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MS. GASTON: My name is Erica Gaston. I work here at Open Society Institute. Ive been based in Afghanistan for the last three years and just moved here, primarily focusing on human rights issues and conflict. I work in part of our, whats called our Regional Policy initiative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which so far is focused on civilian casualties and conflict-related detentions. But today were going to talk about issues a little bit broader than that. Were going to engage on an issue that is very new to some of you and probably very old to others. The prospect of an Afghan reconciliation process is something thats been discussed on and off possibly since the end of the Bonn process in 2005, and though the idea of negotiating with the Taliban has been anathema to many among the Afghan population and the U.S. population for a long time, its an idea thats gotten a lot more traction, especially in the last year and among policy debates. As the war has ground into its tenth year and conditions for many of us operating on the ground have seemed to get worse, theres been a lot of concerns that a reconciliation process could be the way forward. Recent Congressional testimony by the commanding general in Afghanistan, General Davis Petraeus, suggested that the current strategy, which I might describe as kill, capture and then reintegrate those who are left, is succeeding. But with the first troop withdrawals coming this summer and 64 percent of Americans now saying that Afghanistan is not worth the cost, its not clear that this troop-heavy strategy is sustainable. Even the Obama administration admits that its gains in the last year have been tenuous. Perhaps this is the reason that weve seen a lot of grasping for different options, for different strategies that might lead to a more long-term stability in Afghanistan. Two weeks ago, the Century Foundation Task Force on Afghanistan issued its findings in a report entitled Negotiating Peace. The report emphasizes that the way forward should be negotiating peace with the Taliban and other militant groups. It argues that weve entered a stalemate in Afghanistan, and that its in the strategic interest of the U.S. government, the Taliban and other militant groups to negotiate now. Unfortunately, we were hoping to have Ambassador Pickering, one of the co-chairs of the report here with us to discuss some of its findings, but we will instead Im sure have a very lively discussion with Mr. Ahmad Nader Nadery, the commissioner for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. He also chairs the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, and also extremely relevant for this conversation, he represented Afghan peace activists in civil society in the U.N. peace talks for Afghanistan in the Bonn conference in 2001. As Im sure Mr. Nader will get into, but just by way of preference, although the Century Foundation Task Force report was optimistic on the possibility of finding someone to negotiate among the Taliban side about the possibilities for restructuring certain elements of the Afghan government in ways that would make any peace negotiation stable, there are many who find the challenges to reconciliation to be quite daunting. While there are certainly some members of the Taliban or other militant groups who would be willing to negotiate, there are other more radical elements who might likely not be interested, and might continue to prolong the conflict. There's also the issue of how meaningful promises by those representatives sitting at the negotiating table by me, whether on preliminary trust-building measures like cease fires, which the task force recommends, or actual compromises for long-term peace. Nor is it clear what the Afghan government speaks for its people. As Afghan analyst Monteen von Bildert (ph) said, what if the government manages to make a deal with parts of the Taliban leadership, and it turns out that neither side has the trust or backing of its population? As enthusiastic as some groups and segments of the Afghan population are about reconciling with the Taliban, there are many others that oppose the idea of any power-sharing agreement, and its also important to discuss how they might react to any of these proposals. Finally, an issue that Im sure Mr. Nadery will raise today is the concerns by many civil society and human rights activists that the rights protections for many groups, from women to other minority groups, will be left on the cutting room floor in any peace deal. Theres a concern that even if such rights are nominally agreed to that theyll be eroded in practice if the Taliban joins the government. So with that healthy list of issues and concerns, Ill turn the floor over to Mr. Nardery, and then hopefully leave some time for questions from all of you. MR. NADERY: Thank you, Erica. Its always pleasure to be among some friends that I have been in touch and have been seeing them, either in Kabul or here, and a number of new faces that I wish to know more about. I was really looking forward to have Ambassador Pickering here also, because it becomes a little bit difficult to speak about a report in his -- that he co-authored in his absence. For that sake, I would try to limit the focus on the report, but rather go on a number of issues that also being raised, a number of assumptions that also being raised by the report and to give the views that I would be able to say that holds by many Afghans, because I travel regularly around the country and I do see and I hear from people, very average and ordinary people, in places like Uruzgan, Helmand or Kandahar, or in the north of the country and the east of the country. So I can somehow say that I can voice there and equal their voices also. As Erica says, the debate and the deadline for summer on international troops drawdown or withdrawal or transition approaches, the discussion on the need for a political settlement is becoming a much more dominant debate, both in Afghanistan. As we discuss here tonight, follow the media in the United States and Europe, its a very dominant discussion, as you all know. What Afghans see in these debates and take from these discussions, from the rhetoric of the American government and/or the plans that they discuss with less transparency, but also from the international community, and some with very enthusiasm discussing cutting a deal. They see it with a mixed feeling, with a mix of opportunity that they see in this discussion and debate. They also see it with a feeling of seeing many risks in the way ahead. The opportunity, as you all know a number of surveys and polls in Afghanistan have indicated also that almost a consensus among all Afghans that the war or the insecurity, I would call it, the insecurity, cannot be removed only by military means. So there is definitely a need for a political approach, as the Century Foundation report also talks about, in a different way. So people do desire an end to insecurity. But the way they see it, and thats why they see it if it happens in that way, it will be an opportunity. They see it, if this plan is designed and implemented, much more in a thorough way analyzed and processed, that can encompass a wide range of issues, in a sequence that reconciliation becomes not the first nice thing to do, but becomes one of the or follows a number of measures like improving good governance, rule of law, providing a level of justice, providing a level of accountability, and also investment on economic development, not only providing aid but also how an economy can find its way and become the main source of moving the country forward in the future. So these elements need to be taken on board first, and measures to achieve some level of success in those areas would strengthen the Afghan government. So then a reconciliation could be pursued that could be successful. Many Afghans say that unless we dont take these measures and unless we do not address the four main challenges that faces today Afghanistan, which is inadequate institutionalization, be it national army or the security sector, national army, national police and other security apparatus, and also on the civilian side, the justice sector and the broader civil