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The Diplomatic Pouch: An Interview with Ambassador Said Jawad of Afghanistan
Babak Yektafar
Washington Prism

H.E. Ambassador Said T. Javad comes across as a quiet, contemplative man with minimal body gestures; as if consciously trying not to disrupt the existing universal equilibrium.

However, such demeanor befits a man who understands the value of articulating his thoughts and concerns when it comes to discussing Afghanistan.
Despite the fact that most people still regard the plight of Afghanistan with genuine sympathy, in a town where talk is not only cheap but in abundance, Ambassador Javad has the difficult task of converting that sympathy into long term practical and financial commitment.

As a long time confidant to President Hamid Karzai, and as an individual long involved in the rebuilding efforts of his war torn country, Ambassador Javad is keenly aware of the level and intensity of commitment needed to slowly bring Afghanistan into the 21st century.

Recently Washington Prism had the opportunity to talk with Ambassador Said T. Javad.

After almost 5 years since the fall of Taliban, how do you evaluate the involvement of the Afghan expatriates in rebuilding of the country?

Certainly the afghan expatriates have played a great role in the past five years in the process of rebuilding Afghanistan in a variety of forms and projects.

Significant number of Afghans from Europe and the US went back and enlisted their expertise and services and if you look back at the cabinet or high rank officials working in different administration that took shape in the past five years, the number of Afghans returning from Europe and the United States has been significant, mostly very crucial key posts have been given to these Afghans.

But, in addition to that, the Afghan private sector has also played an important role in brining about money. Most, In fact, all major foreign direct investments (FDIs,) in Afghanistan are by Afghan Americans or Afghans coming from Europe, including an Afghan from New Jersey who has taken almost $150 million to establish one of the Afghan mobile telephone companies. And this has been very successful.

Are they involved in building the infrastructure throughout the country, or just in and around Kabul?

No, not necessarily in Kabul. A Significant number of Afghans have returned from the Gulf countries, particularly Dubai, to the south, to Kundoz province for example. And the recent structure that you see in this province is due to either the expertise or the money that these Afghans have brought back with them or continue to send home.

We see the same thing in the case of Herat. Afghans returning from Iran actually have played an important role in rebuilding the city. So it’s been throughout the country, but, of course, building the infrastructure of the country which has been entirely financed by the international community is being carried out mostly by foreign companies. We are asking the donor communities and partners in the international community to channel these plans more and more to Afghans and the Afghan companies. But this is a long term project and most of the major road building projects in Afghanistan is being carried out by foreign companies, while we are building this capacity in Afghanistan to take on these kinds of projects on our own.

Is the current rise in clashes and violence in Afghanistan something that the International community should worry about? At what point do you anticipate the indigenous Afghan security forces taking control?

Yes, we have experienced a spike in terrorist activities in Afghanistan in the past few months. We are witnessing increased terrorist attack in the southern provinces, but this, to some degree was to be expected.

The reason for this increased terrorist activity is tri-folded; the first reason is that NATO forces are moving in to replace the coalition troops and the terrorists have calculated that if they hit the NATO troops hard, they may cause a change in their heart or a change in their mind or a change in their plan for deployment.

The second reason is that the international community has been rather slow in providing us with the resources to strengthen our presence at the district level. Most of these terrorist activities are taking place in villages and remote areas where the presence of the police is not strong. We need to strengthen our police forces in those areas.

Is this an issue of training or providing funds?

Both. That the police are fully trained, but they are not paid for months at times. And the numbers are very small; in some districts we have 10-15 police officers to maintain normal security and also to fight the terrorists in areas covering 100s of square miles.

The third reason is that the terrorists are still able to receive funding and training from outside.

Their cross-border infiltration into Afghanistan has increased. As far as how long it’s going to take for us to build our capacity, we have taken some significant steps, we have built a significant portion of our national army, our target is something like 70,000 soldiers.

So far we have built a national army of about 37,000. They are very capable, they have been very successful, they have been truly regarded as a national army and when involved in security operations they have been very successful. While we’ve had some progress in building the national army, with the police force we have been relatively behind schedule.

