The Hague Academic Coalition


Back to the future: Afghan Ownership


The Hague, Nederlands, 03/30/09


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Distinguished Panelists,

Students and Faculty,

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to be with you to discuss the future of Afghanistan. I would like to thanks Members of the Hague Academic Coalition, the Centre for International Legal cooperation and World Connectors, as well as Director de Varies, and Mr. Man. I am honored to be here and very grateful for your interest to Afghanistan.


Allow me to convey my sincere gratitude to the people and government of the Netherlands for being a true partner and great supporter of my people.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The title of this forum is Back to the Future. I like this title and would like to take it a step further and ask you “can we write the history of the future”. Wouldn’t be nice to be able to write the history of our future? I think it is possible and we are able to write the history of the future if we strategize properly, provide the necessary resources and fully cooperate with the implementation of a comprehensive strategy.


President Barack Obama very capable team led by Mr. Bruce Riedel has formulated a new strategy for Afghanistan. For the first time, U.S. agencies, NATO allies, the Afghan and Pakistani governments and donor countries have been consulted. The result is the first truly comprehensive strategy that touches upon counter-insurgency, development and regional aspects of security and terrorism and provides clearly defined, measurable and attainable goals and objectives. The Afghans government welcomes and supports President Obama’s new strategy. We are grateful for being officially consulted during this process, and our views are fully reflected in the new strategy. We can write the history of a successful future for this strategy if the required resources are allocated to implement the new strategy in coordination with all stakeholders.


In this forum, I was specifically asked to discuss three important and current topics:


First, how can we move from war to a participatory political process and what are prospects of Negotiating with the Taliban.

Second, what is the role of our neighbors, the international community and outside players?

Third, how can we establish Afghan ownership of the political and development process?


I will be brief and on point.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the issue of building a participatory political process, allow me to correct a miss-perception about the Afghan people and society, which is largely based on the past 30 years of invasion, war and violence imposed on our people. Building a civil society and a peaceful, pluralistic and prosperous Afghanistan is not a new and fancy dream. It is rooted in our ancient history and society. Today, pluralism and political participation is a necessity for sustainable peace in Afghanistan, stability in the region and security in the world. The cost of terror and tyranny of Taliban is proven to be very high for Afghans and every citizen of the world. We are not imposing democracy on Afghanistan. Democracy by its nature cannot be imposed. However, to prevent the imposition of dictatorship, terror and tyranny, the Afghan people demand that we build a pluralistic and participatory system in Afghanistan. To suggest that Afghans do not deserve or demand peace, pluralism and human rights is totally unfounded and contradicts the ground reality. Afghanistan before the Soviets invasion had a fully functioning government, parliament and civil society. Afghans have suffered for three decades. We are tired of terror and tyranny and strongly desire a peaceful life.


We have poured the foundation of political participation through our new Constitution, democratic elections, parliament, civil society and free media. Today, from former members of violent leftist political parties to former Taliban are sitting in our parliament and serving as very high ranking officials. We will further build on this accomplishment and engage the Taliban. Let me provide you with a clear position and complete picture of the parameters of such engagement.


The low profile process of talking with individual Taliban commanders has been going on for the past six years and about six hundred mid-level Taliban commanders have joined the peace process. Some even occupy public offices in government and parliament. However, we have to determine precisely who we want to talk to and what the parameters are for those discussions.


The Taliban are also divided into three distinct ideological groups:


First, the ideological Taliban, those with the capital “T.” This faction is affiliated with Al Qaeda and the regional and international terrorist networks. Contrary to Iraq, the history of Al Qaeda and the Haqqani and Hekmatyar networks are deeply rooted in the three decades of fighting together against the Soviet Union and cemented by inter-marriages. This group of Taliban is irreconcilable and will not rest until their main objectives of eliminating the West and its allies are met. They must be defeated or eliminated by force. If we negotiate with this group we must make dangerous compromises on human rights of the afghan men and women and the security of the region and the world.


The mid-level Taliban commanders are the mercenaries that have been recruited by drug traffickers or intelligence agencies and those Afghans that are either antagonized by U.S. and NATO military operations or have been mistreated by the Afghan government officials. These groups can be reconciled through dialogue, buying off, bribery and coercion.