servant sector. Unless there is a thorough process of looking on ways to address the sanctuaries of insurgents and the Taliban, a reconciliation could not be pursued, to be seen as an opportunity, and also a challenge of human development and social/political mobilization are deemed and known as an essential part of a process of reconciliation and a political process that would lead to ending insecurity, as an opportunity and as a success. The risks that people do see in a premature reconciliation, which sounds and mostly some pundits and analysts or some of the reports that tries to suggest to be in the format of cutting a deal with the Taliban, and that to be done from a position of weakness, will most of the time undermine gains that are made in the last none years. Those gains that are made at huge sacrifices and the blood and treasure of both Afghans and, most importantly, its international allies and the United States at the top of them. So a premature reconciliation or cutting a deal would undermine most of those sacrifices. While what weve been seeing in the early stages of debate about reconciliation, there were certain conditions that were equaled both by the United States and the rest of the international partners, some very vague, some very clear. Among those, the red lines and, most importantly, the Bill of Rights chapter of the Constitution. Afghans dont want to go back to the area where they have had no rights and freedoms. There is an entire new generation of Afghans taking the stage, and they dont want to be ruled by those limitations and the laws that does not allow them their freedom and liberty. Its not only centered in Kabul or the big cities. Those people in the villages, as the Century Foundation reported very much and very accurately points to it also, that in the villages also, people want those rights to be protected. That is a risk of a premature cutting deal with the Taliban or the so-called reconciliation to be pursued. People want to see and they desire that a fair reconciliation, Im sorry. Whats happening lately, especially in the last few months, we see that the conditions are loosened. Some statements by coming out of Washington and also mostly in Europe and Britain, and also in a way reflected into the report of Century Foundation also, that those conditions need to be loosened. Those are things that we may not need to emphasize. This goes against the desire for a fair reconciliation that Afghans wants to see, and dropping these red lines and the guarantees for return of Taliban even that be in a political scene, is actually while those conditions are not there, a return of the Talibanization. There are no guarantee that you bring back the Taliban in the political scene through a very not inclusive process, and then from a position of weakness, that they would change their draconian way of dealing with the issues, and especially when they have and still continue to have the sanctuaries on the other side of the border, and still continue to receive supports. That in itself returning of the Taliban goes against what makes the center of President Obamas strategy in Afghanistan, to prevent. He repeatedly and very candidly said the center of his strategy is to prevent Taliban from returning back into power. Cutting a deal with them, in a way that most people suggest -- not most people, some people suggest, to rush for that would undermine the very objective that was set for this operation. Therefore, any engagement we as Afghans feel that the United States, that in one or another way engaging with the Taliban, invites, enables and allows their return, and that allows, enables and invites their return will be seen at least a betrayal to this very commitment that was made time and again. Because there is no guarantee, as I say, that the Taliban will be cutting their ties with the sanctuaries, cutting their ties with Al-Qaeda and with those radical elements in Pakistan, or that they would be changing their way of dealing with the issues. Therefore, as unfortunately the report suggests, jumping to a conclusion that there is a stalemate, is very much different from the reality that Im coming from. I was in Uruzgan, I was in Kandahar and I was hearing people in Helmand, and in different parts of the country. Its not that stalemate thats being understood or tried to be portrayed. There have been significant achievements. The Taliban are not having that capability to operate, organize and carry out operations the way they were a year ago. The last ten months are bringing significant differences and changes. So surrendering to the Taliban and conceding they have the power to create a stalemate is actually a wrong perception. The Afghan National Army, and unit of commando in Helmand Province have made people to be proud of them in that province, the way they operate together with their international partners. So we need to see that the progress being made and those progresses need to be accounted for, and that suggests that theres no stalemate. Actually sending that message of stalemate and then suggesting a premature cut in deal enables the Taliban to gain back more of, and we have to be very careful, especially for the fact that elements within Pakistan eyesight still continue supporting the Taliban, and now even evidence has emerged time and again that the Iranians are supplying the Taliban, will get much more confidence to continue doing what theyre doing. Before going further, Im sure there are many, many questions, I would quickly go to some of the assumptions that are made both by directly referencing to the report, that are made by the report. One assumption says that Between Afghan factions that participated in the Soviet Union, the internal conflict rages today just as intensely with major international participation. This makes several faulty assumptions. Among them, the comparison of the current conflict with the Soviet time. The nature of the conflict today, the (inaudible) and the stakes are very much different. Im going to point to just three of them, just to make an example and reference to three of them. The intense U.S.-Iranian rivalry playing out here; similarly, the Indian-Pakistan rivalry is there; and then the very commercialized nature of violence that provides with the insurgency and creates an instability has become lucrative. Thats a very different fact from what we were during the Soviet time. The report simply ignores that the economic-financial dimensions of the conflict, a very, very important element of that, and the violence in general. Therefore, its dauntingly incomplete. Another assumption that I think worth looking into is at the national level, the report says at the national level, a political order acceptable to Afghans will need to be negotiated. To assume that the insurgency is motivated by a desire to create a political order is being a bit too, I would say, creative. This war, at best, is about domination, not a desire to be included. We have seen time and again the cause that President Karzai and the Afghan government has been making, and lowering the bar time and again since the last full year. If it was a desire of political order or to be included in this process, then it would have happened long ago, or indications to be seen long ago. The current political order pretty much ensures the right of anyone who wants to play in it and has to be included, if there is a political, an open political space. Some of the Taliban who came, who run for the office, they couldnt make it. They didnt get votes. Mullah Makela Matavakel (ph), who is the very well known so-called moderate element, he stood in Kandahar. He didnt get any votes, at the time in 2005 election, when the elections were much more fair and free, and claiming that they are for being included into the process. Those who wanted, who came, either they are part of the system or they tried to gain political office through elections. They couldnt make it. So it is the wrong assumption. Enforcement of that right is the problem, we have seen. As you would know that it is one thing to say that the Taliban who come and start fighting will not be harmed, and it is another thing to see that through and especially in Uruzgan, that the problem isnt with the political