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Political Counselor Haidari Lectures at Norwich University

Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari gave a lecture on international stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, on July 18, 2009.

Speaking to the leadership of the 86th Brigade Combat Team, Haidari briefly discussed Afghanistan’s modern political history and the events of 1980s and 1990s that led to state collapse in Afghanistan, as well as the creeping invasion and occupation of the country by extremists backed by Pakistan. “Afghanistan was first sandwiched between the Russian and British Empires in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and then our country served as a major Cold War proxy battlefield of the West against the former Soviet Union,” Haidari said.

He noted the fact that the Afghan people now remain a strategic asset in the fight against regional extremism and terrorism, while having very modest expectations from the international community. “No Afghan has expected an overnight makeover of our post-war destroyed and pre-war least developed country. But every Afghan has expected our allies to do the minimum of helping restore security and rule of law across Afghanistan,” Haidari remarked.

Haidari discussed the major achievements that the Afghan government and people share with the international community. “…we have made significant progress with comparatively much less international investment in the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan over the past eight years. We have established the key institutions of a permanent government (executive, legislative, and the judiciary), and we have made considerable progress in rebuilding infrastructure, in expanding access to basic healthcare, and in providing education to an increasing number of Afghan girls and boys across the country,” he pointed out.

However, he noted that “we must admit that our allies have so far faltered on three key accounts to help consolidate our shared accomplishments. First, they have been reluctant to provide the necessary level of military and non-military aid resources to meet Afghanistan’s basic stabilization and reconstruction needs. Second, they have failed to coordinate their military and non-military efforts with one another and with the Afghan state to ensure aid effectiveness. Finally, they have lacked an effective public diplomacy strategy at home to sustain public support for their missions in Afghanistan and a simultaneous public diplomacy strategy to engage the Afghan people in rebuilding their country.”

Haidari pointed out that “As much as the diversity of force contributors to NATO-ISAF demonstrates international consensus for supporting Afghanistan, NATO’s effectiveness is increasingly crippled by the numerous operational limitations and some sixty caveats imposed on the ISAF forces in Afghanistan.” He added that “with the exception of a few countries that actively participate in combat operations against the Taliban in the south and east, the rest avoid deployments to areas where we have needed them. Thus, the small number of forces that actually fight have to frequently rely on rapid air strikes which result in disproportionate loss of civilian lives.”

He argued that the above shortcomings in security, governance, and reconstruction had allowed the Taliban to spread their influence in some of the provinces in the south and east over the past eight years. However, Haidari argued that “the Taliban cannot be defeated in Afghanistan without dismantling their command and control infrastructure in Pakistan’s NWF and Baluchistan provinces. We know that no insurgency without a cause could ever survive without external sanctuaries and support. So, unless external state and non-state sources of support for the Taliban insurgency ends, military and civilian casualties will continue rising in Afghanistan, gradually giving the terrorists an upper hand.”

Haidari made several key recommendations on how to stabilize Afghanistan more immediately for long-term reconstruction and development. He called upon the international community to focus on building Afghan state institutions so that the government can establish its writ and deliver basic public goods to people across the Afghanistan. He stressed that “Regionally, Pakistan's military and intelligence establishments must be persuaded bilaterally and multilaterally to cooperate sincerely in the war against terrorism, while the country's civilian government must be strengthened to ensure stability in Pakistan and the rest of the region on the long run. We are firmly committed to partnering with Pakistan’s democratically elected government to eliminate sources of instability in our two countries and to work towards long-term security and economic cooperation in the whole region.”

Haidari appreciated the deployment of 21,000 additional US forces to Afghanistan, and asked for the US assistance to be complemented by military and non-military resources from Europe. “Ultimately, we think the key to securing Afghanistan will rest in the build-up of a professional Afghan army and police. We plan to expand the size of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to 250,000 soldiers, as well as jump-starting the reform and development of the Afghan National Police (ANP) to meet Afghanistan’s law enforcement and defense needs. We and our allies share the view that “Afghanizing” the security sector will dramatically cut down on the current financial and human cost of the international military presence in Afghanistan, while enabling Afghans to defend our country more effectively now and in the future.”

In conclusion, Haidari reiterated the importance of sustaining the Afghan popular support for peace-building in Afghanistan. He argued that as the international community began delivering on their firm commitment to Afghanistan’s democracy, the Afghan people would completely support them in achieving “our common objectives and interests towards global peace and security.”


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