Afghanistan's Situation and its Impact on the Region and the World with Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. The discussion is moderated by Carnegie President Jessica T. Mathews.
On January 18, Abdullah Abdullah, former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Afghanistan, discussed some of the challenges currently facing Afghanistan and how they may be addressed. According to Abdullah, the people living in dangerous areas of the country have no choice but to turn to the Taliban for protection, and cannot cooperate with other actors for fear of retaliation- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah
Dr. Abdullah was the foreign minister of the Afghan United Front government from 1998 onwards.
Following the assassination of Massoud in 2001, he became one of the three dominant figures in the Northern Alliance and later the Transitional Afghan Government along with Mohammed Fahim and Yunus Qanuni.
In 2001 he was selected as Foreign Minister for the Interim Administration of Afghanistan; a post which he lost in a cabinet reshuffle on March 22, 2006.
He is generally considered to be, along with former Ministers Mohammed Fahim and Yunus Qanuni, a leader of the Tajik faction, although his mother is actually an ethnic Pashtun. Unlike many other former Northern Alliance officials, he was not removed from his ministerial post immediately after the 2004 Presidential Election.
Jessica Tuchman Mathews was appointed president of the Endowment in 1997. Her career includes posts in the executive and legislative branches of government, in management and research in the nonprofit arena, and in journalism.
She was a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 1993 to 1997 and served as director of the Council's Washington program. While there, she published her seminal 1997 Foreign Affairs article, "Power Shift," chosen by the editors as one of the most influential in the journal's seventy-five years.
From 1982 to 1993, she was founding vice president and director of research of the World Resources Institute, an internationally known center for policy research on environmental and natural-resource management issues.
She served on the editorial board of the Washington Post from 1980 to 1982, covering energy, environment, science, technology, arms control, health, and other issues. Later, she became a weekly columnist for the Washington Post, writing a column that appeared nationwide and in the International Herald Tribune.
From 1977 to 1979, she was director of the Office of Global Issues of the National Security Council, covering nuclear proliferation, conventional arms sales policy, chemical and biological warfare, and human rights. In 1993, she returned to government as deputy to the Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs.
Mathews is a director of Somalogic Inc. and a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, the Century Foundation, and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, and the Trilateral Commission.
She has previously served on the boards of the Brookings Institution, Radcliffe College, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Surface Transportation Policy Project, and the Joyce Foundation, among others.
Former Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah cautions that the people of Afghanistan may lose confidence in democracy if there is no improvement in government corruption before the next general election.
Former Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah criticizes the ineffectiveness of the current government in Afghanistan and emphasizes that the government's officials need to begin demonstrating a positive example for future generations.
Good morning, everybody. Pleasure to welcome you to the Carnegie Endowment, and a particularpleasure to welcome back to the endowment Dr. Abdullah. WeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re hearing more and more that 2008is going to be the year of Afghanistan, or should be the year of Afghanistan. We will see whetherthat comes to pass, but without any question there is an urgent need for greater attention and forgreater effort, international effort. The problems are growing, as is the likelihood that the countrycould slip back into the grip of unrestrained violence.A few months from now, early April, NATO will convene its summit in Bucharest, and Afghanistanwill be top among the issues that will be discussed. And so leading up tothat time we here at Carnegie have decided to organize a series of events to focus on the leadingchallenges that the country faces this year and that both the Afghani government and theinternational community have to jointly confront. Among these are first, of course, the sufficiencyand leadership of the military effort; the question of whether additional troops are needed, howmany; whether the leadership ofthe existing forces is appropriately directed for counterinsurgency efforts. Second, ofcourse, the counter-narcotics effort, where the record over the past seven years has beendismal, and the reconstruction process, and how thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s going; and central to all of these, ofcourse, the question of the performance of the Afghan government, its ability to deliverbasic services and to manage corruption.To lead off this series, we really couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have a better person with us to address atleast some of these issues, maybe all, and whatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s on your minds than Dr. Abdullah Abdullah,who is currently secretary general of the Masud Foundation. As I think everybody hereknows, he was also foreign secretary of the country from 2002 to 2006. He, before that,held many posts in the transitional government, as spokesman for the government. He istrained originally as a physician and opthamologist; in his period in Peshawar led efforts totake care of Afghan refugees there in the mid-ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢80s before joining Commander MasudÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s effortfor in the mid ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ , well, better part of a decade. So the trajectory of his life has really mirroredthat of his country; heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s been at the center of events now for 25 years, and we are lookingforward to hearing from him, an insiderÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s view of where we are, what must be done and thealternative roles of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ priorities for the international community and Afghan government.So thank you so much, weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re looking forward to hearing from you.Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would liketo thank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for providing me this opportunity totalk about the issue of Afghanistan, the situation in Afghanistan, and at very short notice. Iinformed them of my willingness to come and to speak here, and it was confirmed soonafter. It is like, after two years since I havenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t been in Washington, so my first trip after twoyears.In Washington, things have not changed that much ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ (chuckles) ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ but a lot haschanged in Afghanistan in this course. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ll go a little bit back to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m going to start with2001 before getting to the present situation, and then talk about the future prospects.Before 2001, there was little hope that Afghanistan would be restored as a country,as a state, in its nation ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ as a nation will be given the chance to live at peace within itself andwith the others. Al Qaeda had taken root there, and it was like its global capital. Then camean opportunity in the midst of the tragedy here in Washington and New York. As a result ofthat, the people of Afghanistan got together, and the international community joined hands,and then, the processes started. The main element in the process was the option or thechoice of the Afghan people to start voting for general elections; one person, one vote.I was in Germany and one of the questions was that, wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t it early for Afghanistanor too early, or does it work at all for Afghanistan to opt for general elections. And mypoint has been, and this is my firm belief, knowing the context of the situation fully, at thattime in Afghanistan in the conditions of our country, in the views of our people, that wouldhave been the only way to get out of that quagmire which pervaded in Afghanistan for 25years. We had exercised and experienced every other option in the course of the past 25years. It had not worked, and had worked against the interests of our people that led to thesituation, which was there. So it wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t, like, an idea being suggested and imposed onAfghanistan, the idea of going for elections as the way of participation in the history of thecountry and the nation.I think your help, the help of the international community, made it possible tomaterialize that dream. Apart from that, one or two other things happened in the course ofevents. Taliban and al Qaeda were uprooted from Afghanistan; it took just a few weeksbefore they lost their bases, and that is telling a story of total loss of support among thepopulation or absence of any support from the population because at that time, we were nottalking about several thousands of ISAF or NATO or coalition forces. It started with a fewhundred of your troops, that and the people on the ground, that Taliban and al Qaeda losttheir bases in Afghanistan.There was an assumption that it is a spent force, al Qaeda and Taliban, and the threatperception within Afghanistan was from the actors within the country rather than theTaliban, which were provided essentially outside Afghanistan and taking root back. That, Ithink, affected the rest of our strategies. So the threat perception is from the internal forces,then your whole efforts will be focused how to manage it.And then, at the same time, outside Afghanistan in the neighboring country,Pakistan, there was an assumption that the presence of the U.S. as well as the internationalcommunity in Afghanistan is a temporary one. And that broad concept of using extremismas an instrument of achieving foreign policy objectives had not changed in Pakistan. InTaliban, in our negotiations with them, they will tell you that itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a domestic issue forAfghanistan and no action was taken against Taliban, backed the leadership of Taliban,which were that and not only that, but they enjoyed some support as well. So the threatdeveloped within Pakistan. Once Taliban lost their bases, they established their bases inPakistan. That was the critical moment. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m talking in the course of 2001, 2002, 2003 and2004, so thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s the framework of time that IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m talking about.At the same time, the United States got engaged in Iraq. That, in itself, was a majorfactor. And Pakistan, of course, was cooperating from time to time by handing over a fewmembers of al Qaeda, and that was also something which was appreciated a great deal. As aresult, the Taliban got stronger in Pakistan and started attacks on Afghanistan; within thecountry, that consensus which existed at the beginning was damaged in the course of eventswhich followed.I mean, from a situation which President Karzai was supported by a majority, anabsolute majority of the people and later on elected by an absolute majority vote, towards asituation as of now, where this political atmosphere is one of absolute mistrust between theplayers, but I see the players. I mean, in this broad vision of a moderate Islamic country, ademocratic country, a peaceful country which respects the rights of its citizens and live atpeace with one another, all the political forces within Afghanistan are shading this commonvision. But when you see the action on the ground, or the way that the state institutions arefunctioning then you donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t get that promise anymore. So that consensus within the countrywas also damaged.But then, we had more or less a consensus in the region; I mentioned about thePakistan factor. Recently, we are hearing about things which are happening from Iran aswell so it means that Iran, which has started playing a constructive role, at least to the extentthat these reports about the situation is not as such. And among the internationalcommunity, in a broad sense there is a willingness to continue support, but we hear fromtime to time sometimes different signals. So, altogether we are not what we should havebeen after six years from Bonn agreement because of all these factors and all thesedevelopments.The situation, to this situation is such that at least, from what I can see and I canwitness, we need a review of the situation in order to draw