order, but rather political players, internal and external, are the major problem. In a province like Uruzgan, when the Taliban want to come and put some of them, if they want to be included to the process, the wrong elements and the ugly faces are parading as part of the government structure there, is preventing their inclusion. So its not that theyre waiting and only political leave to be counted would provide them an opportunity. Another assumption thats being made, that the Taliban never accepted defeat in 2001, and were deterred (inaudible) to regroup, reorganize and fight again, Pakistan, where much of the Taliban leadership have took refuge. This assumption attributes a sense of autonomy to the Taliban, that doesnt match with their reality. They are time and again evidence and indicators that shows that the Taliban were and are either agents or hostages of the interests of Pakistan and in some cases that Ive said, Iran recently. The assumption that they could engage in war or peace without Pakistans full control over them is flawed. We need to see no further than the case of an outreach to Mullah Baradar. It was a very obvious case, where the Pakistanis pretty much forced an abortion of the process. So I think Ive presented a number of broad issues. I would welcome specific questions to discuss and elaborate more. Just to conclude before going to questions, that a group of Afghans thats going to be composed of academic and civil society activists, who are very much engaged into the affairs and issues of todays Afghanistan, are organizing an Afghan task force, and with the help of Open Society, we are hoping that once the report is finished and the papers are finalized, which will include precise and very clear recommendations and points for action. We are hoping that we will be having an opportunity to launch it here in Washington and to do a tour of different countries, to give an Afghan voice to entire debate, which is very much missing. So just to give some of you a heads up and please look for that, and hopefully do it. MS. GASTON: Thank you for those really interesting comments. Im going to take moderators privilege to ask you a few questions, and Ill try and play a little bit of a devils advocate, particularly since we dont have our second speaker here. A lot of your talk focused really importantly on the views of the many Afghans who are really excited about the reforms, about the rights protections, about the advancements that have been made since 2001, and highlighting the important progress that I think we often overlook in looking at the kind of weak situation there. But I often also hear that, from many others, and particularly those that are in favor of the reconciliation process, that when you go back to the original Bonn framework, that it left out a lot of voices of other Afghans who maybe werent happy with the status quo, many of them represented by the Taliban; others who had simply become discontented with the Karzai government since then. Many would argue that that is why we would need a reconciliation process. I could even say, you know, in my travels in Afghanistan, Ive had a lot of people say to me well, you know, the Taliban, theyre our brothers. Theyre part of the population. You cant go forward without, you know, recognizing the views of a good portion of our citizenry. So it would be interesting to play off of that a little bit, and what your thoughts are. MR. NADERY: Well Erica, youve pointed to one of the very fundamental elements of the failure early in Bonn. I was a participant of the Bonn conference, and I was seeing firsthand what was happening. Unfortunately, the same way of discussing the issues are being formulated today when we discussed about a political solution forward. At the Bonn conference, it was not that the Taliban was not sitting around the table, which was a missed opportunity, but there were other voices that were missing also. It was only a discussion between the warring factions, those who were representing the ugly part of our recent history of the 80s and the 90s. They were sitting around the table and they were making deals Those voices that could allow inclusion of provisions as part of the Bonn plan, that could ensure creation of a much more diverse and politically progressive system for the future of Afghanistan was not included. There were all these -- because the Bonn conference was not a peace conference between two winner or number of people who could fight. It was because a mediation by the United Nations between those who have already lost and they have no leverage to negotiate. But it was turned to a process that enabled the very, those people who Afghans wanted to see them not be part of the new beginning. (inaudible) and those who have become part of the political set-up have sustained the very legitimacy of the new beginning. Now when we discussed, and the report also refers back to those groupings, and discusses in places where it refers to Afghans and the Afghan government, it tries to make also a division, saying that these different groups with the Taliban need to reconcile and need to negotiate a process. Whenever there is a discussion about Afghans for a political process, the definition of Afghans is the government of Afghanistan and it is very, very clearly not almost like allies within the government and the Taliban. Where is the space for those forces that I would call forces of moderation, those with the different voices, the civil society, those who politically want to see a democratic process being empowered and embedded as part of any political process, and especially these days when the discussion about Bonn II and the dominant discussion is to bring these different groups, that they were always around the table back into one setting and make them do a deal? This will not resolve to a long-term stability and a political process, and that within itself undermine most of the objectives that were set and most of the gains that were made in the last nine years. MS. GASTON: Do you think theres a possibility of a Bonn II that instead of reinforcing some of these negative trends youve highlighted, would actually be more inclusive in terms of not only the Taliban but all these other groups who were left out of the original process? MR. NADERY: Well, if a Bonn II to be such that to look back to a political formulation for Afghanistan, a different one that is different from what the Afghan constitution and the Afghan government represents, then it will be something very difficult, because it is different from the 2001. In 2001, we have had no government state. The end was a collapsed state. So we needed to build permanent state institutions. Now we have an elected government, elected institutions. Yes, the level of credibility and the issues surrounding them are issues to be discussed and are questions to be answered. But if we decide that ignoring entirely the Afghan government and the current setup, and backing to square first is not going to be simply making sense in terms of why we have spent nine years and then realized things have gone wrong, and were going to do it. Yes, addressing issues requires going back, working with the Afghan government, making sure, putting pressure, using stick and carrot, making sure that those measures that are necessary to empower and strengthen the authority of Afghan government are taken. Thats an entirely different debate that requires much more longer time to discuss. MS. GASTON: Well, its true as you point out. Theres a lot more institutional development now. There is a process, and a lot of people would argue that you dont need a big R reconciliation process, but already within the current framework you have outreach going on to the Taliban or to other disenfranchised groups. For example, this morning, the head of the Afghan High Peace Council, Secretary Staniksi said that youve been talking to the Taliban all the time. He said we talk all the time. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that somethings going on already, or is this just talking about talking? MR. NADERY: Well, I hope theres something, at least I, as an Afghan whos been engaged and Im looking for those types of information, to see if really something is happening or not. I dont see any indicator that those Taliban who are the movers and shakers of the violence, are really coming to the table and agreeing on a political path, because they dont see that the process isnt such or the current situation isnt such that they would not be able to take over the entire thing. They are overconfident in one sense, because they see the Afghan government as fragile, its weak. They see an international community enthusiastically argue for withdrawal or try to seek withdrawal, the confusing messaging, conflicting messaging there the people and the Taliban receive, and in that situation, they see we can wait and play around until the time gets right. So I dont see any indication, a general willingness from the Taliban to come and sit around the table. There are many reports that -- there is reports in the last three months around 300 plus people from the Taliban have laid down their arm and joined with the government. These are the reports that you would hear from the Afghan national radio and television. If I go back to the memory, where my dad was calculating and taking reports on every night at the time of, in the 80s, and later on was telling us that the RTA, the Afghan national radio and television at that time was every night announcing anticipation of laying down of the arms by the mujahedin. My dads calculation later on, that he told me a couple of years ago when he was seeing that the process of reconciliation is being discussed again, his calculation was of those number of reports, surpassed the entire population of Afghanistan. So these reports could not be verifiable, and in some cases, what we do see, in case of, for example, in the north. Some of those who have laid down their weapons are not directly linked with the Taliban. They are elements within the armed militia groups or the warlords, who have found an opportunity in these scheme of receiving $80 per month, an unknown amount, sum of money, and then other privileges. What are the indicators if theyre really willing? Did the level of violence go down? I dont think so. Yes, the way Taliban was operating, their ability to organize and group and carry out operations in massive scale as being challenged and being really undermined by the search. But they changed their tactics. Incidents like Kabul Bank attack, incident like Kundus in Kabul, suicide attacks, targeting purely civilian areas shows that they havent changed. They still try to do what they were doing. MS. GASTON: I think you raise an important point about the security concerns, and to hear you tell it, there have been important security advances in the last year. One of the interesting parts of the Century Foundations report was that they suggested that a precondition for any sort of peace negotiations would be withdrawal of international forces, particularly U.S. forces. I wonder how you see that playing in the dynamic? MR. NADERY: Well, thats an invitation for continuation of the violence. When I hear elders in Uruzgan tells me that they are happy with the change of situation and the security that theyve seen in the last few months, and they can go out and they speak out against the Taliban, despite the fact that last year, around 400 elders, religious figures and civil servants being directly targeted and assassinated by the Taliban, just because they were speaking out. Despite that fear, people, as an example, in (inaudible) speaks out against the Taliban. They echo in public their dislike of the Taliban, but they are afraid that the drawdown will change the entire thing back, because we are not focusing to the empowerment and development of the civilian side, where it can provide some level of protection and security, but also how many of those proud commando units of Afghan National Army are there to, as people in Lashkar Gah are proud of them. So theres other people who have reason to be proud of them. Do we want to rapidly expand and replace, or to replace them with the militia group or the local police initiative, and do rush in putting them in place? That would provide a short-term answer. But they would become, because the quality would be compromised, and if we expand them rapidly, it would become a challenge in themselves. And these days, Afghans are coming out and when you hear media commentaries and the debates in media, the discussion about the long-term presence of these forces in Afghanistan, generated a lot of views and discussions. The dominant one is that the long-term presence of these forces in Afghanistan would become a source of stability for the country, because people are still afraid of Pakistan and Iran not having a desire of a stable Afghanistan. That make people to be very pragmatist and realistic to see that they cannot continue on the path that they have started, unless there are certain guarantees, and those guarantees, yes, empowering and becoming self-sustained and self-reliance, but also to have those guarantees as Europe had at the (inaudible). One last point on this question. President Karzai, on his speech on transition on the eve of the Afghan New Year, said, put a vision that among very few of his visions, this one is very much agreed by majority of Afghans. He say that we want to stand on our feet, Afghanistan to stand on its feet, but not alone. That is something that Afghans want to see. Leaving Afghanistan and assuming that forces from Islamic countries would come and take part, and will serve as a peacekeeping force, is something not heartily being examined. First, most of these countries, an operation on that scale would require resources, professionalism and very high scale military forces, which none of these, none of the Islamic countries have that level of capacity, the resources, the professionalism, the ability to operate a peacekeeping force in a very highly hostile situation of insurgency and terrorist activity. So that would be a very clear indication for Taliban to continue doing what theyre doing. MS. GASTON: Its interesting when you speak of importance of building a capacity first, and you also highlighted in your talk about how we need to be first investing in things like governance, rule of law, other steps before we get to reconciliation. But I think among a lot of policymakers or pundits here in D.C., theres a sense of hand-ringing, that thats all been tried for the last several years and were not seeing direct progress. I wonder if you can give any further thoughts on how you see something different coming about that in the next few years as we move towards 2014? MR. NADERY: Well, there are many, many progress that unfortunately has not been reflected into international media, and its again a failure in terms of strategic communication, both of our own government, Afghan government and the international community, to highlight the very, very clear contrast of todays Afghanistan with the post-2001. To name a number of them, Afghanistan and Afghans feel now much more connected than it was at any time in history. Thousands of miles of roads have been paved. Afghanistan, through what they call a circle of road link or ring roads, the right word, ring roads being connected. I remember those days when I was traveling from Kabul during the Taliban to Jalalabad. It was taking me an entire one day, and at the end of the day, I needed a full massage and a full shower. But now it takes me two hours, and a very pleasant, nice drive with beautiful landscape. I traveled from Kabul to Nowruz at the time of Taliban. It was taking me between three to four days. It now takes, it makes me excited when I see a friend leaves at the morning, says good-bye and at three oclock calls from Nowruz and says Hey, Im safe and I have arrived in Nowruz. These achievements are not being projected outside. Along with those major part of, or the main part of the president and the other Afghan officials statement, whenever they say them, and we call them a major part of their statements, so many girls going to school, the number of students have raised to six million people, its much more beyond that. A new generation of Afghans are now engaged both on the economic sector and the political sector and the civil society. Theyre creating businesses, enterpreneurialship spirit of Afghans you can see in this new