 10
13 Name your most favorable politician: Ashraf Ghani 4
Dr. Najeebullah 3
Hamid Karzai 2
King Amanullah 2
Sardar Daud Khan 2
Dr. Abdullah 2
General Dostam 1
Dr. Bashardoost 1
Amrullah Saleh 1
Dr. Spanta 1
Ahmad Ali Jalali 1
Noorulhaq Uloomi 1
Gandhi 1
Malcolm X 1
Markel 1
Abraham Lincoln 1
(My dad) 1
No Answer 6
14 Do you trust the current government? Yes 2
Some 7
No 20
Blank 1
15 About the country’s future – are you? Optimistic 11
Pessimistic 6
Not Sure 13



16 What do you think about the position/situation of women in the government and politics?
Here is what students wrote:
The place of women in government is not as good as it should be; Not very good; Not useful.
Unfortunately they are mostly marglized in the system.
They hold symbolic roles; In some, way important; Better than 10 years back.
It is good that the women have a role in the government.
Symbolic; Yes, there is; Increasing; Very good; Less; Not well to a certain extent.
They have no place in the government because they are uneducated.
Very little opportunity, still better than the past; Yes, there is a place and it must be improved.
Many corrupt women are involved in government; Somehow improving to be involved.
Yes, the women should be given a place in politics in the country.
There has been progress but it’s still incredibly symbolic.
It’s bright, and should have more chance; Is useful because half of our population is women.
Very important but current contribution is not enough.
Symbolic, but in the future good; There are fewer women in the system of government.
17 The place of young people in government/politics?
Here is what students wrote:
Second position; Very little; less; Not enough; Increasing; Somewhat strong.
They are young and energetic they can make a change.
Only youth can change the face of Afghan government; Very little opportunity is given.
They should have more chance; Getting somewhat better but not too quickly.
Young Afghans are incredibly confused without even knowing it.
The place of young people in government is very unclear.
Not so much because there is more chance for old people; Better than 10 years back.
Rare; Vert important; Very few; None; Yes; Limited; No place, they are not trusted.
The place of young people is good in politics; Very important because they are more educated.
18 Your priorities if you were president of Afghanistan:
Here is what students wrote:
Security 14
Education 14
Economy 13
International Relationship (foreign policy) 4
Industrial Development 4
Employment for everyone 4
Equality between men and women (Gender) 3
health care 3
Human Rights 2
Good governance (politics) 2
Improving Afghan Security Forces 2
Corruption 1
Elimination of insurgencies 1
Public Trust 1
Appropriate constitution for the country 1
Culture relationship with neighbors 1
Kabul and Logar 1
Women’s Improvement 1
Regional policy 1
Law’s modification 1
Stability 1
Prosperity 1
Girl schools 1
19 List Five of the most serious problems/challenges facing the country:
Security 20
Lack of education 14
Economy 14
Corruption 11
No trust between People and Government 8
Unemployment 7
Uneducated people in Government 7
Poor Governance 6
Week foreign relations 5
Women/Human Rights 4
Cultural and Religious Problem 4
Week Intelligence and Military 3
Discrimination 2
Poor Health System 2
Racism 2
Terror Groups/Talib 2
No democracy 2
Lack of support for National Products 1
Lack of technology in the Government 1
Migration Problem 1
Traffic Problems 1
No Gender Equality 1
Execution of every Jahadi Leaders 1
Free Market Economy 1
Poverty 1
Lack of Exposure to the world 1
Ethnic conflict 1
Child Labor 1
No Infrastructure 1



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