First, the number of police officers is small. Second, the training is poor. And third, is the lack of technological resources, cars, anything actually.
That’s why we are asking the international community to enhance the police training program, to give it better equipments, because the police officers are interacting day-to-day with the population and the threat that we are facing right now is not a huge invasion of terrorists into a city or a village.
The concept of having embedded trainers in the army was very successful. We really got accompanied by trainers from the US or the international community.
We would like to exercise the same concept with our police training. We used to only train in Kabul, now there are programs in different provinces. These programs are in place, but we also need better resources.
We should also be able to pay them adequately, to prevent corruption. Because they are interacting with people, if you are not paid properly they will be corrupt. We have to train them to respect human rights, all sorts of things that have to take place that is not just a matter of taking a uniform.

Do you think that president Musharaf and his government are doing enough to prevent the infiltration of the disruptive elements you mentioned from across the border?

The fact is that there are terrorist training camps in Pakistan. The fact is that terrorists are receiving funds and money in Pakistan. And these are facts that Pakistan does not deny. But the part that they deny is that the Pakistan government is involved or is supporting terrorists or that they have control over the area where they operate.

I think that the army in Pakistan is a very strong institution and it keeps the country together, and has been a very strong institution throughout the history of Pakistan.

It would be very hard to imagine that such a powerful institution is allowing activities that affects the national interest of Pakistan, regional security and, more importantly, global security to take place inside Pakistan without their knowledge or without their permission.

So, that’s why we think that using extremism is a tool of foreign policy. It is something that has been experienced, countries have done it and they have paid a very high price for it. It will be destructive for Afghanistan, for our friends in Pakistan and we think for the region.

The future of Afghanistan and Pakistan is in trade, in investment, in democracy, a peaceful prosperous Afghanistan is the best market for Pakistan’s products.

It provides Pakistan with access to Central Asia, to sources of energy. And also a stable, democratic Pakistan would be a good friend and a reliable partner for Afghanistan. We don’t think that military options or exporting or promoting extremism or terrorism is a way of having a stable region.

Is there something that you would like the United States or the international community to do more in influencing Pakistan?

The international community also has constrains on how much they can pressure Pakistan. But investing in building a civil society in Pakistan and eliminating the source of terrorism in Pakistan is something that will benefit first and foremost the Pakistan people, then Afghanistan and eventually the global security.

So, fortunately the concept of our security, national interest in Pakistan coincides with the concept of global security.

When we ask our friends and partners to be more sincere on their ‘war against terror’ or ask our friends and partners to put more pressure on the ones that are not sincerely cooperating, then we are not doing it for the sake of Afghanistan, we are doing it for the sake of regional and global security.
I think continuing dialogue and more pressure on Pakistan will benefit the United States and Afghanistan.

How worried- is your government about a nuclear Iran and the current crisis next door?

Of course we do not want to see more tension in the region. We would like our region to be tension-free. We would like to see our region to be even free of nuclear ambitions.

As far as our policy is concerned in Afghanistan, we have adequate resources of sun, wind and gas to the extent that we don’t see the necessity in our region for us and for our neighbors to pursue nuclear ambitions.
But, of course it is also Iran’s right to pursue the nuclear technology for peaceful purposes but we do not want to see an escalation of tension in the region. It would not benefit Afghanistan.

We have the option of choosing our friends but we don’t have the option of choosing our neighbors so we would have to live with them. So far we have had good neighborly relations with Iran and we would like to continue to have those relations for the sake of stability in the region.

Do you see any future role by your government, accommodating or brokering some kind of dialogue between the US and Iran?

We will always make our good will available to the United States and to the same degree to Iran to prevent further tension in the region.

Is Afghanistan economically and culturally where you thought it would be by now, or is it lagging behind?

The partnership that was established between the Afghan people and the international community after Sep. 11th created a lot of enthusiasm among the Afghan people for a much brighter future.

Frankly, due to lack of human capital, due to lack of capacity, even we in Afghanistan didn’t know how long it would take and how much to take Afghanistan where we want to take Afghanistan.
So the people of Afghanistan and the leadership of the country have become more realistic and are trying to meet the expectations of the people in a more reasonable fashion.