generation. They are innovating, not the scale of the Silicon Valley, but to the scale of those villages in Afghanistan, using different opportunities that are there. Telecommunications is a major, major success. We have reached almost to above ten million subscriber of the mobile phones, of a population that ten years ago, nine years ago, if an Afghan wanted to call outside Afghanistan or inside Afghanistan, there was no telephone line. If they wanted to call outside, they had to travel to Peshawar, Pakistan and to make a phone call. There were three phone lines that were installed by the Taliban. These were local Peshawar telephone lines that was given for Taliban to control all the communications, and you didnt need to dial. If you wanted to call to Pakistan, you then need a country code. But now over ten million subscribers of the telephone. Now social networking can not only to Facebook and Twitters and others, which you can see a lot of them happening in Afghanistan. The text messaging that people are using and companies being formed by Afghans, that are something, a software they developed called Connecting. You just develop your own group like you do in Facebook, and you just simply text and its free, and it reaches to thousands of people. These are developments that demands attention, for whatever people are thinking about the future of Afghanistan. On the economic side, as I say, people are start investing, the Afghans themselves. You would see that now a larger number of Afghan consulting firms, something that was done only by the internationals, Afghans who were educated in the United States and Europe and other places. They return back. They know their history, they know their culture, and they have a desire to stay. Theyre taking those businesses. In other businesses, they require of course a better enabling environment, but the first important thing is the credit. Theres no credit for the businesses to start the banks, or as we know one bank has collapsed, that there is not enough credit to be given to these businesses to grow. Any plan for the future, even if we talk about transition, need to encompass that part also. MS. GASTON: I want to just press you quickly on that, and then I might turn it over. I think, you know again, to play devils advocate a little bit in the absence of Ambassador Pickering, I think despite all of that very important and very legitimate incremental progress on economics, on capacity-building, on schools, on roads, on everything, I think what has led a lot of people to instead turn to what they see as the promise of reconciliation talks, is that despite all of that progress, in the last year we had higher number of civilian casualties than ever before, higher number of troop casualties, escalating rates of attack, as you pointed, increasing assassinations across the country. You know, on my last trip there, I found extreme difficulties traveling securely in every region of the country. So even despite all of that progress, it doesnt seem enough to contain the actual instability that is really hard not only for Afghans but also for Americans who have been supporting the effort there. I wonder how you respond to that? MR. NADERY: Well, the level of violence was not much more significantly high than the previous years. We should remember that every year we would say, not some of us in Afghanistan but mostly the international community, this coming summer is going to be much more violent and much more challenging. Its true that the number of civilian casualties is still high, but look at the breakdown. The report that we released and some copies are provided there, together with UNAMA, shows more than 72 percent, 78 or between 72 to 78 percent of -- I dont remember the exact figure, is of those civilians being killed and lost their life have lost their life because of the Taliban attacks. The roadside bomb -- MS. GASTON: Its true, but I think for the Afghan whos killed, he probably cares most about protection, not who was the perpetrator. So I think many of them are still feeling like its not there. MR. NADERY: Yes, absolutely. But it is an indication of how Taliban have lost their ability to operate the way they were doing, so they are targeting civilians. Now coming how to end this level or reduce this level of violence demands as to look much more broader than focusing only what could be done purely by military means. But not necessarily jumping on a conclusion to do, to cut a deal. So that say first, the strategic communication has been wrongly handled. What we need is to try to project most of the areas and countries, in country where -- and reports in major part of the country where there is no violence. Its not that every single part of Afghanistan there is active fight and battlefield. The insecurity that you feel is because of the change of tactic of the Taliban, that they are attacking softer targets. That needs to be also addressed in other way, rather than giving more reason for the Taliban to continue fighting. If we invest more on Afghan National Police, if we invest more on Afghan National Army; if we try to work together with Afghan government to make a transformation of the justice sector, and try to establish a level of governance, you would see a significant change in the level of violence that is being reported. The media covers every single incident, and the number of incidents that through a week that you would see and the number of places that its happening is making a small part of Afghanistan, not the entire country. The projection or that the psychology of fear from insecurity is much more and disproportionately bigger than what it is in reality. MS. GASTON: Okay. With that, I think Im going to leave it open to questions from the floor. A reminder that this is being taped. AUDIENCE: (off mic) One of the questions, issues that many Afghans raise concerns the hasty -- one of the issues -- can you hear me now? One of the issues that many Afghans raise concerns about is that a hasty path to reconciliation could lead to a worse situation, a civil war. And in fact, there is an opposition thats developing against reconciliation. One of the most prominent voices against it has been the former director, former national security director, the director, Mr. Arullah Saleh. Do you think that President Karzai convened a (inaudible) with over a thousand people last year, he has --particularly High Peace Council. Do you think that thats sufficient for a broader consultation process that brings in the voices of the opposition and other elements? If not, what else needs to be put in place? Thank you. MR. NADERY: Well, there is a genuine fear that the way the reconciliation is being discussed is translated by some people, that an inclusion of the Taliban and almost sharing a major part of that power with the Taliban, that means then that a number of other elements who were enjoying being part of the power, the foreign groups of mujahedin, they feel that the space will shrink for them. However, President Karzai, in terms of concerns that in different parts of country in Mazar, like in Bamiyan or other places, people have (inaudible) because of their fresh memories of the Talibans atrocities. He tried to do it the typical way, bring Professor Rabbani as a representative of those voices, which does not represent at all, as the head of the High Peace Council. So to give a reason for those who are skeptical about it, that it is Pakistanis put, bringing (inaudible) into power and reducing the level of engagement of, or share of, the other ethnic group. So that needs to be engaged and given a conference. But people see it not in that, those ethnic lines. People do see it in a much more broader sense, that first, these individuals in most cases do not represent their communities, that the major part of Afghanistan that have suffered from the continuation of violence and war are (inaudible). When I talk to them, I feel how much they desire a settlement, but not a settlement that is going to give them much more of ugly faces and bad aches, but in a different way. Now how to address that, and what it lacks, the process. The process lacks to focus on grievances much more beyond the Taliban. Afghanistan has gone through three decades of continuous war