Ambassador Moose: Good morning. My name is George Moose and I’m the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors here at the United States Institute of Peace. I’m pleased to welcome you all here this morning.
This morning I have the honor to introduce today’s session on prospects for peace in Afghanistan. The size of today’s audience is evidence enough of the interest in this topic.
My dubious claim to this particular honor lies in the fact that I recently returned from a three week visit to Pakistan on behalf of the State Department which of course naturally qualifies me as an instant expert on the subject. USIP as an institution, however, has a much deeper and much longer involvement in Afghanistan going back to 2002 when the institute was asked to apply its special expertise in the areas of peace building to the task of promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan. For the past two years USIP has focused its attentions on the development of a strategy for the country’s political transition and transformation, one built around constitutional development, credible elections, and a durable and inclusive peace process.
In 2008 USIP hosted Minister Masum Stanikzai as a Jennings Randolph Resident Fellow here. We regret that he was not able to join us for this session, but we look forward to his participation in future sessions. His research helped inform the Afghan Peace Country Reintegration Program which in turn has become the blueprint for USIP’s own reconciliation and reintegration work.
As is abundantly evident to all concerned, Pakistan is also a critical element in any calculation of the prospect for peace in Afghanistan, which is why USIP also has presence in a program there.
Some would question whether Dick Holbrooke’s original grand vision of a strategic partnership between the U.S. and Pakistan was ever realistic and viable, but I think there is widespread agreement that whatever hopes there might have been for such a partnership have been shattered by the multiple shocks of 2011, the most significant of which was of course the raid almost a year ago on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad.
And just when one thought that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship couldn’t get any rockier, we have the announcement by the U.S. government last week regarding Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafeez Mohammed Saeed, which was made on the eve of a long-awaited visit by President Zardari to India. And on the eve of the Pakistan parliament’s debate of a long-awaited report on the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. And if that were not enough, we had the OpEd piece over the weekend by Representative Dana Rohrabacher vigorously defending the resolution he had introduced in February calling for self-determination for Baluchistan which seems certain to reignite the passionate reactions of Pakistani officials.
Now these developments and others inevitably give rise to a series of questions. Among them, how to respond to those here in this country who are increasingly calling for an end to U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan. How to ensure a credible political transition in Afghanistan, one requiring both credible presidential elections in 2014 and an inclusive peace process. Whether the U.S. can succeed in its efforts to bring about a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s civil war in the absence of Pakistan’s full engagement and cooperation.
In short, what are the prospects for peace in Afghanistan?
To provide answers to these questions we are privileged to have a very distinguished panel of true experts. I will not read their biographies since you have them, but I would offer the following highlights.
Marc Grossman has held just about every major post one can hold in the Department of State -- Ambassador to Turkey, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Director General of the Foreign Service, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the department’s third highest position.
Since February 2011 he has served as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan with all of the challenges thereunto pertaining and I think it’s important to note that Marc’s diplomatic career was launched in Pakistan as his first posting, so in essence he has come full circle in his career.
Nilofer Sakhi has written extensively on the challenges of political transformation and peace building in Pakistan and she is Founder and Chairperson of Women’s Activities and Social Services Association where she established the association’s Center for Peace Building and Conflict Resolution. She served as a country director at the Open Society Foundation’s Afghanistan program where she also worked as a senior consultant on rule of law, transitional justice, and human rights.
Ahmed Rashid is Pakistan’s preeminent journalist and author and his writings are indeed required reading for anyone seeking to understand the realities of Afghanistan and Pakistan. His publications which include Taliban, Jihad and Descent into Chaos, sold millions of copies. His newly published work, Pakistan on the Brink -- The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan is already being described by reviewers as must read for anyone seeking to understand where and how that grand design went awry. I will add that living as he does in Lahore and writing as he does with unrestrained honesty and candor, also qualifies Ahmed Rashid as a man with considerable personal courage.
Last but certainly not least, we are privileged to have with us Ambassador Omar Samad who is Afghanistan’s senior expert here at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Prior to joining USIP he served as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to France, and previously as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Canada, and prior to that Spokesman in the Afghan Foreign Ministry. A graduate of American University and the Fletcher School he is widely known and respected for his determined efforts to promote the cause of freedom and democracy in Afghanistan.
Given that extraordinarily qualified group of panelists, we knew that we needed someone with equally extraordinary credentials to serve as our moderator. We could not have found anyone better qualified than Former Assistant to the President for National Security Stephen Hadley. As a top advisor to President George W. Bush for eight years, Steve has left his mark on every major foreign policy issue the United States has confronted, and he has continued to do so since leaving office through his involvement in a host of policy study groups and his extensive travels including his own visit to Pakistan last October. Importantly for us here at USIP, he’s a former member of the USIP Board and we continue to benefit from his support and his sage advice.
So it is with great pleasure that I turn the microphone over to Steve Hadley.
Mr. Hadley: Ambassador Moose, thank you very much. I want to thank the panelists for being with us this morning, and thank all of you. I think we should have a very interesting hour and a half on this most important question.
I want to outline how we’re going to try to proceed this morning. I’m going to begin by asking each panelist what may look like a bit of a softball question but it’s kind of a framing question so each of them can take three or four minutes in turn to kind of set out sort of a general approach to the problem.
What we’ll then do after that first round is I will then ask questions to the various panelists, and I will try to see if I can broker a bit of a conversation between and among the panelists on the various issues of the day and I suspect when all of that is done we will be basically an hour into this hour and a half which we have, and we will then go to questions and answers from the audience.
I think we could not have a better panel here to debate this important question about how to get to peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Without further ado let me begin. Ambassador Grossman, I’d like to begin with you, if I might. Ambassador Moose talked about political strategy. I think if you read the press on Afghanistan there’s a lot of talk about security, the security situation in Afghanistan, the transition to Afghanistan lead security responsibility in 2014. But under the constitution President Karzai’s term expires in 2014 which means there will be a presidential election. One question is will that presidential election result in a president with authority and support throughout the country, or could it be a repeat of the last couple of elections which were contested and a source of division.
So accompanying the security transition strategy, could you say a little word about the political transformation strategy and how the administration sees on the political side getting from where we are now and 2014 and beyond.
Ambassador Grossman: Thank you very much, and let me just add my thanks to all of you and if I could add my thanks to USIP and all the people who have organized this wonderful event. It’s an honor to be on this panel.
I might just, if I could, say a special word of thanks to Steve Hadley who, [for] this year I have been the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been particularly wise with his counsel with others, and Steve, I appreciate it very much.
I think that the question that Steve asked is a great place to start, which is to say that we spend a very large amount of time thinking about the security transition. The security transition is very important. It was laid out in Lisbon in 2010, a transition of geographies which has already taken place in a couple of tranches, more tranches to come. The military activity, the civilian development activity, all of these areas that we have been working hard on to promote the Lisbon transition and then get through to a success at the end of 2014.
I think although I’ll talk a little bit about the other transitions it’s very important that we not lose sight of the success in Lisbon.
