Politics of Afghanistan

Politics of Afghanistan

In recent years the politics of Afghanistan have been dominated by the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, by the NATO forces and the subsequent efforts to stabilise and democratise the country. The nation's new constitution has been adopted and an executive president democratically elected in 2004. The parliamentary elections took place the following year, in September 2005.

The current president Hamid Karzai became the first ever democratically elected head of state in Afghanistan on December 7, 2004. He has begun the process of rebuilding his nation. The National Assembly is Afghanistan's national legislature. It is a bicameral body, composed of the House of the People and the House of the Elders. The current legislature was elected on September 18, 2005. The members of the Supreme Court were appointed by the president to form the judiciary. Together, this new system is to provide a new set of checks and balances that was unheard of in the country. Also, the system is quite new, implementation of which began only 2004, just after decades of war between different factions and warlords. The remnants of the warlords are almost non-existent. The United Nations and other governments and organizations play a vital role in rebuilding this new democracy's political environment.


Politics in Afghanistan has historically consisted of power struggles, bloody coups and unstable transfers of power. With the exception of a military junta, the country has been governed by every system of government over the past century, including a monarchy, republic, capitalism, theocracy, dictatorship, socialism and a pro-communist state. The constitution ratified by the 2003 Loya jirga restructured the government as an Islamic republic consisting of three branches of power (executive, legislative, and judiciary) overseen by checks and balances.

Afghanistan is currently led by President Hamid Karzai, who was elected in 2004. Before the election, Karzai led the country after being chosen by delegates of the Bonn Conference in late 2001 to head an interim government after the fall of the Taliban. While supporters have praised Karzai's efforts to promote national reconciliation and a growing economy, critics charge him with failing to stem corruption and the growing drug trade, and the slow pace of reconstruction.

The current parliament was elected in 2005. Among the elected officials were former mujahadeen, Taliban members, communists, reformists, and Islamic fundamentalists. Surprisingly, 28% of the delegates elected were women, 3% more than the 25% minimum guaranteed under the constitution. Ironically, this made Afghanistan, long known under the Taliban for its oppression of women, one of the leading countries in terms of female representation.

The Supreme Court of Afghanistan is currently led by Chief Justice Faisal Ahmad Shinwari. Dominated by fundamentalist religious figures, it has tried to ban a candidate in the 2004 presidential election for questioning polygamy laws, and limited the rights of women, as well as overstepped its constitutional authority by issuing rulings on subjects not yet brought before the court. Though many believed that Karzai would make reforming the Supreme Court a priority of his administration.

The former Taliban regime

On September 27, 1996, the ruling members of the Afghan government were displaced by members of the Islamic Taliban movement. The Taliban declared themselves the legitimate government of Afghanistan; however, the UN continued to recognize the former government of Burhanuddin Rabbani.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference left the Afghan seat vacant until the question of legitimacy could be resolved through negotiations among the warring factions.

By the time of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks only Pakistan recognized the Taliban government, though Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had in the past.

The Taliban occupied 95% of the territory, called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The remaining 5% belonged to the rebel forces constituting the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which the United Nations had recognized as the official government in exile.

U.S.-led Invasion

After the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden to U.S. authorities for his suspected involvement in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., a US-led international coalition was formed; after several weeks of aerial bombardment by coalition forces and military action on the ground, including Afghan opposition forces, the Taliban was officially ousted from power on November 17, 2001.

Bonn Agreement

In December 2001, a number of prominent Afghans met under UN auspices in Germany, to decide on a plan for governing the country; as a result, the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) - made up of 30 members, headed by a chairman - was inaugurated on December 22, 2001, with a six-month mandate to be followed by a two-year Transitional Authority (TA), after which elections are to be held. Some provisions in the agreement have expired, due to the creation of the constitution. Still, the agreement paved the way for the creation of a democratic Afghanistan.

Approval by the Loya Jirga

The structure of the Transitional Authority was announced on June 10, 2002, when the Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) convened establishing the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA), which had 18 months to hold a constitutional Loya Jirga to adopt a constitution and 24 months to hold nationwide elections. The Loya Jirga was replaced by the National Assembly.

Recent developments

Under the Bonn Agreement the Afghan Constitution Commission was established to consult with the public and formulate a draft constitution. The meeting of a constitutional "Loya Jirga" was held in December 2003, when a new constitution was adopted creating a presidential form of government with a bicameral legislature.

