“somewhere amongst all ... the jargon of management, of international development, of counter-insurgency, are certain critical assumptions about Afghanistan, or about any country where we're operating, which I think are not just mistaken, but are actively dangerous.
Firstly, these state building strategies, particularly in Afghanistan, assume a strongly centralized state. They really assume that all power should pass through Kabul, all money should be channelled through the budget of the Afghan government. But these people, the Hazarah, do not want to participate in a strongly centralized government.
we need to look at the way in which society is structured. The centralized state building model assumes that the most effective and powerful part of Afghanistan is the central government in Kabul. In reality, it isn't the central government in Kabul. In reality, it is ... men who for the last 25 years, throughout war, have run their own communities. Very striking - any of you who have been to Afghanistan will have been struck by this - one of the pleasures of visiting Afghan villages is that you see people who are astonishingly dignified, astonishingly autonomous, independent, have been running their own economics, their own security affairs, running their own development projects in prosperity. I remember coming across a small Hazarah village, February 2002, the middle of the snow, no government, the Taliban government had gone, and they were running their own school: with women in that school, with textbooks that they had somehow imported from Iran. There were no school buildings, they were teaching them in the Mosque. In other words, the real strength of Afghanistan from my point of view actually resides in the villages. The central government by contrast is discredited, it's corrupt, for many people, for example in the province of Helmand, the fundamental problem is not the Taliban, the fundamental problem is the central government, and the police, which is kidnapping, extorting, raping - 35 police men were just arrested on the main highway between Kandahar and Lash Kar Gah, for hijacking cars.
Furthermore, this model assumes that the international community is in a position to build this kind of state, in a position to build this kind of democracy.”