The third and largest group is the “taliban” with the lowercase “t,” or the “paycheck Taliban.” These foot soldiers are mostly unemployed, uneducated and brain-washed young Afghans that are paid $300 a month and have been misled by the enemy with the promise of paradise or further financial rewards. This group needs employment and education, not too much dialogue. We need to give those jobs and hope. Therefore, we need clear parameters for dialogue and focus on the second and third groups. We should not forget that talking to Taliban in Pakistan have led to Talibanization of Pakistan.


We have not chosen this war and do not have the option to walk away from it. It was first imposed on Afghan people, and then USA and NATO countries came to help us because their safety and security came under threat. Negotiation and reconciliation with the Taliban will succeed only if we talk to them from the position of strength and with a clear and strong stand on human rights and the Afghan Constitution. These are principles on which there cannot be concession or compromise. They will only talk to us if they feel that there supple routs are cut and the prospect of military takeover is bleak.


We must be careful to avoid excessive anti-war and “defeatist” and “reductionist” statements emphasizing “exit strategy” and “reducing expectations”. This type of statements feed the Taliban propaganda, which is mainly based on questioning the U.S. and NATO’s staying power. When NATO is saying that we are not winning in Afghanistan, it implies that the Taliban are not losing. If they are not losing, why should they participate in the political process?


We must have a coordinated and unified approach on political participation and negotiation and the conduit should be through the Afghans. We should not be over optimistic about the using tribal leaders and connections. The Sunni awaking and tribal militias will not work, due to the fact that the pristine tribal structure of Afghan society has been under attack for the past 30 years. The true and traditional tribal leaders are now replaced by warlords and nacre-traffickers. To arm them as a short cut and temporary measure is risky.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Second, on the role of neighbors and international community, I should emphasis the common threat and shared responsibility of all of us to confront regional challenges.


Terrorism is a common regional and global threat that requires common regional and international approach based on shared responsibilities. We have learned from the 911 attack that the perception of Afghanistan being too far from Europe or US and therefore less significant is wrong. Today, unfortunately terrorists’ attacks not only in Kabul, Islamabad and Delhi, but also in London and Madrid have ties to terrorist cells operating in Pakistan. The media sometimes refer to Afghanistan and the graveyard of invaders and empires. The fact is the real invaders and the evil empire that is threatening our freedom and global security is Al Qaeda and terrorism. They must be buried in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


We are in favor in regional approach to fight extremism, terrorism, drugs and trafficking that affects Afghanistan, the region and Europe. Our neighbors and countries in our region have vested interest and shared responsibility. Furthermore, Afghanistan has historically been a cross-road and roundabout of trade and commerce. A peaceful Afghanistan will contribute to prosperity in the region.


As to our European allies, we are grateful for your support. Every Afghan knows that we cannot build our country without the support and partnership of the international community. Your financial assistance and troops are a down payment for the future of our children all over the globe. I know some people argue that being in Afghanistan is dangerous. The experience of the cold war and 911 proved that not being in Afghanistan is more dangerous. We appreciate your government cooperation to bring a wide range of the stakeholders to The Hague. We need your continued assistance and support.


Ladies and Gentleman,

On the issue of Afghan ownership, I want to emphasis capacity building, coordination and true partnership. Afghan ownership can be accomplished by a true partnership based on professional capabilities and shared responsibilities. I agree that the Afghan government still suffer from limited capacity in certain areas. This is due to the fact that we have limited resources to acquire the capacity. Capacity is a commodity on the market, whoever has money can buy it. In the areas that the international community have worked with us, such as Afghan National Army, health care, education, and the National Solidarity Program we have established viable Afghan ownership and leadership.


If we do not enhance the capacity of the Afghan government and civil society by investing in education, transfer of skill, and allocation of resources, Afghan ownership will remain elusive and just a slogan. The concept of lead nations has proven to be inadequate. The lead nation on all reconstruction efforts is Afghanistan.


Coordination is complex issue in Afghanistan, due to the fact the various national and intentional players are brining different degrees of commitment and capabilities to the table in Afghanistan. We can establish true cooperation in Afghanistan only if we are ready to be coordinated. The new US strategy is seeking to create synergy among various unequal partners.


The Afghan people are determined to rebuild their country and are very grateful for your support and friendship. The success of the new strategy depends on two factors: how many resources will be allocated for its implementation, and how effectively we can increase coordination among ourselves.


Thank you.