I’d say one other thing about Lisbon. I spent a couple of weeks ago around Europe talking about support for the Afghan National Security Forces. The other reason to stay focused on the Lisbon transition is because for publics I think in the United States and also publics in Europe, it’s a very important part of telling the story of how we are going to go forward in Afghanistan to get to 2014. So the security transition is a very important thing.
But Steve’s right. I think we ought to be spending a considerable amount of time thinking about what is the other transition that’s happening in 2014. There are two transitions that we ought to be considering. Lisbon and then obviously the political transition as called for by the constitution of Afghanistan, an election, a change in leadership, and then very importantly getting to the transformational decade that was called for at the very important conference in Bonn.
I’d say three things about that. First, I’d say there is obviously a huge amount of work for Afghans to do to get ready for 2014 because this election, how they want to run their own country, what their life will be like in that transformational decade 2014-2024, fundamentally are questions for Afghans. So while we can talk about this and encourage and work with the independent election commission and consider questions going forward to 2014, this is first and foremost I believe an Afghan question, and I know that they will focus on it and focus on it successfully.
Second, as Steve said, there are two or three other pieces of getting ready for that transition that are extremely important. One, I believe, is the regional context in which that second transition will take place. I take you back if I could to the very important meetings in Istanbul last November and the very important international conference in Bonn last December, which set a framework for a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan inside of a secure, stable, and prosperous region. I think the regional component of this support for the transition in Afghanistan is extremely important.
Second, let’s not forget also the economic aspects of this, and here Steve and others have been particularly helpful to me, which is to say that going forward to 2014 and after 2014, there’s also got to be a regional economic vision about connecting Central Asian economies and South Asian economies with Afghanistan and Pakistan in the center, and I believe that will also play a very important role in the success of these two transitions in 2014.
And finally, as George said and Steve repeated, there’s the question of peace and reconciliation. And George talked I think very rightly about the efforts that Minister Stanekzai is making, that we are trying to produce also for one reason and one reason only, which is to see if we can get Afghans talking to other Afghans about the future of Afghanistan.
But I believe the peace process, the question of this conference, whether the prospects for peace, reconciliation, reintegration, all of these will play a very important role in whether we’re successful in the dual transitions in 2014.
Mr. Hadley: Thank you, Marc.
I’d like if I could to ask Ambassador Samad to pick up on that, and particularly pcking up on the political strategy. There’s been a lot of discussion about outreach to the Taliban as an element of a political strategy between now and 2014. I’d like you if you could to talk a little bit about the rest of a political transition in 2014. You’ve written, for example, in a recent article, you had a quote that said, “Much of Afghanistan’s loyal political opposition, women’s rights groups and civil society not only feel marginalized but are also increasingly concerned about a re-Talibanization of the country as a result of misplaced reconciliation priorities.” That’s a very serious statement.
Could you talk a little bit about what you mean by feeling marginalized and what ought to be the approach of the Afghan authorities and the United States to address those issues and that feeling?
Ambassador Samad: Thank you. Thank you for that easy question, and good morning to everyone here. I thought Ambassador Grossman was going to get all the tough questions. That’s the advantage of being an ex-diplomat.
By what I have written I’m trying to reflect I think what the Afghan people overall are feeling in terms of the political transition that is about to take place, if and when it takes place, and how it will take place. They want to feel, first of all, I think connected to a transition. You want to feel inclusive and included in a process that not only takes into account their aspirations, but also deals and offers them solutions and answers to questions that are really tough in terms of what are we doing with the Taliban, which Taliban, where, and in what context? These are questions that I think are on the minds of many people not only in Afghanistan but also across the world, especially the main contributors and the main stakeholders as to what exactly are we going to get out of reconciliation.
We understand that the political process is the way to end the conflict. And we hope that will be the case for Afghanistan, but there are many questions as to what kind of reconciliation? Is it going to be a narrow reconciliation? Is it going to be one where we bargain over certain gains that Afghans have had over the past decade? What are we going to give up and what are we getting in return for it? And if we are going to end up with a political settlement, which is sort of the buzz word being used, what does it mean? What exactly does a political settlement mean in terms of incorporating certain elements within the Afghan ruling structures? Giving away certain positions? Does it mean this will guarantee the end of conflict? That everyone who is on today will actually sign on to this? So there are many questions lingering in people’s minds and I think that’s what has caused a certain amount of uncertainty and angst within the Afghan population, and especially within political circles, loyal opposition, civil society, and especially the parliament. I think we keep ignoring this body called the legislature or parliament which is, whether you like it or not, an elected body in Afghanistan even if elections are not perfect. But we cannot ignore their views and their input.
So I think it’s important that as we move forward with the political process we keep in mind that Afghans have certain questions. They would like to have some transparency as part of this process. They are very also worried about the regional context. As Ambassador Grossman said, Afghans see their immediate problems originating not within Afghanistan, but as originating within the regional context. They see a lot of spoilers outside of Afghanistan as well as some inside Afghanistan, but the ones in Afghanistan are our own spoilers and we need to deal with them ourselves in our own way. But spoilers outside of Afghanistan are very difficult for us to handle, and the past 30 years of our history have shown that we need to find better ways of handling this aspect of spoiling coming from outside Afghanistan.
Mr. Hadley: Thank you.
One of the things I think that may inform the conversation here is in the work that the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Center for American Progress have been doing, we have tried to distinguish between reconciliation which is thought of as an outreach to the Taliban and a broader political settlement which is making the Afghan political structure more inclusive of both the opposition, women’s groups. A sense that many view the Afghan government now as narrow, with a sense of entitlement, a fair amount of corruption. So we’ve talked about outreach to the Taliban or reconciliation with the Taliban and political settlement in terms of broadening and opening up the Afghan political structure. And you might have that distinction in mind.
I’d like to ask Ms. Saki on that issue, how do women in Afghanistan, you’ve been an advocate of women’s rights and women’s empowerment in Afghanistan, how do women in Afghanistan see both the outreach to the Taliban, but also this broader prospect for political settlement? What is their perspective?
Ms. Sakhi: Thank you very much. I would like to thank USIP for organizing this event. It’s really a timely event for Afghanistan to discuss the issues relevant to [inaudible] and peace prospects.
In regard to your question, I think there was a level of optimism existed a few years back, especially in 2010, among women’s groups, brotherhood, society organization on the issue of political transition, specifically on the issue of reconciliation. It’s not because they had good memories of Taliban regime, or they were really favoring a regime like Taliban, but it was mainly because people were tired of instability in the country and they wanted to have a solution where everyone could have their stake in.
But, and I remember we used to when we started working with the different stakeholders in civil society sector, particularly women’s groups, all the bad memories that they had from the Taliban regime, they still wanted to be in the process. But with the passage of time and the changes that happened during last two years, unfortunately that level of optimism doesn’t exist anymore.
