Abdullah Abdullah: ‘Nobody promised Afghanistan will be paradise in 2, 3 years’ 

Amid reports of deteriorating human rights and security in Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah admitted there have been "shortcomings" in his administration. 

On widespread corruption and human rights abuses in Afghanistan, the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, said: "Nobody had promised that Afghanistan will be paradise as a result of the two, three years of the unity government but we have promised to take steps, which we have done."

He admitted earlier this year that his National Unity Government (NUG) had failed to fulfill some of its commitments, leading to a loss of trust in the government.

When DW's Tim Sebastian asked why the Ashraf Ghani administration doesn’t resign as a consequence, Abdullah responded: "There are areas [where] there have been shortcomings… The parliamentary elections will be in a few months' time, parliamentary and district council elections. This election should have been held a year and a half back. That's a shortcoming."  

UN: Highest level of torture since 2010 

More serious shortcomings include UN reports of the highest levels of torture of conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan since 2010. Although the 2017 report acknowledged the "genuine commitment and the efforts of the government to deal with this issue," the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said: "The continuing torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees is a matter of serious concern."

Now live
26:01 mins.
Conflict Zone | 13.06.2018

Abdullah Abdullah on Conflict Zone

Abdullah said: "We are having a good level of cooperation with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) which is watching these things."

Torture methods described in the report include forcibly pumping water into detainees' stomachs, crushing their testicles with clamps, suffocating them until they lost consciousness and applying electric shocks to their genitals. 

Forty-five per cent of detainees interviewed said they had been tortured or ill-treated. 

Asked whether he was proud of this, Abdullah responded: "Nobody could be proud of this should it be the case… But I can assure you that certain strong measures have been taken."

Audios and videos on the topic

Abuse of civilians in Kandahar

Human Rights Watch found that Afghan special forces executed civilians in Kandahar province during military operations from January 31 to February 1 this year, saying: "Security personnel found to be responsible for abuses, including failing to report possible war crimes, should be held accountable." During operations against the Taliban, Afghan forces allegedly dragged some men from their homes and shot them.

Abdullah said these reports were worth looking at but challenged the view that they were representative of the overall situation in Afghanistan: "[These cases are being] investigated, people are imprisoned as a result of that, people are being prosecuted as a result."

"In every single report by the UN as well as the relevant agencies you will see approval of the reform which has been carried out in the past few years," Abdullah said and stressed that reform of a "culture embedded for many years" would take time to change. 

US special inspector general for Afghan Reconstruction, John Sopko, concluded in January: "While President Ghani declared a 'national jihad' on corruption, corruption is not just a problem for the system of governance in Afghanistan; it is the system of governance." 

The Chief Executive said his government and Sopko had a "good level" of cooperation: "That’s what unfortunately we have inherited. We have to deal and address and it’s our responsibility to do it."

The Taliban have reciprocated a ceasefire offer by Ashraf Ghani's government this week.

Deteriorating security and the Taliban

At the peak of international involvement in Afghanistan in 2011, 150,000 international troops were deployed there. Today, it is approximately 15,000. 

NATO is currently leading the non-combat mission Resolute Support which provides training, advice and assistance to Afghan security forces.

Afghanistan's security situation has suffered a recent wave of attacks that killed scores of people across the country.

But this week, after the Taliban have reciprocated a ceasefire offer by Kabul ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid, hopes were raised that the years-long conflict could finally be resolved. The Taliban considers the national unity government to be a "US puppet," and this is the first time the group has agreed to a ceasefire since 2001 when US forces ousted the Taliban regime. 

"[The Taliban] have shown their utter irresponsibility towards the people and towards the fate of the country," said Abdullah, but added the door for talks and negotiation would be kept open.  

Afghanistan's main two priorities right now were security and education for girls. At the same time, "Taliban are already defeated," he added. "Their ideals are rejected, their ideology is rejected, and the fact [is] that their way of life is rejected by the absolute majority of the people of Afghanistan."

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Fragile security

Repeated attacks in Afghanistan over the past several months have killed and wounded hundreds of innocent Afghans, and shown the world the fragile and worsening state of security in the conflict-stricken country. The incidents have plunged war-weary Afghan citizens into a state of despair and highlighted the limitations faced by the government in Kabul in ensuring public security.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

A long series of attacks

The violent incidents have made Afghanistan once again a staple of international headlines. Outfits like the Taliban and the "Islamic State" (IS) have claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Afghan government is under heavy pressure to restore security and take back territory controlled by a number of insurgent groups, including the Taliban and IS.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Spring offensive

Last week, the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive, dismissing an offer of peace talks by President Ashraf Ghani. The militants, fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law to Afghanistan, said their campaign was a response to a more aggressive US military strategy adopted last year, which aims to force the militants into peace talks.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Trump's Afghanistan policy

US President Donald Trump unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan last year, vowing to deploy more troops, on top of the 11,000 already in the country, to train and advise Afghan security forces. Trump also pledged to support Afghan troops in their war against the Taliban and maintain American presence in the country for as long as there was a need for it.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Afghan peace process

Despite President Ghani's offer in February for peace talks "without preconditions," the Taliban have shown no interest, dismissing the peace overtures as a "conspiracy." Observers say it is unlikely that the militant group will engage in any negotiations, as they currently have the upper hand on the battleground. The Taliban now control more Afghan districts than at any other time since 2001.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Pakistani support

Pakistan has been under pressure from Kabul and Washington to stop offering safe havens to militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies and insists that its influence over the insurgents has been exaggerated. Kabul and Islamabad regularly trade accusations of harboring the other country's militants and the harsh language has underscored the strains between them.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Role of the warlords

Apart from the Taliban, Afghan warlords exercise massive influence in the country. Last year, Hizb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul after a 20-year exile to play an active role in Afghan politics. In September 2016, the Afghan government signed a deal with Hekmatyar in the hope that other warlords and militant groups would seek better ties with Kabul.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

An inefficient government

In the midst of an endless battle for power, President Ghani's approval ratings continue to plummet. Rampant corruption in the Afghan government and a long tug-of-war within the US-brokered national unity government has had a negative impact on the government's efforts to eradicate terrorism.

Upcoming elections

After several delays, Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) is expected to hold parliamentary and district council elections in October. 

Officials are working toward registering 14 million voters, but experts warn that polling could be severely hindered by the Taliban and other insurgent groups that oppose the vote. A series of violent attacks on voter registration centers made for a bloody start to the election process

"Our focus has to be on credible elections, the upcoming parliamentary elections and the district council elections and also presidential elections," Abdullah said. 

He himself ran for president in 2009, where he was Hamid Karzai's closest challenger, and in 2014 where he was seen as a front runner. He lost in the second round to Ashraf Ghani after months of dispute over electoral fraud. 

Abdullah's current position, government chief executive, was newly created for him and is similar to the role of prime minister. On the prospect of running again this year, Abdullah Abdullah told DW he has not decided yet.