The goal of the national assembly, Loya Jirga, which has opened in Kabul, is apparently simple -- elect a new national leadership for 18 months. Loya Jirga is not a parliament but a traditional congress of all tribes and communities, which is rarely gathered (the last one was held 23 years ago) but is very legitimate in the eyes of Afghans.
Also apparently predictable are the main decisions to be taken by this tribal get-together, which will sit for a week. This Loya Jirga is believed to have no alternative to the current government, led by Prime Minister Hamid Karzai. Its mandate its believed to be automatically prolonged for a required term, after which Afghanistan is going to have "classical" "world-class" parliamentary elections, following which an ordinary parliamentary republic will set in. The only question today is whether the ex-King Zahir Shah will be elected to the post of head of state or he will be a mere unofficial symbol of stability. Properly speaking, this problem has already led to the opening of the Loya Jirga being put from Monday to Tuesday, since serious differences have surfaced among its deputies after Zahir Shah said he is ready to occupy the supreme state post. Actually, the crux of Afghanistan settlement is different.
Grass-roots authority in Afghanistan is in the hands of numerous tribes and tribal associations. In this sense, the words "feudal disunity" can well be applied to Afghanistan. The power of the Kabul government is as before symbolical, which has strengthened the once shaky union of Uzbeks and Tajiks -- who are the leaders of the Northern Alliance -- with Pashtu Hamid Karzai. This union forms the basis of government. Pashtu tribes in the South of Afghanistan hardly like this union, but they do not seem to have forged at this Loya Jirga a majority in favour of alternative candidates. This is an illustration of the course of election of delegates to the Loya Jirga and its outcome.
Among the 1,501 delegates are very many warlords, or unruly armed local feudal satraps, who in the last quarter of a century have participated in wars of all against all and often helped the Taliban take and keep power.
Regretfully, they have easily wormed their way into the tribal assembly. But, first, their election is a reflection of Afghanistan realities and is, in its own way, quite democratic. Secondly, it could be much worse if these warlords would have found themselves outside the Loya Jirga. Against this background, the almost naive position of the Western public is surprising: it still believes that the establishment of democracy in a feudal country is a way out of the situation.
Naivety, or disability, is also demonstrated by Western governments, which would not tell in public the truth that the Afghanistan war has not resolved any problems and that a Second Coming of the Taliban, or the like, is a possibility. It is hard to explain the recognition of what, naivety or disability, is the stubborn lack of desire of many governments and international institutions to give Afghanistan the promised sums, which it wants to begin the process of whatever transformations.
At the January conference in Tokyo, the international community promised 4.5 billion dollars to Afghanistan, 1.8 billion of which was to arrive this year. So far, 870,000 million dollars has been gathered. The annual 460,000 million-dollar budget of the Afghan government has got only 45 million dollars from the donors, which is why Karzai even cannot pay salaries to officials. This is the reason why the power of the central government, in contrast to the power of warlords, still remains purely symbolical. Meanwhile, humanitarian programmes -- food supplies and aid to refugees -- are being curtailed one after another. The world apparently hopes that it is enough to elect a parliament each of whose members swears having nothing to do with "terrorism and infringement of human rights" and Afghanistan becomes something like Britain. Vain hopes these are.