some lessons. And when I saywe, us, I mean Afghans and the international community all together. There are one or twoimmediate lessons out of what we have witnessed. For example, it is important, it is criticalÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ it was important, it was critical that we hold general elections, but the assumption that youhave the popular mandate and because of the votes that sufficed, and you donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have toconsider all the other factors which are important in developments in a country likeAfghanistan, was not the right assumption. I mean, had that assumption been right, so wehave an elected government which millions of people voted for President Karzai, so what isit that we are saying that the gap between the people, and the government is a growing gap.WhatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s the factor behind it? So this needs to be looked at thoroughly. We had opted forpresidential system and the power is concentrated in the center; is it functioning the way itwas expected? It has to be looked at.The fact that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ just by giving examples ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ I wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t go into details of this and leaveenough time for questions later on ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ the fact that we are deciding in Kabul about everythingwhich is happening, from the level of a district up to the provinces and so on and so forth,in not allowing the provincial councils to play an effective role in the provinces ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ is ithelpful? I donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t think so. We have examples of appointments of governors which werekicked out of one province by the people, appointed to the next; again, the same thing,appointed to the next. The third province before him going there, the people said that wedonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t want him. He is being appointed to the fourth province. This is not working; we needto look at it. And why itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s important and critical ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ these sort of things might happensomewhere else as well, in a stable situation, but thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s different. Here, we miss anopportunity, a great opportunity, of having the people with us which are in its totality, butwe donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have them to be more hopeful and to be participants in their lives.So there will be a lot of examples of such. The fact that we moved from the interimgovernment without any doubt ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ ignore my participation in these governments. For a while,it was more effective. There were some shortcomings; perhaps there it was taken care of inthe transitional government, but it was also effective government. And then, we haveelected government and the people expected this to be even more effective. Do we have it?No. ThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s very evident, and I donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t want to get into details of this; that will be talking aboutmy own colleagues, but thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a point.The present relations between the parliament and the government is not acceptable,and of course itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s not to putting the blame on one person, which is the president; of coursethe people have voted for the president, and even those who have not voted for thepresident, they have equal rights to expect him to do things about it, but itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s for the politicalleadership as a whole. And there has to be an end to this political stalemate, and the politicalleaders should get together to work it out. And itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s like a rope which everybodyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s pullingtowards itself, and how long do we do this? And itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a responsibility not for this generation,but for the future generations as well. And we ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ like it or not, our role was like the foundingfathers of a nation because a new Afghanistan was born. In whatever we do, it will be takenas an example for the future as well. If we donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t leave lessons that the people could look atit and be proud of it in the future, we miss another opportunity.So these are things ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ some of the points which I wanted to emphasize, but byemphasizing on these points IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m not saying that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m not ignoring or underestimating allthose positive developments which have taken place in the lives of the people ofAfghanistan. And for millions of our people there was no hope, no prospect. They startedtheir new life; refugees have started returning back. We had our constitution, and a lot hashappened that it will be more than what I can speak about today. But itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s critical in order toconsolidate those achievements, to start the process which is more promising, which takesinto account these grievances of the people, expectations of the people and work as aguideline for the people so the people see their future in it. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s critical, and the time is now.For my trip to Washington at this stage, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s mainly public events like this which I willbe addressing. My aim at this time was that I know that some time to come, there will be anew administration, and I was told by our American friends time and again that in the firstone of two years the focus will be mainly domestic issues. I want to emphasize at this stagethat we donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have more time to miss. So together we have done a lot, and we should havedone much more, but still there is opportunity. DonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t let this opportunity to slip out of ourhand. For us, it will be gone forever and it will be no exaggeration if I emphasize on therepercussions for the rest of the world.So on that note, I stop and wait for your questions.