Small Wars Journal

A Potential Game Changer

Afghanistan's New Minister of Interior: A Potential Game Changer - Dr. Mark Moyar, Orbis Operations.

During the Obama administration's strategic review last year, the U.S. government and media paid surprisingly close attention to the selection of Afghanistan's cabinet members, and pressed Karzai to retain the ministers whom Westerners deemed most capable. The forced resignations of Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar and National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief Amrullah Saleh last month garnered less attention, despite the fact that they were two of the government's most important figures. The decline in Western enthusiasm about Atmar no doubt contributed heavily to the tepidness of the response. Soon thereafter, the replacement of General Stanley McChrystal with General David Petraeus drew all foreign attention to the American side of things, with the result that scarcely any Westerner noticed Karzai's appointment of Bismillah Khan Mohammadi as Interior Minister in late June. Yet this change of command could influence the course of the war more than the change of the senior American military commander. In the current war, the Interior Ministry is the most important of all Afghan ministries, as well as the one most in need of repair, and the new minister has an excellent track record that could allow him to succeed where others have failed so miserably.

In a country with an authoritarian culture and a scarcity of seasoned executives, the quality of cabinet ministers has an enormous impact on the development of governmental institutions. This reality is seldom appreciated fully by Westerners, accustomed as they are to professional bureaucracies staffed with experienced civil servants. A minister's ability to shape leadership development and to select individuals for leadership positions determines long-term institutional effectiveness more than anything else. Afghanistan's Interior Minister performs these functions for the Afghan National Police, and has never done either very well. From the start, leadership development in the Afghan National Police has been hampered by poor recruiting and poor training, and police chiefs have regularly received their appointments through personal connections or bribery...

Much more at Orbis.