Afghanistan may be back in the American conscience, but this is hardly good news. If anything, President Obama‘s much-needed focus on the campaign against the Taliban has outlined just how difficult the fight has become. Frustrated with what many are calling a quagmire, American commentators either advocate for withdrawing from Afghanistan or engaging in a more intense military campaign. These are both understandable responses, but even so, they are far from a complete remedy.
Now is the time to finish the job we began in Afghanistan five years ago. Last year saw a desperate and vicious onslaught by a new generation of Taliban forces with enhanced logistical and financial support. More than 4,000 Afghans, many of them civilians, were killed in military actions in 2006, a three-fold increase from the previous year. Suicide attacks — a phenomenon unknown to Afghans before 2002 — jumped to 118 from 21. As our intelligence capabilities improve, we are finding and arresting more boys who arrive in Afghanistan fresh from ideological brainwashing in foreign madrassas. They weep when they are caught, not out of remorse, but because they have been denied their martyrdom. And despite the presence of aid workers from more than 60 countries in Afghanistan, 44 Afghan women die each day in childbirth.
The largest defeat of the British-Indian forces in the Second Anglo-Afghan War came through the leadership of one heroic, Afghan woman Malalai of Maiwand. Malalai called out to dejected Afghan troops and carried the Afghan banner before being killed on the battlefield.
India’s initiative to host the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan tomorrow is a welcome step forward in enabling the country to achieve long-term economic self-reliance, in line with the key objectives of recent international conferences. The one-day summit intends to showcase Afghanistan’s economic potential and attract foreign investment, while exploring possibilities of cross-country investment partnerships and collaborative ventures from within the region and beyond as a regional and international confidence-building measure.
This summer, the Afghan government hosted the first International Conference on Afghanistan in Kabul. Our allies from around the world recommitted to a firm partnership with the Afghan government as we begin taking over and gradually leading the stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. We welcomed Pakistan as an important regional partner in the fight against terrorism and extremism, which destabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan alike. And we continue to believe that the war can be won only through a concerted international partnership, with an emphasis on integration and strategic coordination of military and civilian assistance to Afghanistan.
We often hear about Afghanistan’s domestic, regional, and transnational challenges each posed by the country’s abject poverty, the Taliban’s cross-border insurgency, and terrorism and drug trafficking that collectively destabilize Afghanistan. But we seldom pay attention to the greatest challenge posed to Afghanistan’s nation-building process by a lack of aid resources coupled with weak strategic coordination of aid implementation by the international community. Some of these challenges deserve special mention both to help overcome them and to avoid collective failure in a country where the international community continues to have the highest chance of success in view of Afghans’ optimism for a better future and their unlimited support for the international peace-building efforts in Afghanistan.
When I first joined the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., in 2004, as director of government and media relations, the embassy lacked everything from a basic management structure to carry out its routine diplomatic activities to a website that could help facilitate customer service online. The concept of public diplomacy through direct dialogue with the American people — explaining to them our shared interests in securing the future of Afghanistan — was unknown.
India and Pakistan joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as full member-states in the 8-9 June 2017 SCO Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. Before the addition of the two South Asian nations, the SCO consisted of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The now eight-member SCO also has four observer-states, including Afghanistan, and six dialogue-partners, including Sri Lanka. In total and together, they constitute much of the Asian geography with a population of over three billion people.
This past November, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released its annual survey of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for 2017. As ever, the survey’s findings are hardly surprising. They reflect the periodic fluctuations in the amount of opium poppy cultivated and produced in the country. Last year, cultivation increased to 328,000 hectares and production to nine thousand metric tons—a 87 percent increase over 2016.
Do Afghans abroad ever think about their debt of service to Afghanistan and doing something about it? They may rarely do so. But let us begin with the basic fact that the land Afghans call home is diversely populated, geographically landlocked, politically and economically least developed, and unfortunately located in a predatory neighborhood where at least one of their neighbors sees her raison d’être partly dependent on instability in Afghanistan.