By: Monitoring Desk
Ahead of the May 1 troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country’s Ambassador to India and the former senior political advisor to the Afghan National Security Council told The Epoch Times in an exclusive interview that the Afghans are not fighting a civil war but international terrorism. The withdrawal of troops shouldn’t be time-bound, he said.
“One fact to be remembered is that we are not fighting a civil war, we are fighting, the Afghans are fighting, international terrorism. So it’s not a conflict of Afghanistan, it’s a conflict that the Afghans are fighting on behalf of the internationals and on behalf of this region,” said Ambassador Farid Mamundzay over the phone.
“So, the May 1 deadline needs to be revisited, needs to be considered thoroughly and any decision on the withdrawal of international forces needs to be based on ground realities and fights.”
The United States and Taliban brokered a permanent deal for a ceasefire in February last year and all foreign troops should withdraw from the country by May 1. However, the Biden administration is yet to announce its next steps of action.
Mamundzay said in the past the world had to suffer due to multiple terrorist attacks because, during the Taliban regime, global terrorist networks including Al-Qaeda were given the opportunity to grow bigger and stronger.
“The twenty-seventh report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the United Nations Security Council (S/2021/68) expressed concerns about the continued relations between the Taliban and international terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda,” said Mamundzay.
There are about 2500 American troops stationed in Afghanistan and Mamundzay’s interview with The Epoch Times comes a few weeks after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to the country and a few days ahead of the peace conference between the Afghan administration and the Taliban in Turkey that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month proposed in a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani under the UN-led peace process.
President Ghani is reportedly going to present a three-phase peace roadmap in Turkey. However, renewed violence between the Afghan forces and the Taliban has already enforced doubts about the success of the peace conference.
Mamundzay said “A failing Afghanistan is in no one’s favor” and “the withdrawal of the forces shouldn’t be time-bound, it should be conditions bound, considering if the condition in Afghanistan improves, they should then withdraw and secondly there should be a consideration on the strength and capability of the Afghan national, defense and security forces. Those forces should be fully prepared to take on international terrorist organizations.”
President Ghani’s three-phase peace roadmap that he’ll reportedly announce in Turkey would include (1) making peace or holding talks with the Taliban, (2) building peace–with language that hints at a transitional government, and (3) sustaining peace, which indirectly refers to a post-transitional government situation.
However, the Afghanistan embassy in New Delhi told The Epoch Times that there’s nothing yet official on the peace proposal from their side.
Mamundzay, who earlier also served as the Deputy Director General at the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) in Afghanistan, said the country has worked in the past two decades to grow into a full-fledged democracy and this should be nurtured further.
“Afghanistan is still a very new democratic state. We are experiencing a full-fledged democracy for the past 20-21 years now. So that’s since we need to give some time to our institutions to grow and get to the stage where they would be fully matured,” he said adding that while democratic institutions are structured at the national and the provincial level, there’s an increasing demand for district assemblies.
“The will of the people is there. The need is felt and the demand has increased for these bodies over the years. So it seems like these grassroots-level institutions have become an integral part of the democratic institutions of Afghanistan. For the first time, the sense of accountability and transparency has come into existence together with civil society organizations across the country at the grassroots level, these bodies are making a great contribution to the overall democracy in Afghanistan,” he said.
Mamundzay said Afghanistan desires to keep the gains it made in the past two decades and further build upon them as a nation. “Strengthening inclusive and democratic institutions and promoting the rights of women and children would remain our top priorities in the years ahead under President Ghani’s rule,” he said.
Since a young democracy would need leaders, Mamundzay said the young men and women of Afghanistan are a “beacon of hope” and they are the ones who are helping the war-torn country to transform into a modern country.
“The younger generation, the new generation of young leaders both of men and women are taking charge to transform the war-torn country into a modern society, a society based on pluralism, a society based on democratic values, a society that’s fair and just,” adding the young leaders have played an important role in the past two decades to bring the Afghans together.
“Those people have come up with some wonderful initiatives, some wonderful ideas. The new generation is uniquely situated to move Afghanistan forward for a number of reasons. First, most of them had seen the brutalities and oppression of civil war and Taliban,” he said.
“Second, these people have achieved an unprecedented set of education and capacities, and they want to contribute through those learnings and experiences to improve the living condition of Afghan people, and third is to represent a larger demographic part of the country, not limiting themselves to one particular region, one particular ethnic group.”
Mamundzay said the country has changed the way it thinks—as governance structures got established and living conditions improved, people started to dream things they couldn’t do before.
Two decades ago the conflict-torn country was so vulnerable that all parents wanted was their children to survive, whereas today parents are connected better with the outside world, want the best of opportunities for their children, and send them to study in educational institutions around the region and across the world, he said. He gave the example of India where currently 20,000 Afghan students are studying and said this has never happened before.
“And I see more drive, more passion among the new emerging leaders of Afghanistan and I think given the fact that the young people are tired of conflict and with the oppression and the brutalities of the past forty years there are a lot of reasons for hope for a better Afghanistan,” he said.
Mamundzay said Afghanistan is dependent on support from the international alliance, but given the fact that it’s a landlocked country that connects south Asia with central Asia and central Asia with the middle east and the middle east with south Asia, it has an important role to play geopolitically.
“It provides an excellent opportunity to the region for economic cooperation, regional connectivity. It serves as a bridge between continents, within continents, within this part of the world,” he said adding that if there’s peace in Afghanistan it’ll ensure peace and economic development for the entire region.
“With some wonderful initiatives, pipeline initiatives like Chabhar, Lapis Lazuli, Tutap, Tapi, and others we think that we wouldn’t require foreign aid for years to come,” he said.
Chabhar is a strategic seaport in Iran on the Gulf of Oman and is an India-led project that is likely to be inaugurated by May. The project is to be linked with International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which currently also involves 10 central Asian countries.
Lapis Lazuli is another international corridor linking Afghanistan to Turkey via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia while TUTAP (Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan) is an electricity project and TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan India) is an international gas pipeline project.
Mamundzay said in the context Afghanistan is in today and keeping in mind its aspirations, the country has some expectations from QUAD—the quadrilateral security alliance between the United States, India, Japan, and Australia that held its first leadership level virtual summit on March 12.
He said Afghanistan expects that the QUAD will contribute to the regional peace, particularly the Afghan peace process, keeping in mind the will of the people of Afghanistan.
“It contributes to the regional economic growth through India-led initative in particular resolving the challenges of Chabahar port and other similar projects. It contributes to the security of the region by working closely with other states of the region, i.e., tackling terrorism financing, combating terrorists’ networks, narco-trading, and other organized crimes,” said Mamundzay.