Troops and intelligence agencies from the United States and a number of other countries are present, some to support the government, others assigned to hunt for remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda. A United Nations military force called the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been operating in Kabul since December 2001. NATO took control of this Force on August 11, 2003. Eurocorps took over the responsibility for ISAF on August 9, 2004.

National elections were held on October 9, 2004. Over 10 million Afghans were registered to vote. Most of the 17 candidates opposing Karzai boycotted the election, charging fraud; [ [http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,1564,1354517,00.html Deutsche Welle - Polls Closed in Afghan Elections - October 10, 2004] ] an independent commission found evidence of fraud, but ruled that it did not affect the outcome of the poll. Karzai won 55.4% of the vote. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3977677.stm BBC News - Karzai declared Afghan president - November 3, 2004] ] He was inaugurated as president on December 7 of that year. It was the country's first national election since 1969, when parliamentary elections were last held.

On September 18, 2005, parliamentary elections were held; the parliament opened on the following day, December 19.On December 20 Karzai's close ally and president of the first mujahideen government, Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, was picked to head the 102-seat upper house.On December 21, Yunus Qanuni, Afghan opposition leader and Karzai's main opponent was chosen to lead the 249-seat lower house of parliament with 122 votes against 117 for his closest challenger.


The Bonn Agreement called for a "Loya Jirga" to be convened. This body ratified the Constitution of Afghanistan in early 2004. It creates a strong Presidency and a bicameral legislative branch.

Executive branch

!align=left|President of Afghanistan
Hamid Karzai|
October 2004
Vice President
Ahmad Zia Massoud||
Second Vice President
Karim Khalili||
Senior Minister
Hedayat Amin Arsala||
Foreign Minister
Rangin Dadfar Spanta|
April 20, 2006
Defence Minister
Abdul Rahim Wardak|
December 23, 2004
Interior Minister
Ahmad Moqbel Zarar||
Planning Minister
Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq||
Finance Minister
Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi||
Education Minister
Mohamad Hanif Atmar|
Borders & Tribal Affairs Minister
Abdul Karim Brahui||
Economics Minister
Mohammad Jalil Shams||
Mines and Industries Minister
Mir Mohammad Sediq||
Women's Affairs Minister
Massouda Jalal||
Public Health Minister
Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatemi||
Agriculture Minister
Obaidullah Ramin||
Justice Minister
Sarwar Danish ||
Communications Minister
Amirzai Sangin||
Information & Culture Minister
Said Makhdoom Rahin||
Refugees Affairs Minister
Azam Dadfar||
Haj and Religious Affairs Minister
Nematullah Shahrani||
Urban Affairs Minister
Yusuf Pashtun ||
Public Work Minister
Sohrab Ali Saffary||
Water and Power Minister
A. Shaker Kargar||
Labor and Social Affairs Minister
Sayed Ekramuddin Masoomi||
Energy Minister
Ismail Khan||
Martyrs and Disabled Minister
Sediqa Balkhi||
Higher Education Minister
Sayed Amir Shah Hassanyar||
Transportation Minister
Enayatullah Qasemi||
Rural Development and Rehabilitation Minister
Hanif Atmar||
Counter-Narcotics Minister
Habibullah Qader|
January 2004
National Security Advisor
Zalmai Rassoul||
Supreme Court Chief Justice
Faisal Ahmad Shinwari||

See also:
*Afghan Cabinet of Ministers

Legislative branch

The 2005 Parliamentary Election for the Wolesi Jirga or House of the People were conducted on September 18, 2005. This was the first parliamentary election in Afghanistan since 1969. 2707 candidates, including 328 women, competed for 249 seats. The election was conducted with multiple seat electoral constituencies. Each province is a constituency and has a varying number of seats, depending on population. Voters have a single non-transferable vote.

The Meshrano Jirga or House of the Elders consists of 102 members. One-third of the members were appointed by the president, while another third was elected by the provincial councils. Elections for the provincial councils were held simultaneously with those for the Wolesi Jirga. The remaining third is supposed to be elected by district councils. However, elections for the district councils have been postponed, meaning that one-third of the seats in the Meshrano Jirga will be vacant when it assembles.

Despite Taliban and other anti-government forces stating they intended to disrupt the elections, the polling day went by with minimal violence.