There has been a lack of transparency in the process. There has been a lack of inclusiveness in the process, not only in women’s groups but broadly from different civil society actors, private sectors, education, and many other sectors that the institutions, jirgas, they were all part of the civil society that were not consulted initially. With different advocacy the strategies of civil society and women’s groups had, it worked at the level. At the level that the international community just had them at the table, with all discussing the substance. So still it seems that the representation of women’s groups, plus civil society in particular, or broadly talking about civil society, has been very symbolic in the process. It didn’t contain any substance talk. What women’s groups right now they are concerned about that Taliban has never released any document or has never published anything in which they would accept the constitution of Afghanistan. And that’s a fail because it will undermine complete last ten years of achievements, plus all democratic values of civil society particularly with the support of international community has been really focusing on.
Now there is totally another level of pessimism. There is no solution to the political settlement, reconciliation is not the solution they think. They think that there is a need for more [inaudible] working in this sector. They think there is more need for regional diplomacy with the neighboring countries to first talk about their interests, because their interests really matters a lot at the initial stage to talk to the Taliban. Otherwise if our neighboring countries do not cooperate in the process and are not really come to the negotiation table and discuss their interests and negotiate their interests, they think the solution doesn’t rely on talking with Taliban.
So that level of pessimism unfortunately exists but we hope that it will fade away.
Mr. Hadley: Thank you. You have both indicated some reservations about where the reconciliation and the political settlement process are now and I want to come back to you in a moment or two and ask you to be prescriptive, given your reservations how do we get this process back on track.
But before we do that I would like to turn to Mr. Rashid because Marc mentioned in his opening, and you have now underscored, Ms. Sakhi, very strongly, the importance of the regional players and the role they can have in terms of a stable, peaceful Afghanistan over the long term. And of course there is no more important neighbor than Pakistan, and our objective is of course for a stable, peaceful Afghanistan but also a stable peaceful Pakistan, and those two are related.
So let me ask you about that. I want to start very basically. There’s a lot of discussion about what does Pakistan want for Afghanistan? Do they want the return of the Taliban when things were stable and calm? So let’s begin, if we could, what are Pakistan’s goals in Afghanistan? What is it that Pakistan wants? And what in your judgment is Pakistan able and willing to do to bring that goal or end state about?
Mr. Rashid: I wish I knew. I wish more people in this room knew, and I don’t think people do.
If I may just make a couple of comments on what has passed. I think Marc outlined a very comprehensive vision, but let me just add one more thing to it. I think part of the vision that must emerge and hopefully will emerge in the Chicago Summit has to be the fact that the U.S. aim, NATO aim, has to be an end to the war before you leave. If American forces, NATO forces are going to leave Afghanistan in a state of civil war as it exists today then I think we’re looking at total failure at the end of the day. We’re looking at regional countries interfering, we’re looking at the collapse of the internal political system as it’s evolved in the last ten years, et cetera, et cetera.
So I would really like to see a U.S. vision articulated that would categorically say that our aim is to end the war before we leave. I think that will carry immense weight in the region, amongst the protagonists in this war and in the international community.
We can talk about transition, we can talk about each of these things individually, but I think there has to be an overarching policy. Now maybe we don’t get there. That’s another question. But I think the aim has to be expressed.
If you look at all the three major areas the U.S. and its allies have to contend with, the international situation is in a crisis because a lot of the Europeans want to pull out early, et cetera. Will the Europeans contribute to the long-term funding of Afghanistan and the long-term funding of the military, et cetera, the Afghan military? The regional situation which I’ll just talk about, but also much worse than when this administration started off with the tensions with Iran, the tensions now developing with Pakistan. And thirdly, clearly the domestic situation inside Afghanistan with these recent incidents we’ve had is also very precarious.
So I think an enormous amount has to be done and we need major diplomatic efforts on all three fronts -- domestic, international and regional -- in order to get this process going.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, I believe the military, which guides and runs foreign policy, has essentially always had a maximalist position on Afghanistan and a minimalist position. Depending on its relations with the Afghans, with the U.S., with the other players it’s moved from one to another. And right now given the -- It had for a very long time a very strong maximalist position, and by maximalist position I mean no compromise with India on Afghanistan, no presence of India on Afghanistan, micromanagement of any kind of political deal between the Taliban and Karzai to certainly southern and eastern Afghanistan. Pakistan has a saying, who takes up [inaudible], et cetera. And then a minimalist position which is geared more around compromise, facilitation of talks, working with India on Afghanistan, not rejecting it completely.
I think at the moment given the crisis in Pakistan and the crisis in relations with the U.S. and Pakistan, both are taking center stage at the moment. There is an element of defiance, anti-U.S. defiance which is unfortunately being sort of propagated in the media, amongst the politicians, et cetera, et cetera, and this takes on, of course, a very hard line on Afghanistan. How dare the U.S. go around Pakistan and talk to the Taliban without involving Pakistan? How dare the U.S. talk about this transition strategy without first sharing it with Pakistan? But at the same time the very weakness of the military at this point, because of all the other crises that Pakistan is beset with, the military is weak. The military is not in a position to launch a coup or try and take control of the country. I think it would also be willing and ready, as I said, to accept a minimalist kind of set of demands for itself.
And it’s a question now really how the U.S. and the international community is going to play with Pakistan. Is it also going to be defiant and aggressive or is it going to be a little more patient? I think that’s important.
But two things Pakistan has to do, I think. The first is, it is absolutely clear that the time has long passed that Pakistan can continue giving physical support for extremists and fundamentalists, be they those fighting in India or be they those fighting in Afghanistan. I think this is going to require, starting with Afghanistan which I think is probably a little easier to do, there has to be now a deadline given to the Afghan Taliban and to the adjacent groups to move out of Pakistan in order to speed up its reconciliation with the Karzai government. And Pakistan has to play a more positive role than it has done so far. It can’t remain silent. It is critical for the international community to know that Pakistan is giving a certain time period in which the Taliban have to talk to the Kabul government. I think that is very important.
And secondly, there has to be an effort at deradicalization. This doesn’t mean confrontation in a military way, it means a program of deradicalization which I believe the international community would support. This is the kind of thing the international community would actually give money to if Pakistan did not have the resources itself. For example, we have reached a certain stage with improving relations with India, but they can’t go any further than where they are because of this problem of Hafeez Saeed and Lashkar and all these other groups that exist.
And in Afghanistan there is a limit to how far you can go with Karzai and getting friendly again with the U.S. because ultimately you’re left with the fact that the Afghan Taliban are sitting in Pakistan.
So we cannot move forward decisively in this region for peace and stability in this region unless Pakistan is prepared to offer a program for deradicalization on both the Afghan and India fronts.
Mr. Hadley: Thank you.
Marc, I want to turn to you. The notion of the aim needs to be to end the war before the United States leaves. When I was there in October my sense was that if the goal is a peaceful stable Afghanistan it’s going to take a long time and it is not something that can be accomplished between now and 2014. But I’d like your comment on Mr. Rashid’s suggestion of that as a goal. And then to ask you that in the context of this. There has been an announcement over the last weekend that in fact there is now an agreement on the issue of night raids which has been standing in the way of a Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan. Is that Strategic Partnership Agreement now liable to be concluded? And what will it say about a post-2014 presence of the United States in the event we can’t get it all done and get to the end state we want between now and 2014? What will it say about a U.S. commitment in Afghanistan post-2014?