with different actors, but the continuation of suffering by the population. People want to see that those grievances are being addressed. A healing mechanism need to be part of any reconciliation process, where people, as grassroots, the victims voices, they need to be heard. A conference was organized last week in Kabul by victim groups. They were echoing their lack of satisfaction of this process, because it is not inclusive of their voices. So we need to address those, where people can see that in the last 30 years, the pain that they have gone through is shared, and they have a shared history, and now they want to move on. That requires much more transparency in the way of handling it. MS. GASTON: Yes. Also please introduce yourself, if you dont mind. Thank you. AUDIENCE: Thank you. Im (name) from the World Bank. I have three issues. One, how do you see the present Arab awakening influencing possibly the Afghan situation, especially civil society in Afghanistan. Second, I hear voices and there are papers, even books, I think, in this country, suggesting that Afghanistan should be split, that this would be the easy fix, one part Taliban, the (inaudible) and then let the rest find some kind of solution. What is your comment to this? Lastly, what is your comment when, in a sense, the forces against reconciliation can simply say to themselves well sit it out. We know the international community has not immense patience. They will draw down at some stage, and well get our chance then. Thanks. MR. NADERY: Well, all three very good questions. The Arab awakening brings us to first, let me bring this issue of unhappiness, to see especially in the last few years, that no statesman comes out of a lot of international partners of Afghanistan in support of democratic processes, and especially and namely in Afghanistan. We do not hear an emphasis on promoting democracy in Afghanistan, because some people believe wrongly that Afghanistan is not probably the right place for issues like democracy, human rights and other issues, ignoring the fact that there are practices very much participatory and democratic, embedded within the culture and within the history of that country, not in a way of full-fledged constitutional democracy and separation of power, but the way people do see that, the way they want to have a say in the decision-making and the way they want (inaudible). Ive never seen my people stand in cues and lines, but on the election days. That is a demonstration of their interest to choose democratic path. Now coming to the Arab awakening, it was always there like it is in Afghanistan, but it was not given a chance, and it was not acknowledged. In Afghanistan its true that we dont have yet a middle class in such to be large, to be able to have an ability to survive and stay on the street for a week or for a month. Its true that we dont yet have a very vibrant civil society organizations. But the desire for going toward that is already there. The reason that we dont see demonstrations and call for a large number on the street, of people to be on the street, is because of two main reasons. One, there is a fear that the current government and the government, and the government and institutions, are not strong enough, the security institutions and the police are not strong enough to prevent a situation that occur similar in 2006, when people went to demonstrate against a military convoy hitting civilians, and then it turned to a mob and then criminals got into action and then the city was entirely shut down, and the ability of police to control and bring order was not at that level. The second reason people are not going to the street is because of the fear, that if they challenge their own elected government, even to create a situation where it was created in Mazar, Taliban would take advantage of that, and theyre sitting on the doors of Kabul. What if we are, our national army is not able to control the same way as it was in Egypt or Tunisia, and what if the Taliban take advantage of that? Thats preventing. But the awakening is always there. The split idea is a very native one. Afghanistans history is a clear indicator of that. In the worse of time, and especially if we see the 90s, where there was no central government and such to be able to control its peripheries. There was no national army and there was total chaos. But to all those groups, and when we were seeing their way of looking to the issue, there was no single voice of separation. Everybody thinks Kabul as the place that they want to be there, and be part of it. So the idea of separation creates not only an anxiety but outrageous, a lot of Afghans. In the south, in the north, in the central Afghanistan. You would find no person, even a guy like Dostum or his followers, who have always been for a much more looser central periphery setup or system of federal, would not go or would not have a desire to call for something like that, and will always question that. Its not going to work. Some diplomats unfortunately have gone too far, saying can it be possible to have two systems of law under the same constitution in Afghanistan. By this, they mean what if we have the Taliban with their Sharia laws being implemented in the south, and then we have the rest of country not following that pattern? Its not going to work that way, and its not going to be accepted by people. There are forces in Kandahar, forces of -- not military forces but the people in Paktia, in Khost, in Uruzgan, that would be outraged by this, because they dont want the return of the same system of laws and governance in there, and let alone the split issue. Your last question I failed to note it down. AUDIENCE: To sit it out. MS. GASTON: Sit it out. MR. NADERY: Yes, to sit it out. Yes, that unfortunately is premature discussion and the cutting of deal, created a lot of issues. Some elements in the north have started, some former commanders, have started collecting arms and preparing for that day, and some of them unfortunately start discussing and mobilizing that way, around the agenda of ethnicity, and that is a dangerous thing. It has provided the opportunity to them because of not thoroughly discussing and assessing the way forward, and giving a chance for them to prepare for that day. MS. GASTON: In the back? AUDIENCE: My name is Nazeera Azim-Kareemi (ph). Im correspondent for Ariana Television from Afghanistan. Mr. Nadery, you mentioned, meet, you met and talked with different U.S. officials. Do you think that they will agree with you on human rights and general crime situation in Afghanistan? MR. NADERY: Well, in many of the meetings that I have had around the city, there is certainly an acknowledgement of the fact that we do need to emphasize on protection of those gains that were being made. Certainly on human rights, I have received very assuring words, that there is no desire to compromise on those issues. But we need to see that those words are spoken loudly and made it very clear, so both Afghans and the policymakers in Afghanistan and also other actors understand. AUDIENCE: Carolyn Wadhams, Center for American Progress. If there is an inevitable decline in resources, if we know that theres going to be a decline in resources and troops before 2014, and in 2014 well see, but it will be at a much reduced posture, military and financial, what do you think needs to happen, besides sort of building security forces over the next three years, on the issues that youre thinking about? I mean are there -- do you believe that there are actually a few areas where the international community, if they put more resources or more effort, could make a significant difference that would actually improve the chances of a -- of the whole state, the whole system surviving a real reduction? Because when you talk about improving rule of law, and I mean these are decades-long processes. What has to be done in the timeline that we understand is how were going to be drawing down? Thank you. MR. NADERY: Yes. A very important point that goes to the center of the entire success, as we move to transition and beyond 2014, and thats why I always emphasize in meetings around that it shouldnt be entirely focused on security transition, because that transition, even if it is to the