More than 15 years after the United States overthrew the Taliban regime, the Trump administration inherited an Afghanistan still critically challenged by terrorism of international ramifications and by dangerous violent insurgency, debilitated by corruption and crime, and struggling with fractious domestic politics and difficult neighbors. Despite all these challenges, Afghanistan is holding on, with major cities in government hands and with at least a modicum of economic growth in recent months, and with political disputes still being handled primarily through raucous politics rather than civil warfare. But as Afghanistan stands on the cusp of another bloody fighting season and many governance challenges persist and the Afghan economy continues overall to struggle, the Trump administration is yet to announce its strategy in Afghanistan and assess U.S. interests in the country and the region.
On April 24, the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings (21CSI) hosted a discussion on current security and political dynamics in Afghanistan, providing both Afghan and U.S. perspectives on Afghanistan’s recent developments and U.S. interests. The panel included His Excellency Hamdullah Mohib, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United States, His Excellency Anwar ul-Haq, former minister of finance and of transportation and commerce of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and currently an opposition politician, and Brookings Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown. Michael O’Hanlon, co-director of 21CSI, moderated the discussion.
Following their remarks, the panel took questions from the audience.
Ambassador of The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United States
Former Minister of Finance and of Transportation and Commerce - The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
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President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.