We have received significant amount of assistance from the international community that we are grateful for. But a good portion of that assistance has been spent on preventing catastrophes, on taking care of humanitarian crises.
Now we are in the phase of seeking assistance to develop Afghanistan. Not to prevent a human catastrophe there. And for that we are certain that the assistance given to Afghanistan will be more beneficial.

Some work that took place in Afghanistan was significant but they were uncoordinated, unrelated. Some of them were necessities, as I said before, to deal with disasters. Some were very selective and we did not have the capacity to control the flow of money or to set our priorities, but now we are developing this capacity.

Now we are hoping that this would be a phase where we invest in Afghanistan, not hand out to Afghanistan or to the Afghan people. In this phase, we are hoping that the international community would stay engaged and help us build Afghanistan.

Our goal is that within the next five years we will build adequate infrastructure, and that we will raise the national income to the level that we shall not have the problem of narcotics in Afghanistan.

We hope to have relatively decent infrastructure in Afghanistan that would provide basic and modest package of health care and at least enroll all the students in Afghanistan.

Our goals and expectations are very realistic and modest. We would like to make sure that the legal economy supersedes the growth of illegal economy in the country.

We are grateful for where we are right now; we suffered a lot for thirty years. The fact that the international community came to rescue Afghanistan was a blessing for the people. Of course the more people are exposed, the more they know what is going on in the world, the more they demand.
We don’t expect the international community to do all of this for us, it’s our job and also it’s our job to use every dollar given to Afghanistan in the most efficient way.

What about the way in which Afghans themselves have changed? Has there been a change in how women are regarded in the society or the problem of narco-economics and poppy growing?

Certainly women have gained a great deal if you look at the participation of the Afghan women in the political process. Some people might argue that we have given them rights on paper which were not translated into actual changes in the society, but they did.

I witnessed the participation of women in the process when we elected the president, when we drafted the new constitution and more recently in the parliament where the debates are broadcasted live here, and I can watch them at the embassy via an Afghan TV channel.

They are truly participating in the process. They have understood the rights that have been given to them and making most of them. If you look at the youth and young generation in Afghanistan, you will see the same thing. Every street corner in Kabul has a sign about a computer school or English language school.
So people are trying to capitalize on this opportunity that has been created. And when I travel through Kabul or the countryside, where they don’t have a lot of basic necessities, and when you ask them what they want, they always say schools. So they understand the importance of education.

There is a tremendous change in the mentality of the Afghans, which is very positive but at the same time creates a lot of expectations. This sometimes translates into frustration if the expectations are not met and it’s difficult to meet all these expectations.

We have something like 17 privately-owned TV stations, most of them are owned by young Afghans. They have an audience and it is amazing to see how things have changed so quickly.

The first year, when I was in Kabul one phenomenon that I witnessed was that people were painting their houses really bright as if they were taking a revenge on the dark terrible days of the Taliban. That mentality is still there.

People are really trying to make up for the thirty years of war. They have turned the suffering of thirty years into a positive energy. However, we also know that as it happened in the aftermath of the Cold War this interest in Afghanistan may not last for ever, and the people are truly determined to make the most out of it.

That’s why the terrorists in Afghanistan are worried because they see the political system in Afghanistan is really working. It’s not a parliament just by name, but there is real and serious debating which takes place. Ministers are called in and asked serious questions.

I was in Kabul two weeks ago and went to the parliament to give a briefing to the committee on international relations. It was very interesting, very lively debate, very good questions, legitimate concerns; I was very surprised to see the degree of their understanding of how the international aid mechanism works, and what they should expect during the transition to NATO.

A lot of these institutions, of course, need to be further empowered to deliver and serve the people, including the parliament and the government of Afghanistan. We have the institutions in place in accordance with the Bonn agreement as well as our constitution, but much work is needed to make them truly effective. For example, you cannot import a good judge or a capable prosecutor, you can have consultants to help you write a new law but you need people to implement it properly.

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