security forces, will have much more consequences on all other aspects, and if we are ready to take those. What is needed to be done is first, on the issues of rule of law and good governance, I have always qualified it with a word up to a level of rule of law, because as you say it rightly, we couldnt make very, very much progress or a significant level of progress on those fronts, because it was first ignored for a long time, and now there is a realization and need to be worked on, and it will take time. But we need to start identifying certain areas, as part of the rule of law, that serves as an enabling conditions for a number of other issues, as an example, the economy. The first thing that is needed is much more focus on how Afghanistan becomes or have and possesses or gains an economy that can provide not only food for the families itself and for the community, but becomes an integrated part of the regional economy, where it can fund back its activities and to tap into the gap that would be created by the reduction of the aid. What we need at that, in connection with the rule of law, we need to look at if Afghanistan does have a justice sector that can enforce contracts. If it does have a justice sector or a branch of the judiciary that is capable of handling complex commercial and financial disputes, these are enabling elements that would help to create an economy that cannot be dependent on aid but on resources. What are other supports like? Like I say, seed money for some businesses and provision of credit for some businesses to Afghan banks can take that role in the long term. Now we have a lot of Afghans educated being employed by the international organizations. Once the aid goes down, those people will lose their jobs. Do we have an alternative for that? Is it the evidence that will service, or is it the business community that need to attract them, and how much of the economy is there to be able to absorb it? The second issue that requires investment and being ignored long is the human development, the capacities. However, as being trained and being built in the last nine years at the civil sector, which is always ignored. We have an army of civil servants who are now trained and will understand how to operate an office. But whats needed is more scaled individuals who can take the leadership role, who can be the movers and shakers and reformers of the system, namely what we require to do and invest is on the higher education. That has been ignored and neglected. There have been a number of scholarships every year being provided generously by the United States, with Fulbright and other universities generously offer scholarships, and Europe and other places. But the numbers are still low to compare to what Iran is providing, as an example. Iran invested in one university in Kabul called Khatem al-Nabyeen. It produces, it admits 2,000 people every year, and in full year it gave out more than 10,000 highly radicalized, very much focused and trained, in line to the views of Qom, the religious center in Iran. How we counter that? Well, that needs an attention. What we do think that contributed along with the longer-term presence of U.S. forces in South Korea, has been the education part of it. A larger number of students from that country was brought here for training and education. Once they returned, a lot of things have changed. So that area needs much more of a focus. AUDIENCE: Marvin Weinbaum, Middle East Institute. Now that youve offered, I think, a very serious critique of the Century Foundations report, its a shame, of course, that Ambassador Pickering could not profit from that, I have a question. In this push for reconciliation, Hamid Karzai has been an advocate, very clearly. For some of us it seems rather strange, because we cant imagine his surviving any kind of power-sharing arrangement, given the long-term attitude that the Taliban has had toward him, but just simply what the dynamic would be like were he still there. Is he sincere about this, or is this simply a way in which he is positioning himself with the Afghan people? How serious is his expectation here about a reconciliation, and why he pressed for it? MR. NADERY: Well, the indications, from what he says and number of measures that have been taken, theres always mixed messages or sending mixed indicators on how he is not. When you look to the continuous and very consistent appeal for reconciliation that he has been on that truck on the last five years, starting first in a very vague way and then developing a frame for it, and then coming to the (inaudible) and also then setting up the High Peace Council, and making it a benchmark of its commitment to the Kabul conference. So that shows a genuineness that hes pursuing that path. But then to see the way the High Peace Council is presented and is made, consisting majority of the 70 people, to never reach to a consensus and agreement, majority of them, those who represent an where the Taliban actually base their legitimacy and argument, try to argue that their legitimacy is that they have started fight against the same individuals who were responsible for fragmentation in such of the state and the government and institutions in Afghanistan. That shows well, you still hear Taliban speak very badly against those who are the leadership of the High Peace Council, and the main makeup of that Council. Would this be a vehicle for the Taliban to come and negotiate? They already said no. They said, most ordinary Afghans say what a joke. You want the Taliban to come and submit, as they define it, to this Council, or to agree that Im going to come and accept your term and Im joining with you, while they have been fighting against each other? Some argue that you need these fighting groups to have reconciled with each other, but -- yes, thats true. But you need a different facilitator among them, not themselves being the facilitator. Thats translated by most of the Taliban, that theyre not going to submit to, as an example, if they name Professor Rabbani. So that is an indication that its not much genuine. When we only vaguely call and make calls for reconciliation and sometimes put conditions, like last week President Karzai made a very strong statement about the woman rights, saying that he is not going to compromise on woman rights issues, and the constitution right of women, which is very different. For the first time, he named Taliban being responsible for miseries of women. Thats a very strong statement that goes against that genuineness of losing everything and trying to pave the way for the Taliban to come. When again we see that the makeup of the government becomes much more conservative, more conservative elements are put in position of decision-making, and less emphasize on provide some freedoms coming from the government, then most people take it as an issue of the government trying to show a good face to the Taliban, that we are almost going towards the same way, so that a path is placed for you, you can come. But then again when you see those kind of actions that hes putting in place, it does not reflect. So its a complex situation, and its fed mostly by an uncertainty, both on the part of Afghan government and the press, of the international community, and the level of their commitment. There is no one thats confident that Afghanistan will not be left alone again, and that the complex situation that is created raises questions of survival for many. Some see it, lets play both sides and if we can survive. Unless we communicate strongly and clearly that, as President Karzai said, We will stand with you. You will not be alone, and to give assurances, and to address some of the conspiracy theories that have been developed at the palace, he would be not clear on which path he want to take. AUDIENCE: Virginia Ferris with the Conference of Catholic Bishops. I guess Ive got several questions, one being that there is a perception or there have been some studies that the U.S. or the allied presence, the ISAF presence, has gotten to a point where its counterproductive, that the amount of our forces and that the perceptions of American presence in Afghanistan, lets say in the case of civilian casualties, while I think the U.N. report indicates that the majority