Ambassador Grossman: First off, thank you very much.
What Ahmed said, it all has to be done by 2014, I thought stop, stop. The bars are high here, but they can’t be that high.
So, Steve, the point you make about the agreement, and we’ve just agreed with the government of Afghanistan on the question of special military operations, night raids, which combined with the one a week or so ago on detentions, does open the door for the strategic partnership document. I think it’s a very important thing to get signed. I hope it will be done soon. Our negotiators are back in business with the Afghans starting today. I don’t know how long it will take, but we’d like to have a good document. And it will, as you say, define the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States of America post-2014. I think it’s extremely important because it starts to answer some of Ahmed’s questions.
But if you’d allow me, it also starts to answer some of the other questions that we heard here.
Mr. Hadley: Please do.
Ambassador Grossman: Let’s talk for a minute about some of the very good comments that we heard before.
First, let me just say to both of you, to everyone in this room, I think the idea that reconciliation and the process of reconciliation and the questions that are posed by reconciliation have to be dealt with in a more inclusive manner in Afghanistan, with the region, with the United States. That is absolutely right.
One of the things that really strikes me in all of this is that reconciliation is not an issue between the government of Afghanistan and the insurgents. Reconciliation is an issue about Afghan society, and that means that all of society has to be involved in this. And when you think about the questions that you asked – “what’s it mean” and “what’s the end” and “how does it work”?
One of the advantages that I have had in working in this job now just over a year, is that the Secretary of State set out in February of 2011 our redlines for this. They answer some of your questions. What did we say? We said that people who reconcile first had to break with al-Qaida; and secondly, they have to stop their violence; and thirdly, they have to live inside of the constitution of Afghanistan which respects the rights of women and minorities and other groups.
So this idea that this is a reconciliation among and inside Afghan society is extremely important. So I just want to repeat the point I made in my opening which is to say that the role of the United States in talking to the Taliban, in meeting with the insurgents, is one and one only, and that is to try to open the door to conversation among Afghans about the future, and I think that’s extremely important. Because the questions you ask are questions that Afghans have to answer about how they wish to live.
And I might just also say that I think the point you make about the region is extremely important. And one of the reasons that all of you and all of us have said this regional diplomacy has got to go forward in a successful way.
The other thing, if you’d allow me, I’d also like to tie my interest, if you will, in this whole question of economic development to the empowerment of women in Afghanistan. I think among the most interesting people that you meet in Afghanistan are female entrepreneurs, and I think there’s a power to be unleashed there so that women entrepreneurs, women in business, have a standing in society so when they face these questions of how far, how much, what changes, that women and other groups can have a stand for themselves, and I think that’s extremely important.
If I might then come to the point that Ahmed made about before we leave. I think we shouldn’t get trapped here in the proposition that on December 31, 2014 we’re gone. Because if that were our policy I think we couldn’t accomplish any of the tasks that we’ve set out to do. So the SPD is just one part of sending the message that after 2014 there will be American engagement in Afghanistan. It will be military, it will be economic, it will be political, it will have to do with the rule of law, it will have to do with governance, it will have to do with democracy, all of the things that are in the SPD that’s to be negotiated.
So it’s not possible I believe to say oh, end this war before December 2014. Not possible. That’s why we have to continue [firstly], with the transformational decade that was laid out in Bonn, and secondly, with the SPD bilaterally between Afghanistan and the United States.
When I think about Chicago, you have these lines of operation now. You have the military line, which is very important and needs to continue. You have civilian effort, development, governance, all these things that people are investing in in Afghanistan. You have the question of enduring presence. You have the question of transition. You have the question of reconciliation. The job in Chicago is to bring all these things together intellectually so people can say this is the policy of the international community in Afghanistan. I think if we’re successful with that, we take Istanbul, Bonn, Chicago, Tokyo, and if I could put in, there’s a very important conference in Kabul following up Istanbul for the region, but Istanbul, Bonn, Chicago, Tokyo, and you’ve got a way forward I believe that people can understand.
Mr. Hadley: Thank you, Marc.
I want to go back to this issue that you raised, some concerns about the reconciliation process. I think Marc has begun to give the U.S. government’s framework for dealing with those answers, but I want to ask each of you really the same two questions.
Marc talked about a broader conversation, reconciliation needs to be an opportunity for a broader conversation among all elements of Afghan society. Not so easy to do and I would like to ask each of you to talk a little bit about what kind of conversation should there be within Afghan society and how does it get structured? Then secondly, can the election in 2014 be a vehicle for actually having that kind of conversation and advancing the prospects for a broader reconciliation?
I’m going to ask you to put your policy-maker hats on and talk a little bit about how to structure this conversation and how can the election be used to do that?
Ms. Sakhi, if we might, can we begin with you?
Ms. Sakhi: Yes, sure.
To follow up on what Ambassador Grossman has said about the achievement that exists in Afghanistan. I think I have been in Afghanistan and I’ve been through the series of changes that happened from the provincial level to the capitol. I want to make sure that the image doesn’t get from media and many of the conferences also about everything is going negative, everything is damaging, the country is going to fail. I don’t truly believe in that because I see the changes that happened from last ten years both in the public sector, private sector, and the rights and justice, they are marvelous. We have been through these changes and we don’t want to show that Afghanistan is a failed cause. It’s not a failed cause at all. It needs more structure and systematic strategies to put in place, otherwise the achievements that we had have opened a great range of opportunities for the international engagement and connectivity of Afghanistan with the world, plus [inaudible] all to be further engaged in our country.
So thank you very much, Ambassador Grossman, for highlighting the achievements also because I really wanted to follow on that. These are what we hear from media. That’s totally a different picture we have in Afghanistan currently.
In addition to your question how to have more structured process of reconciliation in Afghanistan.
I think as I mentioned, there was lack of structure in the strategy from the beginning in the process. So making more structure, first the process should be transparent. We had this issue several times in front of High Peace Council of Afghanistan. They are saying they are issues that we cannot disclose it. And if issues remain closed and transparency doesn’t exist in the process, then how we know as a nation, as a country that what are the substance discussion happening about different deals? Whether it is a deal which is happening between countries in the region, or whether it is really in trust of Afghanistan also [inaudible] the place. As recently, all of us might know that even Afghan government is not in the picture. Even Afghan government is complaining of sidelining in the process. That really damages the sovereignty of the country and has created frustration among the Afghan government also about the entire process.
So inclusiveness now for us is not going to include women’s group or civil society group, it’s to include a foreign government in the process. That’s really important.
I know Taliban doesn’t recognize Afghanistan government, [inaudible] if they don’t want to compromise or recognize the constitution then how we see the future? That is really, really hard to predict a successful outcome or expect a successful outcome of the process. The Taliban are not even legitimizing or considering the Afghanistan government the last ten years [inaudible].
So this is a huge talk right now. The inclusiveness is not only about women’s group, about civil society. Inclusiveness is about Afghanistan government also that I want to mention here.