2005 Parliamentary election

Afghanistan held parliamentary elections on 18 September 2005. First results were announced on 9 October and final results on 12 November of 2005. Since all candidates were not listed by party and elected as non-partisans, a breakdown by party was not possible. Turnout was estimated at about 50 percent. For more info: Afghan parliamentary election, 2005.

2004 Presidential elections

Political parties

Political parties in Afghanistan are in flux and many prominent players have plans to create new ones. As of the 2005 Parliamentary Election, political parties are not legally recognised and candidates must run as independents, although parties can support candidates who are members.Main parties seem to be:
*Islamic Party of Afghanistan
*National Congress Party of Afghanistan
*National Movement of Afghanistan
*National Islamic Movement of AfghanistanOther minor parties are:
*Afghan Mellat (Afghan Social Democratic Party)
*Communist Party of Afghanistan
*Democratic Watan Party of Afghanistan
*Liberal Democratic Party of Afghanistan
*Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan Some sources still list the following parties:
*Islamic Movement of Afghanistan (Mohammed Asif Mohseni)
*Islamic and National Revolution Movement of Afghanistan (Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi)
*Hezbi Islami (Islamic Party) Gulbuddin Hikmatyar
*Hezbe Wahdat (Islamic Unity Party) Mohammad Akbar Akbari
*Islamic Dawah Organisation of Afghanistan (Abdul Rasul Sayyaf)
*Jabha-i-Najat-i-Milli Afghanistan (Afghanistan National Liberation Front) Sibghatullah Mojaddedi
*Mehez-e-Milli (Afghan National Party) Yunus Qanuni
*Mahaz-i-Milli-Islami (National Islamic Front) Sayed Ahmad Gailani
*Taliban (Religious Students Movement) Mohammed Omar
*United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan
*Jamiat-e Islami (Islamic Society) Burhanuddin Rabbani

Political pressure groups and leaders

NA; note - ministries formed under the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) include former influential Afghans, diaspora members, and former political leaders
*Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere have organized politically
*Pakistan-based groups such as the Coordination Council for National Unity and Understanding in Afghanistan or CUNUA (leader Ishaq Gailani
*Tribal leader represent traditional Pashtun leadership
*Writers Union of Free Afghanistan or WUFA [Rasul Amin]

Judicial branch

The Constitution of Afghanistan mandates a Supreme Court. Other minor courts were created too, such as high courts, appeals courts, and other district Courts. :See also: Chief Justice of Afghanistan

International organization participation

Asian Development Bank

Afghanistan has received $892.28 million in lending since joining the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at its founding in 1966 and is ADB’s 17th largest borrower. ADB suspended its operations in Afghanistan from 1992 to 2002.Significant international engagement with Afghanistan resumed in 2001 following the ouster of the Taliban regime. In 2001 and 2002, ADB, the World Bank, and the United Nations assessed the country’s critical rehabilitation and development needs: at the 2002 Tokyo Conference, ADB pledged loan and grant assistance of some $500 million over 2.5 years, beginning with a $167.18 million Postconflict Multisector Program loan, the first loan by aninternational financial institution to the country in more than 23 years.In 2004, ADB pledged up to $800 million in Asian Development Fund (ADF) loans and grants for 2005–2008, while at the 2006 London Conference indicated its intention to provide up to $200 million per year in ADF funding through 2010.ADB’s support has focused on building national capacity, establishing policy and institutional frameworks, and rehabilitating infrastructure. At the request of the Afghan authorities, ADB loan and grant-financed projects and programs and related technical assistance are focused on the road [transport, energy, agriculture and natural resource management, and governance and financial sectors. Private sector support has focused on loans and investments in the telecommunications and banking sectors.

The World Bank

Afghanistan became a member of the World Bank in 1955. Shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979, World Bank operations were suspended, and the resident mission in Kabul was closed, although the Bank continued to provide assistance to Afghans through its office in neighboring Pakistan. The Bank resumed operations in Afghanistan in May 2002 to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest people while assisting the government in developing the administrative systems required for longer-term nationwide development.

Prior to 1979, the World Bank had provided 21 no-interest loans, known as "credits" to Afghanistan across a wide range of areas including education, roads, and agriculture. Of the original US$230 million in credits approved under IDA, US $83 million was disbursed and US $147 million was subsequently canceled. Afghanistan had repaid US $9.2 million to IDA and was up to date on debt service payments until June 1992, when it stopped making payments.