of the casualties are due to Afghanistan, I believe some studies have shown that despite that fact, the common perception may be that the bulk of the casualties are due to U.S. and ISAF presence. So what do you do about this question of whether or not the western footprint within Afghanistan has gotten to a point where it is creating more instability and perhaps serving as a recruitment measure for those who would, for the Taliban? The other question concerns the perception of the Karzai government, as being corrupt and ineffectual. If thats the case, and Im not sure. I mean thats certainly commonly discussed, to what extent are there other actors coming up, who might provide a more efficient reform-minded government? What is the international role? How do you see the international role in terms of trying to improve the forces of civil society, and creating a better governance system within Afghanistan? MR. NADERY: Well, thank you. First, the civilian casualty issue. The report that you refer to being jointly done by the Human Rights Commission and the U.N. I can assure you that the findings of that report is based on a thoroughly investigation by my team, going around the country, investigating every single, almost every single incident that occur, both by the Taliban or by the international forces. So those facts are speaking for themselves, but there has been a genuine attempt on the part of international forces to reduce the civilian casualty and to make sure that they are much more careful, in terms of carrying operations new tactical directives and rules of engagement and all of those, are an indication toward that. But still, when one person dies as a result of international military operation, it creates a level of skepticism and anger. Those two comes directly from the fact that people have higher expectation of the international forces. They see them as a party and a partner to themselves. They say they are here to protect us, and when we show a reaction, its just because of that higher expectation we have. So we have -- while there have been positive developments and activities and measures being taken by the international forces, but we need to be much more careful. Issues like the kill team that came to media also and being reflected in Afghanistan widely, and the incidents like the Kunar incident, the shooting of nine kids, these are creating a lot of anger, and attitude and level of skepticism of the international forces. But what we see, some of the critiques talks about the military forces and their presence contributes to insecurity, is because of the fact -- is somehow wrong, because the current situation is not a result or not fed by the presence of the international forces. It is fed by the early wrong calculation of dealing with the broader issues, be it state-building and the governance structure and accountability, making alliances of the international forces, that they use force, is that with the wrong partners, with the wrong people, and empowering them and giving them a rebirth. Those have caused a lot of issues in the way people looks at things. You go to any part of Afghanistan today and you talk, you say the U.S. forces and the international forces are leaving soon. Ordinary people would react with a higher level of fear, I would say whats happening, and because they see the forces as the only source of protection and stability in this state. Yes, they have their grievances, but they want them to stay. They dont see them as the main element of the insecurity. Of course, we have to go back to how we handle the entire operation and the entire political process since 2001, and we have put a paper together. Its in rough shape and I would ask (name) if it could be available. There is an analysis of the earlier state. MS. GASTON: I must just two finger on that as well. Our organization was actually one of those that did the study on Afghan perceptions relating to civilian casualties, and you are right, that despite the statistical numbers of blame, a lot of times international forces are blamed equally to the Taliban and sometimes more. A couple of the reasons for that relate, some of it Nader highlighted. Differences in expectations about force capabilities, as well as expectations that international forces were there to protect. Sometimes it was because they were blamed for Taliban attacks, either you were here and the attack wouldnt have happened if you werent here, or sometimes moving more towards conspiracy theories, or because they supported actors like militias, who then carried out activities. So all of those are factors into this, and I think it is actually a really important issues as we start to look towards transition. But in terms of the footprint question, what I would highlight is that its an even greater reason to pay attention to the conduct of international forces. I think they have made huge improvements, but sometimes its not just about the number of casualties, that in terms of Afghan popular perception it might equally be about things that dont result in fatalities, like night raids. It might be about the way that we hold our partners accountable, for example, local militias or even just accountability for international forces themselves, that they seem to be communicating with communities that theyre held to the law. So I think its something that really does need to be watched, and even though progress is made, its not over. MR. NADERY: Yes. Just one additional point to that, the issue of accountability. When this report or article, Der Spiegel, was published on the kill team, it was also discussed widely in Afghanistan and local media. From all the questions that I was receiving from Afghan media about that, it was a clear message that I was getting, and everybody was asking, will the U.S. hold these individuals accountable. So if we lead by example, if you lead by example, and if something goes wrong like the kill team, and then if there is a criminal investigation and if there is a prosecution, and then thats being communicated properly back to people back in Afghanistan, whos been victim of that kind of wrongdoing, then it creates a higher level of not only respect but an environment where people would follow that practice, and would say yes, they mean what they say, and thats how they hold accountable the person. One of the questions which was (inaudible) and it required a lot more explanation to the journalists, was asking the guy have killed that brutally. When I said well, theres a trial going on and the person was -- one person was convicted and there are 12 others on the road to be convicted, prosecuted, and he was saying We heard that hes going to be given only four years of imprisonment. Is that a compensation? Is that justice? So people do look to those points, and they see if we are really holding people accountable and leading by example. On the corruption side, there have been some measures being taken. A new high council was set up for this process by the government. They are looking into the issues, but not yet genuine efforts or a serious effort to address them from our side. The international community, the World Bank is putting conditions, especially with taking the Kabul Bank issues and pressing the government to try some of the individuals involved in the wrongdoing in the Kabul Bank. Recently, a couple of arrests were made, at least one of them were a senior. Two of them were. One was a former minister and the second one was also the head of Central Bank, the deputy of Central Bank and also head of a government institution. They of course were arrested and being interrogated and one at least being released, back pending to further investigation. These are first signs, but that requires much more of a continuous and consistent effort to provide technical assistance, but to press behind door, not to go (inaudible), pointing to individuals, and then making it a media fight. It needs to be much more practical in going directly and bilaterally in closed doors with the officials. MS. GASTON: I think that might be about the end of our time unfortunately. But well be around, and please feel free to come up if you have any questions afterwards. Thank you all for coming. (Whereupon, the interview was concluded.)