The more structured way is really first inclusiveness. Inclusiveness -- It means a broader consultation process. High Peace Council literally failed to create that consultation around the country which we were expecting the High Peace Council to [communicate] back. They already started the consults in different provinces but they are not able to reach the different elements of civil society which is private sector, institutions, clubs, education which we named at the very beginning and we had similar talks about this with High Peace Council members. You have to have outreach and have a member of them at least as a representative.
So this consultation should -- I know that time is really very limited, but we have to start that consultation. We have to have outreach to any mechanism that we think.
International community, I would like to focus on UNAMA that they have also started that. There was a project that they wanted to do, to have outreach. But again for them civil society was only that NGOs. I don’t mean civil society only NGOs based in Kabul [inaudible] international funds. They are not civil society only. Civil society in Afghanistan has a broader definition, and we want all of them to be included in the process because all of them do complain always. If you don’t include them, you will not be able to legitimize the outcome of peace process because they have to legitimize at the end of the day.
So broader consultation should be happened, which give us structure to the entire process.
The second thing that transpires is I think it’s important, the media should cover, if you want to create again the hope, because as I mentioned there is an extreme level of pessimism right now among the nation. If you want to create the level of optimism, we have to show the people that something is coming out of the process. Something is happening in the process. Otherwise, people keep thinking negatively about the entire process. And if you don’t have the support of people, again, I said it’s [inaudible] the outcome of the process.
The third thing, I think we need to have a mediator or negotiator which has been lax in the process because talking, we haven’t started the process yet. There hasn’t been a start of the process. There hasn’t been talk about the substance, about the interest of the region in Afghanistan in general. So we have done the logistics only, I want to say. That, the peace building procedure, this process had [inaudible] shortcomings because the process hasn’t started yet and we have only another two years as the deadline which was given to us, and how we are sure that in another two years we’ll be able to create a good outcome?
So the discussions, again, I would like to say that the work should be a little bit out of the logistic efforts and should be focused more on the substance of the process which is to bring, have a consultation with the first sectors I mentioned. Secondly, talk about the substance. Substance means what are the interests of Afghanistan. Different sectors’ interests, in particular all of Afghanistan under one umbrella as a government and civil society, all one. Regional trust, which literally Pakistan is involved. Iran is also a player. Iran is influencing a lot in Afghanistan through the education, through the religious institutions and many more. So they are another stakeholder. They have to really come to the table. They have to become [inaudible] at the table at least by [inaudible] government if our international partners don’t want to initiate that.
And the [inaudible] I mentioned, a mediator group is extremely important in the process. Right now the neutrality of the process is under question. Afghanistan truly believes it is United States [inaudible] and it is run [inaudible] and it is only happening the Taliban and United States in the process. So this has to be removed out of the mind of people because that undermines, again, the neutrality of the process also.
International partners including United States can be, definitely they are a strong supporter for the [inaudible] of Afghanistan, but if they directly deal with this, it has good points as well as bad points. The bad point is that if they’re going to undermine the neutrality of the process we should right now think about it.
Mr. Hadley: Interesting.
What I’d like to do in concluding this phase of the conversation is I’d like to turn to Ambassador Samad and have you focus on the 2014 election. I think Ms. Sakhi has given us a good description of the kind of process she would like to see. If you could talk a little bit about the 2014 election and what Afghans need to do and the international community needs to do to make sure that gives a free and fair election.
I’m going to ask then Mr. Rashid to talk a little bit about what more should be done with the regional players to build on what was done in Bonn and Istanbul, and then Marc, give you a chance to respond particularly to the comments that were made here. Then at that point we’ll go to the questions from the audience.
Ambassador Samad: I just want to start out by saying that, before getting to the election issue, that we have had gains over the past 11 years. What needs to be done is to consolidate these gains. Afghanistan is in a much better place than it used to be, but we are sitting here ten years later, 11 years later, discussing what might happen if the Taliban return or what might happen if Afghanistan collapses. Nobody ten years ago would have thought we would be at this point today. In Afghanistan at least, nobody thought we would be reaching this level of fragility.
So what we are facing in the region as well as in Afghanistan is a certain level of fragility that needs to be fixed. And the fixing, of course, has to initially come from within Afghanistan, but we just all of us sort of agreed there is a component outside of Afghanistan that needs to be brought back into the process.
We feel in Afghanistan that we are putting our house in order. The major elements of Afghan society coming under this big tent. But some of our cousins are missing. So the cousin that’s missing is the Taliban that is unwilling to join the tent, to come into the tent.
There are two types of Taliban from the Afghan perspective. There’s the Taliban who is radicalized, who is extremist, who is jihadi and who is not going to budget or change under whatever circumstances. Then there is the Taliban that we think and we assume is willing to change and is willing to come and join the other cousins under the tent. This is where we are all trying to sort of nudging, sort of pushing, sort of encourage him, incite him to come into the tent.
We all know that that cousin lives outside of Afghanistan’s borders. We all know that Pakistan and its decision-making bodies can have probably the definitive, provide the definitive help that is needed in order to push the cousin back into Afghanistan so that then we could enter into talks with them.
So this is sort of the picture we are facing right now, and I think that then the conversation in Afghanistan can really flourish and the international community can then play the role that it intends to do.
But meanwhile the international community needs to give assurances, and I’m glad to see, of course, that we have the Kabul process. We of course had Istanbul and Bonn, too. Chicago is important as Ambassador, you mentioned, and Tokyo is going to, of course, give us the financial commitment that is required.
I think that what has been missing probably is the messaging of the Afghan people into the region, that the international community means business. The international community is serious, not just about ending the war in 2014, but continuing the work that started in 2001. And accomplishing the job with the Afghans in the driver’s seat of course.
So as you draw down, as you pull out your troops, as you diminish the financial contributions that you have made over the years that have been tremendous. I, as an Afghan, am absolutely grateful for what the international community has done. And the blood that has been shed on all sides. I think that we all realize that we need to end this, but ending is not just saying the war will end in 2014. It’s how do we reach a -- In 2014 we need to be able to say we are now going to enter a political settlement phase. And beyond that we need to make sure that we consolidate both peace in Afghanistan as well as the way forward to rebuild Afghanistan.
That brings me to the elections in 2014 which is going to be crucial, absolutely critical in trying to determine which path we are going to take. We have had ten years of experience with a democracy that is young, immature, and is learning sort of the way forward. Don’t expect Afghanistan to become the Jeffersonian democracy or the Swiss model democracy that people are talking about, within a generation or two. It is going to take much longer. But what choice do Afghans have between a democratic future and radicalism? Is there a third option that they do have? Also in Pakistan. In the region. What we are facing right now is a choice between an imperfect democracy but one that hopefully will be nurtured and helped along; and forces of radicalism. So we have to make that choice. That choice has to be made by Afghans first.
The elections are going to be a critical testing point, testing ground, and we need to make sure that we stay within the bounds of the constitution.
