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News and Views

Political Counselor Haidari Speaks to Diplomats, Students

Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari spoke at the United States Foreign Service Institute on September 19. He briefed a group of Foreign Service officers who have been assigned to work with the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in Afghanistan on the overall situation and assessed the priorities of the Afghan government to improve local governance and service delivery to people.

He reviewed the good performance of many PRTs in Afghanistan, while pointing out the imbalance between civil and military officers in some PRTs as an issue that needs to be addressed. He acknowledged the important role military officers have played in the PRTs, but noted military contributions had to be complemented by civilian officers with expertise in critical areas such as agriculture and rural development.

In addition, Haidari noted that the effectiveness of PRTs depends on how well they execute their main task of enabling Afghanistan’s local government institutions to build capacity and deliver services to people. He encouraged the officers to engage both local institutions and people, while building on effective programs such as National Solidarity Program’s projects jointly implemented by community development councils and NGOs, rather than reinventing the wheel.

On September 4, Haidari spoke to a group of American University foreign policy students, and discussed with them international peace-building efforts in Afghanistan. He told the students that while they should keep Afghanistan’s key achievements in mind, they should pay more attention to how those achievements could turn into challenges if they were not consolidated by the international community.

Among other challenges facing Afghanistan, he singled out security on which improvements in other sectors such as governance and reconstruction depended. He noted with concern the closure of many NGOs and UN agencies in insecure parts of Afghanistan at a time when they are needed the most. While he outlined the important nexus between security and development in the context of state-building in Afghanistan, Haidari told students: "If we did not have the security problem posed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda across our borders, we would overtime address other challenges such as a lack of aid or strategic coordination of aid implementation."

He added that Afghanistan's neighbors had to cooperate sincerely to stabilize Afghanistan, which would serve their national security interests. He told the students that recent military operations against the Taliban in Pakistan have had a positive impact on security in Afghanistan, but terrorist attacks were continuing in the country.

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