Afghan Envoy Expounds On Conflict Resolution

In the shadow of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s rapid retreat from Kabul to Washington, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Paris underscored what he described as his country’s long-standing reliance on peaceful resolution of conflict. “Components” of the Obama administration’s strategy need tweaking, Omar Samad said in a meeting with Association members on June 22 at his embassy. Overall, however, his outlook seemed more optimistic than subdued.

 Although never using the word “surge,” Samad stressed the need for a program that would “create space for Afghans to take charge,”  and stated there would be “no withdrawal unless Afghan forces are on their feet.”  He referred to the profound antipathy that his people feel towards extremist-type Taliban, noting that surveys show only 4-6% of the population are “in favor of” the Taliban.

 Samad referred to his family’s long-standing commitment to Franco-Afghan relations, saying his father and one of his grandfathers had also been envoys to Paris.  Samad himself fled the country in mid-’79, fearing for his life, he said, as Soviet-trained Afghan forces unleashed a reign of terror that wiped out intelligentsia, technocrats and all the human resources necessary to build a stable government in the era that followed the Soviet army’s departure.  “Creating a new functioning system [now] is so difficult,” he observed.

 Another major drawback in Afghanistan’s recovery was the arrival of people from all over the Muslims world. This coincided with the rise of the Taliban, a process which, he said, has been identified in a report by the London School of Economics as being a Pakistani investment in the “most radicals.”

 Samad frequently referred to the need to invest in education, which he called “capacity building,” as well as to establish good governance and build infrastructure.  He pointed out that the so-called London conference of earlier this year would reconvene in Kabul at the end of July to discuss funding pledges.  He mentioned Japan’s $100 million commitment to increase the country’s hydro-electric capacity, an effort that would both create jobs and fight insurgency.

 Questioned about a campaign remark made by candidate Barack Obama that moderate Taliban could be brought into a coalition government, Samad held that “you can’t ‘Talibanize’ Afghanistan,” adding:  “I’m in favor of making ‘coherent’ adjustments as long as they make sense.”

 100_0767The session at the embassy began with Afghan tea; it concluded with informal discussions with Samad, his wife, and his wife’s American mother, who joined our group.

John Davidson