If the constitution needs to be reformed, Afghans need to initiate a discussion and a debate within the country to reform it. That has to be inclusive. That has to bring on board all the elements that would bring about that kind of reform. But democracy has to stay within the bounds of the constitution in Afghanistan which means that human rights, gender rights, everything else falls within that.
And the Taliban have to fall within the bounds of the constitution.
I think that when we talk about bringing the Taliban in the tent, it means that they need to become something. They need to be shown that they have a voice and that their vote counts, and that they are going to become political actors like everybody else in Afghanistan. Not more, not less than anybody else. They will have equal rights under the constitution, and they can form a party, whatever kind of movement they want. How do we do this? How do we convince the Taliban, at least those who are willing to participate, I think is the trick that needs to find an answer and a solution.
Mr. Hadley: Mr. Rashid, does Pakistan have the will and the ability to pressure these cousins that are outside of Afghanistan to return and take part in this process? And what can we do to encourage it? Then what else needs to be done on the regional basis to support this process?
Mr. Rashid: I’d make a few comments on elections and other things.
The first is that there has been hardly any discussion in Washington or NATO about elections. How are you going to withdraw all these troops and at the same time have elections? Who is going to protect these elections? Who is going to stand by the way that the international community supported and protected the elections in 2004 and 2008?
So one idea is that if President Karzai sees it in himself to bring the elections forward so that the international presence can be there and can play a role in protecting the elections. I think bringing the elections forward to next year or even right to the beginning of 2014 would be of enormous help to the international community.
But also simultaneously you want a process where you would like to include the Taliban in this process too. And that’s a big question mark. Will the talks actually progress to such a stage where you can actually ask some Taliban to stand in the elections? Will they take a decision to stand in the elections or not?
But nevertheless I think it is probably vital that the transition to the next president with a new face, a new president, a new cabinet, et cetera, should take place well before the final, the large-scale withdrawal takes place in 2014. That’s my first point.
The second point is that on this reconciliation, I think President Karzai has made enormous mistakes. He has not put together a comprehensive team to negotiate with the Taliban. Unfortunately what we are seeing in Afghanistan is that these talks with the Taliban are in fact reenergizing the ethnic issue and creating enormous ethnic division. There is open talk of civil war in Afghanistan. Let’s be realistic. There is open talk of the Americans leaving and followed by civil war between the north and the south; amongst the south itself between the Taliban and other Pashtuns, et cetera. And whether the Army, the military, the Afghan military can stand those kinds of strains. That’s why I’m urging that the war, if there is somehow this belief -- There’s this very naïve belief in this transition that somehow the Americans will get up from the trench and say goodbye and leave and the Afghans will come into the trench and hold that trench and then hold the whole country against the Taliban. It’s not going to happen like that.
If we are going to be in a state of war in 2014 when 70,000, 80,000 troops start leaving Afghanistan, there’s going to be a wave of attacks and offenses by the Taliban if there is no peace process.
So that’s why I really do see that one of the most important needs for the Americans and for NATO is how to reduce the violence so that the burden does not fall on this Afghan army which is completely untested and which you all know what doubts there are -- illiterate, drug-taking, et cetera, et cetera. We really don’t know how it’s going to perform.
Thirdly I just want to say that look, there have been divisions in this administration here in Washington. I don’t think we can ignore those. They have been a major cause for the problems in these peace negotiations. Right now the Taliban have suspended the talks partly because it seems that the U.S. military is objecting to certain ways about this prisoner exchange.
The point I’m trying to say here is, the U.S. has to talk from one page also. And the more divisions there are within the administration that get articulated outside in Pakistan, in Iran, in Kabul, et cetera, it creates problems for the U.S. and for these negotiations, and these other countries have an angle on which to sort of build their own dissent on.
Now as far as the regional issue is concerned, I think it’s going to need a massive diplomatic effort which may be, as you said, maybe the State Department on its own is not able to do simply because the State Department has no relationship with Iran. You need somebody else to talk to the Iranians if you want a settlement.
Now I think it’s tragic the way the UN has been run down frankly over the last few years, but the UN is not in a position right at the moment to take up any leading negotiating position unless it’s prepared to bring people in from outside. But I do believe that, I think the Americans can resolve this even for themselves if they designate a European interlocutor to talk to the Iranians. I think that is, it’s a critical part of any kind of regional settlement.
In Pakistan, the problem is that there is a huge domestic crisis. You had the military trying to basically get rid of the government. And you had the judiciary lining up with the military trying to get rid of the government. It’s something that has paralyzed the government for the last one year. And there may be a slight hiatus right now but it could escalate again.
You’ve got a very severe economic crisis and you’ve got insurgencies in Baluchistan and in the tribal areas.
It’s been unfortunate that there’s been so little pressure from the government on the military in a more comprehensive way to change Pakistan’s foreign policy, because that’s what is needed.
Now the military control it, but there can be pressures on it to change it, and I think civil society and other groups are trying to pressure the military to change it and the military is deeply aware I think, it’s deeply confused, it’s deeply aware that things cannot continue. But to actually take that step to actually turn the ship around, as it were, is something that nobody is having the courage to do right now in Pakistan.
Of course the more aggravating measures there are from the U.S. and from other sides like this [inaudible] Hafeez Saeed, people just see this as a tit for tat thing that the Americans are doing that should have been done, if it needed to be done it should have been done four years ago after Mumbai took place and after all the accusations that Hafeez Saeed was responsible for Mumbai. To do this four years later, and I can well understand the frustration in Washington. The road is not open, there hasn’t been any agreement with Pakistan, et cetera. But people are seeing this more or less as a tit for tat thing, not as a strategic or a policy issue.
So there is a huge domestic crisis which is really dominating everything at the moment, and as long as that is not resolved, we’re not going to see, frankly, a reconciliation with the United States. The military, the government, the parliament, they’re all held hostage at the moment to the kind of hard-line rhetoric that is coming out of the fundamentalists, the media, and these extremist groups.
So unfortunately I have no [inaudible] about Pakistan. Pakistan is going to continue down this road. I hope it can come out of it sooner rather than later, certainly this year. I hope it can play a constructive role in Afghanistan. But as I said, turning that ship around, nobody seems to have the will to do it, neither the military nor the politicians nor the government. There’s an enormous -- Perhaps elections should be brought forward in Pakistan too for this year rather than have them next year so that we could have a new government which could possibly tackle some of these issues that need to be looked at.
Mr. Hadley: Marc, I’m going to give you the last word. You have a broad canvas to paint on. I’d also ask for the questions to be brought up and we’ll then go to the Q&A.
Ambassador Grossman: I’ve felt these last few minutes that the stage is tilting, this is rolling down to me. That’s all right. And I do want to make sure there’s a lot of room for questions, but if I could just take you through a couple of the themes it seems to me that emerge here.
First, I’d like to go back to the question of reconciliation. I think it’s extremely important to just emphasize again and again as our colleagues have the reconciliation process is about society in Afghanistan. It’s not about the government of Afghanistan and some group of insurgents. Nor, for goodness sakes, is it about the United States of America talking to the insurgents. I just want to say again both to you and to the audience that there’s one purpose and one purpose only for the United States talking to the Taliban and that is the point that you made. At the moment, the Taliban doesn’t want to talk to the government of Afghanistan. Somebody is going to have to break through and open that door. Our goal is to try to open that door. I don’t know if we’ll succeed. As Ahmed said, the talks are suspended. I can’t give you a guarantee that anything will go forward, but our purpose is to open that door so that Afghans can talk to other Afghans about the future of Afghanistan.
