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Washington Prism

Secure Afghanistan
Valentina Marano

9/5/06

“The same destructive transnational forces that ripped Afghanistan apart in the 1990s continue to undermine its new democracy and threaten international security,” says Political Counselor at the Embassy of Afghanistan Ashraf Haidari.

Washington, DC—Washington Prism met with Embassy of Afghanistan’s Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari to discuss the latest developments in the Afghan reconstruction process, including successes and challenges, growing security concerns and the role that regional and international cooperation play in helping to further the stabilization of the country.

This year has seen some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan since the end of the Taliban regime in 2001, and there is growing concern over the fundamentalist group’s heightened activities. Last month in a visit to Washington, DC, Afghanistan’s new Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar-Spanta stressed the importance of finding effective solutions to the numerous security issues that the country is currently facing.
 
The Bush administration has recently pledged to double military aid to the President Hamid Karzai’s government (increased to $4 billion), to help modernize and equip the country's fledgling armed forces.

Mr. Haidari told Washington Prism that “Today, Five years after the fall of the Taliban regime, peace remains elusive in Afghanistan. The same destructive transnational forces that ripped Afghanistan apart in the 1990s continue to undermine our new democracy and threaten international security.
Terrorism, narcotics, and weak state institutions are our main security challenges that need to be addressed simultaneously with the assistance of our international partners and regional cooperation.”

Washington Prism: What are the root causes of the growing security issues affecting Afghanistan?

Haidari: Three interdepdenent problems. First, after the ouster of the Taliban, the Coalition forces mainly focused on the leadership and remnants of Al-Qaeda, leaving former Taliban combatants to their fate. This has allowed the Taliban to reorganize outside Afghanistan which they infiltrate daily to attack soft targets and run back into safe sanctuaries across the border.

Second, Afghanistan has so far received less per capita in rebuilding and security assistance than all other recent post-conflict countries, including Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Lack of resources has resulted into quick-fix solutions at the cost of integrated short- and long-term projects to address basic popular needs. Hence a lack of human security has left Afghanistan’s war-torn society vulnerable to narco-terrorists who engage poor farmers in opium poppy cultivation and use them against the Government.

Third, since 2001, the implementation of judicial and police reforms that should have been the foundation on which other state institutions were built was shelved indefinitely due to a lack of resources. Consequently, a security vacuum has widened in areas where we lack the resources to provide for the human and protective security of the people, particularly in the south. When left without a choice, people resort to whatever alternative is available for survival. Unfortunately, narco-terrorists have stepped in to provide that alternative by offering people protection in return for poppy cultivation and passive opposition to the government.

WP: What role does regional cooperation play in the reconstruction process?

Haidari: Regional cooperation is key to fighting terrorism and narcotics, which not only threaten our new democracy but also undermine regional stability. We need to fight the sources of terrorism outside Afghanistan, including those who lead, fund, equip, train, and shelter terrorists to attack soft targets in Afghanistan and run away across the border. Fighting drugs is impossible without full regional cooperation, as we know from international experience in Southeast Asia and South America.

WP: What would help in the stabilization of Afghanistan?

Haidari: First, Afghanistan has come a long way over the past five years. While permanent democratic institutions are in place now, they need to be strengthened further with a special focus on implementing the judicial and police reforms.  Second, the international community must commit long-term resources for Afghanistan’s rural development to fight drugs effectively. Unless poor farmers are given a sustainable source of legal income, they will always remain vulnerable to poppy cultivation for mere survival.  Third, regional cooperation is fundamental in curbing external sources of threat to Afghanistan’s stability. Pakistan can and should do more to help us fight terrorism as a common threat to our countries’ stability. Finally, aid effectiveness must be ensured in accordance with the recommendations of the Afghanistan Compact and our National Development Strategy.

WP: A year ago, in a speech he gave a Johns Hopkins University’s SAIS, President Karzai stated that “Afghanistan is the beating heart of the Asian continent.” What does Afghanistan represent today for the Asian continent?

Haidari: Afghanistan still is that beating heart. Our country is emerging as a model democracy, as a regional commerce and trade hub, and as a center of international cooperation with over 34 countries working together to make Afghanistan and the world a safer place. Our security and future are inextricably linked to the rest of the world, as 9/11 demonstrated. Together we must towards securing the future of Afghanistan.

 Valentina Marano is a freelance writer and a contributor to the Washington Prism.

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