In 2003, Afghanistan was able to clear its debt to the World Bank, in part with the help of Japan, the UK, Sweden, Norway, and Italy, who contributed to a trust fund for this purpose. Additional funds from the multi-donors, which is administered by the World Bank, helped to clear the remaining arrears, allowing Afghanistan to become eligible for loans for projects designed to help meet the country's longer-term development needs.

The ARTF has emerged as one of the main instruments for financing the country’s recurrent budget and investment support for Afghanistan. To date, more than US$1.37 billion has been contributed to the ARTF by 24 donors.

Since 2002, the Bank has financed 21 projects, committing around US$1.13 billion, of which US$696.8 million is in grants and US$436.4 in interest-free credits. Two budget support operations and an emergency public works project have been completed so far. commitments of approximately US$26 million for the fiscal year 2007 (July 2006 - June 2007) will be entirely in grants. The Bank-funded projects mostly support rural livelihoods by providing job opportunities, rebuilding infrastructure, education and basic health services.


Afghanistan is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Colombo Plan, the Economic Cooperation Organization, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Group of 77, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Criminal Court, ICRM, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the Islamic Development Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Finance Corporation, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC (suspended), IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW (signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO

ee also

*List of leaders of Afghanistan
*Economy of Afghanistan


External links

* [http://www.president.gov.af president.gov.af] is the official site for the President of Afghanistan's office, from which links to other parts of the government can be found.
* [http://www.afghanvoice.com/ Afghan Voice.com] claims to be "an independent and neutral entity that represents the voice of all Afghans and is not associated with any particular group or political party." It seems to emphasize chat rooms and message boards, with links to headlines and Internet radio reports.
* [http://afghanistannews.net/ Afghanistan News.net] has good links to headlines and news sources, although it's not clear who's running the site, or why: "Afghanistan News.net does not operate in Afghanistan nor does it have any ties there. It is part of a Worldwide network of News.net online news services established to provide visitors with updating news and information about every country and key city throughout Asia," the site says.
* [http://www.afghan-web.com/ Afghanistan Online] says it is "a privately owned, independent web site that provides updated news and information on Afghanistan," with a mailing address in Pleasanton, CA. Its [http://www.aopnews.com/ Afghan Online Press] compiles news articles from other sources.
* [http://www.developmentgateway.org/node/134111/ Afghanistan Reconstruction] , featuring documents on development and technology, is part of the [http://www.developmentgateway.org Development Gateway] website. The DG Foundation, which runs the site, "is a not-for-profit organization currently based in Washington DC. Its mission is to reduce poverty and support sustainable development through the use of information and communication technologies (ICT)."
* [http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/af.html The CIA's World Factbook entry on Afghanistan] was the basis for most of earlier versions of this article.
* [http://www.afghanistangov.org/ Islamic Transitional State of Afghanistan] website appears to be run by the United Nations Development Programme (its "About Us" link doesn't work but a UNDP email address is mentioned). It includes budget documents and links to website sections for various Afghan government and UN agencies.
* [http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/international/amed/afghanistan/afghanistan.html Library of Congress Selected Internet Resources on Afghanistan] provides links to various sites and documents, including a [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/aftoc.html country study of Afghanistan] , which covers events up to 1995.
* [http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/ByCountry/Afghanistan?OpenDocument&StartKey=Afghanistan&Expandview ReliefWeb's Afghanistan section] includes news and NGO reports on the Afghan situation. "ReliefWeb is a project of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)," according to the site's [http://www.reliefweb.int homepage] .
* [http://www.unama-afg.org/ United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] was established in March 2003 "in an effort to integrate all UN activities in Afghanistan. There are some 16 UN agencies in the country working together with their Afghan government counterparts and with national and international NGO partners," the site indicates. The links page is extensive, mainly listing sites of other UN agencies.
* [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5380.htm U.S. State Department's Background Note on Afghanistan] , besides the requisite statistics, includes detailed summaries of country's history, economics, government and foreign relations.
* [http://www.zharov.com/afghan/ Afghan travel guide] giving a glimpse of current life in the country.
* [http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4303 A Commentary on the Consequences of the Afghan War ] The presidential contenders are debating U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Why isn't anyone talking about Afghanistan?.

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