The second thing, I just wanted to agree with you that the High Peace Council I think has a huge important role to play here as a more inclusive body. When I go to Afghanistan, and when I was there last week or a couple of weeks ago, I make it a point to go and visit with the High Peace Council. I think that’s important. But the message is, it has to be more inclusive, and, as you say, really to come and talk to the people all around the country.
The other thing I think is worth saying is the question that both of you raised which is don’t forget the accomplishments. In not forgetting the accomplishments I take one lesson. That is to say that for the Taliban it’s not for Afghan society to accommodate to the Taliban, it’s the reverse. We mustn’t fall into the trap that it’s the job of Afghan society to somehow make it easy for the Taliban to reintegrate and to reconcile. It’s the job of the Taliban to recognize all of what’s happened in Afghanistan over these past ten years.
Another point which I think is really important here. How do the cousins, as you put it, how do they make their own decision? I think a very powerful decision has been made now by almost 4,000 people who are in the reintegration program. We’ve talked about reconciliation, but reintegration is also a very important part of this as well.
I’d like to make one point, if I could, about Tokyo. As you say, this is a very important part of the idea going forward, and you rightly said that Tokyo will be the place where the international community will make some of its commitments on the development side to the government of Afghanistan. Bonn also called up the government of Afghanistan to make commitments to the international community. I know people will be looking for that plan in Tokyo as well.
A final point on the reconciliation issue. This room is full of former colleagues and former bosses of mine who will know that I have many, many faults. But not keeping the government of Pakistan or the government of Afghanistan fully informed about what we were doing on the reconciliation side is not one of them. I recognize that’s what people said, but I just want to tell you that I worked very hard to make sure that people were neither in the dark nor excluded.
If I could just take the very important points that Ahmed made I think about Pakistan first. It’s the place to start. There is a domestic issue in Pakistan and they need to work on this issue. And that’s really true.
The two points that are important on Afghanistan, one is that if you say nobody is thinking yet about how to structure forces in Afghanistan for an election in 2014, that’s part of, it seems to me, the importance of an event like this and starting to talk about these two transitions. Indeed when I was in Europe a couple of weeks ago trying to get support for the ANSF, it was very much on people’s minds because people are starting to recognize as we started this conversation that two transitions are happening and they need to happen successfully.
Second, I go back again to the question of ” we’re leaving.” What do the Taliban think? Well, the Taliban need to think first of all there’s going to be a Strategic Partnership document and the Taliban also have to recognize that the Afghan National Security Forces, military, police, are going to grow to 352,000 people and that number’s going to stay consistent probably until toward the end of 2015 and then if circumstances are right it will slope down. And yes, a lot of problems with these forces. Of course there are. But increasingly, what do they show? They can fight, and they can do the kinds of jobs that are important.
So finally, I come back to the point that this conference, what this panel’s all about, is that the peace process is really important. But it isn’t just a peace process. It’s an Afghan peace process.
So when you ask: what are the prospects for peace in Afghanistan, I say if Afghans will take ownership for this process for peace, then they’re higher; if they won’t take ownership of this process for peace, they’re lower. So it’s not just a peace process, it’s an Afghan peace process, and to that extent I believe the prospects are good.
Mr. Hadley: I have six questions which I have artfully turned into four questions. One for each panelist. We’ll go through them and then see how much time we have at the end.
The first one is for Ms. Sakhi.
Do you think the Taliban have moderated any of their views on women and the like? Or do they want to go back to the policies of the 1990s and ban girls’ education, women working and the like? For those Taliban who come into the peace process, where do you think their views are on women today?
Ms. Sakhi: That’s a good question. We don’t really know if they have moderated their views because we haven’t heard anything in particular from them to be very clear about their point of view about women’s position. But there are a couple of statements from them that shows that they want women’s role according to the Sharia Law. There is interpretation of Sharia Law, what they mean by Sharia Law, whether if they want to the same during the regime when they implemented Sharia Law, if they want to mean that as a perfect model. So I don’t think they have reformed.
The other thing they are saying is, recently there were many issues relevant to women’s participation in public, women going outside with, traveling with someone else, with [inaudible], so all are issues that shows us that they haven’t modified anything about their take on women’s issues, specifically if they are focusing very much on the women’s role according to Sharia Law. Because for us, if it’s Islamic, we don’t say women’s rights through Islam is not good. It is good. We do respect that. And if it’s happening, that’s going to be received. But if the interpretation of Sharia Law is what they did in the regime, that's not a good modification of what they have done I think.
Mr. Hadley: Mr. Rashid. Two fingers we see.
Mr. Rashid: One very quick comment. Look, why this Qatar office is so important is that the Taliban have been locked up in safe houses in Pakistan, leadership, for the last ten years. They have not met with Afghans. They have not met with the new generation of Afghans who have come up, the post-9/11 generation for example. They need exposure to these people. If you have Taliban sitting in an office in Qatar I would hope the first thing would happen is you would get delegations of Afghans from all walks of life coming and meeting with the Taliban, and the Taliban meeting, for example, working women. Teachers, nurses, doctors, plus all sorts of Afghan businessmen, Afghans, all sorts of members of the Afghan elite. Presumably a Qatar office will give the Taliban the kind of exposure to modern Afghan society that has come up since 9/11 more than ever before.
Mr. Hadley: And on Marc’s point, since the burden is on the Taliban for this reconciliation process, it would be an opportunity at that forum for the Taliban to clarify and reassure the women of Afghanistan on this point.
Next question for Ambassador Samad.
How do you assess the ability of the loyal opposition to mobilize Afghans to participate in the country’s politics? Then a related question, how do you address then the issue of the split between north and south? Particularly mobilizing the south, particularly in Helmand and Kandahar, in the direction of democracy and development.
Ambassador Samad: I think that these are very good questions and ones that I hope the loyal opposition is pondering over. They can also -- I think it would be good for the loyal opposition to create their political platforms. Whether this translates into political parties, it’s up to them, but offer the Afghan people a set of policies dealing with different sectors and their viewpoint in a more coherent manner, more than they have done so far.
It seems that so far their activities and their behavior is somewhat ad hoc and not fully integrated within the parties’ movements, as well as intra-movement in an interim movement fashion.
I think that there are issues that need to be raised amongst the loyal opposition groups that they share in terms of their interests. In terms of, for example, how to move forward towards credible elections, legitimate elections? How to deal with certain constitutional questions that come up between now and the election time? How to make sure that we do not go off track with elections overall, in the process that it needs?
