A dearth of data
In a 2003 internal Pentagon memo, Donald Rumsfeld observed, “we lack the metrics to know if we are winning or losing the Global War on Terror.”

That memo could be equally applicable to Afghanistan. As participants at a recent conference hosted by the Canadian Institute of International Affairs and the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs demonstrated, it is almost impossible to define success when so little information is being made available to measure it.

That lack of data from governments is all too familiar to Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “We’re not focused on winning,” he cautioned, noting caveats of NATO members, a lack of coordination between militaries and development agencies, and a deficiency of helicopters for safer mobility. Without the necessary commitment and resources, he warned, “we can snatch defeat from victory…metrics of a tactical victory over the Taliban are irrelevant…we risk repeating the mistakes of Vietnam.”

Added William Byrd, an adviser in poverty reduction and economic management with the World Bank, “it is striking to me that six years on there is no national security strategy for Afghanistan.”

For the people of Afghanistan, “success seemed to be achievable and real” following the Bonn Agreement of 2001, said Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2001 to March 2006. Now, with daily radio reports of Taliban successes, “once it is in the minds of the people that they could go back to the old days, all other metrics are irrelevant.”

To counter that impression and to begin developing realistic markers, the international community must start tracking local metrics rather than incidents of violence and its own body count, said Seth Jones, a political scientist with the RAND Corporation and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Those numbers might be hard to come by, cautioned Stephen Cornish of CARE Canada, especially in the south where locals are reluctant to provide information when “they don’t know to whom the information is going.”

As the Manley report makes all too clear, “the effectiveness of Canada’s military and civilian activities in Afghanistan, along with the progress of Afghan security, governance and development, must be tracked and assessed more thoroughly and systematically…Required now are more practical standards for judging performance and actual results.” And that starts, it says, by “providing more information and analysis on the diplomatic and reconstruction-development dimensions.”

Foreign intelligence service urged
Canada needs its own intelligence service, says University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper.

In a paper prepared for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, Cooper writes that “Canada’s post-Cold War enemies are hidden, and Canada’s diplomatic and military allies have remained economic competitors.”

“On those grounds alone, Canada needs a Foreign Intelligence Service, CFIS, with a mandate similar to that given CSIS in the area of domestic or security intelligence.”

In the absence of a foreign intelligence service, Cooper argues, Canada is forced to rely on others, operate with a reactive security policy and “remain a soft target for espionage and terrorist activity.”

“An accurate, responsive, and comprehensive intelligence capability is a fundamental cornerstone of Canada’s sovereignty,” he says. “It alone can provide the national situational awareness necessary for the development of coherent and informed security policy.”

For more, see www.cdfai.org/PDF/CFIS.pdf.

Good governance, local leadership
Despite recent reports of calls for the disbandment of the Canadian Forces Strategic Advisory Team in Kabul, it may be one of the best tools aiding the delivery of governance in Afghanistan.

As the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan noted, “improving governance is essential to improving security in Afghanistan…Indeed, speeding the establishment of sustainable institutions of governance counts among the most valuable and urgent contributions that Canadians and others can make to the well-being of Afghans and their families.”

Legitimacy and public confidence, it says, will only rise once Afghan authorities can demonstrate accountable, honest and effective governance.

The SAT, embedded within several Afghan ministries, has played a small but important role in helping build some of the frameworks and metrics for identifying national spending priorities. However, as all politics is local – and in Afghanistan that often means corrupt governance focused more on serving a central structure rather than the people – a great deal more is required.

“At the local level, there isn’t officially a structure of governance,” says Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs until March 2006. In a recent interview, he said if Canada and the international community want to have an affect locally, “it will mainly come from working through traditional shuras, which you have in every village and every district. You can work with them to identify priorities.”

The institutions of good governance take time. But with so many outsiders looking for signs of success, there is a danger of creating the institutions before the districts have the internal capacity to maintain them. “There is no capacity so everything is done by foreigners,” Abdullah said. “The people have no say in the developmental process. How can you expect to be successful unless the people have a stake?”

Dr. Abdullah, an ophthalmologist who during the Soviet occupation worked in Pakistan before joining the Mujahiddin in 1985 as an advisor to Ahmad Shah Massoud, said, by and large, the people are open to new concepts of governance “as long as they don’t consider it a cultural invasion. You can be involved in policy discussions, but in a support role not a governing role.”

Their priorities, he added, are no different than any Canadian’s: education for their children, healthcare, food and security. Initiatives around all of these are desperately needed, but “before taking any prescription to any village, there has to be a study in consultation with the local people. It’s about the approach – the will is there.”

Drawing on diasporas
Canada could use “diaspora” communities across the country to contribute to private sector development in their countries of origin, according to a new study by the Canadian Foundation for the Americas.

In “Diasporas and Private Sector Development: Impacts and opportunities,” researchers Carlo Dade and Per Unheim identify six categories of private sector contributions for Canadian diaspora communities and five “actors” that affect those contributions.

Among other measures, they suggest:
· A website focused on “investment opportunities available to members of the diaspora in their home countries.”
· A working group of diaspora organizations, the private sector and academia to advise CIDA on specific financial transfers.
· A CIDA fund for diaspora business associations that would allow them to apply for either long-term or project-based support.
· Government support for temporary return migration programs or other incentives that would encourage highly skilled immigrants to share their specialized knowledge with institutions and professionals in their home country.

The study also calls for “technical assistance to governments of developing countries with large overseas diasporas to create institutional support mechanisms such as diaspora ministries to encourage the expatriates’ economic engagement with their country of origin.”

In other areas, the report urges assistance for countries that send immigrants and migrants to Canada to improve their domestic investment environments. “There is a need for actors in Canada to continue efforts to foster appropriate enabling environments for investment in developing countries while facilitating further economic linkages between diasporas and their countries of origin.”

For more, see www.focal.ca.