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Afghanistan: Shared Achievements, Shared Challenges, and the Way Forward


M. Ashraf Haidari, Chargé d'Affaires, was invited to give a lecture on “Afghanistan: Shared Achievements, Shared Challenges, and the Way Forward” to a large group of senior civilian and military officials at the U.S. National Defense University in Washington DC on September 19, 2010. Members of the group are expected to serve in two-year civil-military positions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as part of the U.S. government’s continued efforts to stabilize the region.


Mr. Haidari highlighted the most recent shared achievement of Afghanistan and NATO, the September 18th parliamentary election, which he said was the fourth round of democratic elections since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan. “The 40% voter turnout, in spite of months of enemy propaganda to derail the process and the enemy’s indiscriminate bomb and rocket attacks on the elections day, is a manifestation of our nation’s firm determination, in partnership with the international community, to participate in and institutionalize democracy in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Haidari.      


Moreover, Mr. Haidari shared President Hamid Karzai’s pride in the overall ownership and leadership of organizing the parliamentary election for the first time, and welcomed the close partnership between some 300,000 Afghan and some 150,000 NATO security forces that jointly provided security for the exercise to be held. “Although the coming days and weeks are critical in addressing the lodged complaints to ensure the overall integrity of the process, I am personally encouraged by the early positive assessments of the elections day by a number of independent watchdog institutions,” Mr. Haidari added.


Other significant achievements since 2001, which he argued, are hardly reported on by international media, included progress in the health, education, infrastructure, and security sectors. “Let’s never forget the fact that Afghanistan was a least developed country to begin with and, whatever we had minimally developed before the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, was destroyed in 1990s when our country was prematurely abandoned,” Mr. Haidari noted. He pointed out, however, that “our achievements must be continually consolidated so they do not turn into problems.” He argued that “when we create new institutions but do not adequately resource them, they become vulnerable to corruption, a problem we are jointly trying to resolve.”


On the shared challenges, Mr. Haidari argued that Afghanistan would have gone much farther ahead than now, had the country’s post-Taliban security and development needs been addressed based on a well-resourced and coherent state-building strategy. “It is very clear that for more than eight years, Afghanistan was a mission of ‘what we can’ not a mission of ‘what we must’ in comparison with Iraq, which effectively shortchanged Afghanistan,” Mr. Haidari said.


However, he noted that it was not too late to win the peace in the country, particularly after the introduction by the U.S. of a new strategy that emphasized increased military and civilian assistance to Afghanistan some 18 months ago. “We have a number of strategic opportunities to cease to make the strategy work in Afghanistan,” argued Mr. Haidari. First, he said that “the continued support and determination of the Afghan people to succeed in our shared endeavor is clear from yesterday’s election. They continue to stand with us, even though we and our partners have yet to deliver on their basic expectations.” Mr. Haidari said that “the way forward must be defined by a shared vision to assist and enable Afghans to stand on their own.”


Second, Mr. Haidari noted that Afghanistan and NATO efforts are best led by Presidents Karzai and Obama, as well as the NATO Commander General David Petraeus. “We know that it was an abandoned Afghanistan, in 1990s, that first allowed terrorists to victimize Afghans and then to use our country as a base from where to attack U.S. targets around the world,” noted Mr. Haidari. “These three leaders share a common belief that we must fight shoulder to shoulder to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan and beyond our borders,” Haidari noted. This shared mission, he said, was a strategic opportunity for success itself.  


Third, to help Afghanistan stand on its own, Mr. Haidari noted that the right strategies were finally in place but needed co-implementation through strategic coordination of military and civilian efforts. “I recommend that you read the priorities of our National Development Strategy, which were recently presented to the international community in the Kabul Conference,” said Mr. Haidari. These priorities, Mr. Haidari, noted drew on almost nine years of lessons learned and many mistakes made, which should be avoided, as we move forward.  


Last, Mr. Haidari pointed out that since insecurity in Afghanistan was largely an external problem, counter-insurgency efforts should also focus on where the problem actually originates. “We are committed to a sincere partnership with all of our neighbors, particularly with Pakistan to put an end to their support for sheltering and financing extremist networks that daily attack our innocent people,” Mr. Haidari noted.  


In conclusion, Mr. Haidari expressed the gratitude of the Afghan people and government to the audience, as well as to their families for their support, for helping secure the future of Afghanistan.


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