I think in terms of north/south, I believe that the 2009 elections with all its flaws did demonstrate one very positive change, and that was the ability of candidates, especially the top three, four candidates, to cross barriers and boundaries that existed in Afghanistan prior to 2009. Whether they were ethnic boundaries or whether they were regional boundaries or linguistic boundaries. We see that the main candidates were able to tap into communities that were seen as impossible to tap into prior to these elections.
So this to me shows that Afghan society is maturing in the sense of seeing beyond the immediate communal interests. It goes beyond that. I think this is a very good outcome of what has been happening over the years. I think that 2014 will again offer an opportunity to expand on this achievement, and I think that the media in Afghanistan has played an incredible role, the free media in Afghanistan, in stirring debate, discussion and really allowing people to express themselves about all issues.
Every time that I turn to the Afghan media being broadcast from Afghanistan and listen to all these discussions and roundtables, I’m just amazed at what we had in 2001 and what we have today. So it is so important to make sure that we protect this as well as the input that comes from the civil society and all the different groups. And this is an educational process for the Afghans. So whether you are in a village in Afghanistan where you have access to TV and media and satellite or whether you are in a city, you are bound to be impacted by all of these changes, and I think this is good news for the political process.
So the south and north issue is going to become less of an issue over time.
Mr. Hadley: Interesting.
For Mr. Rashid, this question.
During recent interviews you have stated that perhaps the biggest failure of the U.S. coalition effort has been the inability to establish a viable indigenous economy in Afghanistan. The question is, what could be done to fix this? I’ll modify that a bit. What are the priorities between now and 2014 if in addition to a security transition and a political transition you’re talking about an economic transition? What are the two high leverage things that you would like Marc Grossman and his team to focus on between now and 2014 on the economic side?
Mr. Rashid: I think to its credit this administration has tried very hard to improve the economic situation right from the start with the whole civilian experts and all the rest of it.
But at the same time the war has intensified and it was very difficult to get out and actually improve the economy, invest in agriculture which was the main, should have been the main focus right from 2001 which unfortunately was not the main focus of the Bush administration. It was the intention of this administration, but it’s not been able to fulfill it. What I feel very much is that we’re going to be left with tens of thousands of Afghans who serviced the foreign troops in one way or another, and this is a generation, again that is in favor of democracy and reform and change and it is modern, this generation is going to be left out of the loop. There are not going to be jobs for these people when they leave.
Nobody’s talking about setting up a computer chip factory in Kabul, but we are talking about at least having a self-sustaining moderate economy, particularly investment in agriculture. I think the only way that can be really effectively achieved in the long term is if the war was to subside or there was to be a regional reduction of violence, perhaps not on a national level, but on a regional level.
I see friends from the World Bank and others here and I’m sure they have very good ideas as to how to do it, but can it be done in the next 18 months or so before the withdrawal takes place? Probably not.
But I think what should be done now by Ambassador Grossman and by others, and I hope at the Tokyo conference that this will come out, I think the seeds should be laid as to how are we going to develop the Afghan economy and what kinds of investments are needed. Down the road of course there are prospects of minerals and oil and gas and we’ve got the Chinese and the Indians already taking up options there. That’s of course going to be hugely beneficial. But there again, are the Afghans going to be capable of looking after such enormous sudden wealth which is coming in? And there’s going to be the need, I think, for international help on that. We don’t want copper warlords and iron ore warlords like we have drug warlords right now.
Secondly, of course, if there’s going to be peace in the region Afghanistan is the crossroads of Asia, which has been talked about a lot by the State Department, by Secretary Hillary Clinton, so this is a huge money-earner. South Asia is starved of energy right now, desperately needs pipelines across Afghanistan to provide oil and gas and electricity to India and Pakistan. Afghanistan is a roadway, so there are all these possibilities. But the immediate fall-out is going to be very dangerous and very precarious. Putting tens of thousands of Afghans onto the job market when there are no jobs.
Ms. Sakhi: In addition to what Mr. Rashid has said, I think in relation to economic development we need a specialization [also] and for that new generation, to focus on youth is one of the main important things in order to provide them more education facilities and scholarships. That’s really going to help in long term if we are thinking about the sustainability of the economic development because right now we have all of the scholarships on political issues, but we don’t have the focus on the economic development of the system. That’s why we have few people who can give economic advice into the country and in the government also.
So investing in youth, and this I think can be one of the important things to support economic development also.
And the private sector. The private sector has done a marvelous job from the last ten years. I think we can build upon that and further develop the technicality and professionalism that exists in the private sector also.
Mr. Hadley: Thank you.
The last question for Marc Grossman. The first part of it is something you may not want to answer, but I’ll give you a second half of it which will allow you to avoid answering if you so choose.
Ambassador Grossman: I was going to answer Ahmed.
Mr. Hadley: What would be the optimum U.S. military presence in Afghanistan post 2014; and then a related question, how do you balance what is needed to meet Afghan and balance what is needed to meet Afghan and interests from a force presence standpoint against upsetting Afghanistan’s neighbors and against the demand of the Taliban that there be a withdrawal of all international forces? How do you balance and weigh those factors in terms of setting up what the U.S. presence post-2014 should be?
Ambassador Grossman: Both good questions.
I am just going to take one second to go to this economic question.
I think the regional aspect is right. I think the private sector aspect is right, and foreign direct investment to support the Afghan private sector.
Two points, though, I’d make to Ahmed if you’d allow me. First, there are opportunities in the extractive industries like minerals and in TAPI that are available now. So I don’t say that this economic vision of a New Silk Road or historic trade routes solves all problems between now and 2014. It does not. But there are opportunities that can be taken advantage of today.
The other thing I think that’s really important here, is as we talk to American companies who are interested, what do they say? Yes, yes, security is important. But you know what they really say? What’s the rule of law structure in Afghanistan for commercial law? How do I resolve my disputes? How do we work through? So I think the government of Afghanistan has got a little work to do here to set a legal framework to encourage some of that foreign direct investment.
Finally, I think you can see in 2011 we had an Afghan-Pakistan trade agreement. What’s the biggest thing going between India and Pakistan? It’s trade, as you said. That number is going up. Why is that? Because people see exactly what you see which is Central Asian economies connected to South Asian economies, there's an advantage there and Pakistan and Afghanistan are in the center of that.
To the question that you gave me. On the first question, obviously nobody can answer that question today. That’s a question for the President to answer.
On the second question, though, how do you balance? You can consider this naïve I suppose, but my view is so far the lack of an SPD is what’s causing anxiety in the region. People don’t know what is going to happen. My view is the sooner we can sign a Strategic Partnership document with Afghanistan and I hope that will be soon, and people then will have to accommodate to it and will have to realize that there’s this SPD, there’s going to be an American presence in Afghanistan for some time to come, so Afghans, the Taliban, the region, including Iran will then say okay, now how do I react to that?
So I think what’s been anxiety producing has been the lack of information rather than a decision and I think a decision will take some steps to having everybody set their own policies for an Afghanistan stable, secure and prosperous inside of a stable, secure and prosperous region.
Mr. Hadley: Thank you.
I want to thank the audience for your participation, for the good questions, for coming and attending this session, and let me thank the panelists very much for their participation this morning. Thanks a lot.