Ambassador Inyk, Excellences, Distinguished Members of State of Qatar, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for the opportunity to engage with the Brookings Community, of which I still count myself as a member and the U.S. Islamic World Forum on the theme of “changing assumptions”. It would have been a pleasure to interact with you in person and learn from the rich dialogue. The imposed war on Afghanistan, however, requires me to fulfill my constitutional duty as Commander-in-Chief while simultaneously as the elected president I have to strive to achieve our national quest for democratic accountability, enduring and just peace, inclusive growth and prosperity and constitutional stability.
Being between and betwixt forces of order and disorder, we, the Afghan people, are forced to pay close attention to changing assumptions and emerging narrative. Our curse is that our country is perceived as the site of proxy wars. Our opportunity is to become an Asian roundabout, where goods, ideas, and people will freely flow in all directions.
Transformation requires not only the will to overcome the past but also marshaling the energy to realize a compelling, credible and feasible vision for the future.
Given the demonstrated power of tyranny of assumptions, I would like to first highlight some of the contextual drivers of state weakness, then turn to examine the emerging ecology of terror and conclude with Afghanistan’s notion of partnership.
Five features have defined the context for the emergence of terrorism into a distinct ecological system. First, instead of a system of sovereign states bound by rights and obligations, we are witnessing a breaking chain of states and not just weak links, thereby expanding the space of disorder. Second, some states in our region and some from outside have relied on malign non-state actors as instruments of state policy. Despite the lesson that the demonstrated boomerang effect on sponsoring states, atavistic forces and venal interests continue the misguided path. Third, use of force by one state or a coalition of states in one location without regional support and alignment results in displacement effect. Terrorist networks change their location across frontiers and borders, thereby compelling governments to fall to the “mowing the grass syndrome”, repeating military operations across the territory annually. Fourth, failure of governments to create inclusive growth and dynamic economies has made the poor and the excluded into easy prey for global criminal economic interests. Criminal economics, thriving on ungoverned spaces, in turn, serves as the platform for criminal politics drawing on an immense reserve army of labor. Fifth, in the absence of consensus on the constitutive rules of the game to regulate or referee the conduct of the states, it becomes difficult to align short, medium and long-term actions within an interactive goal oriented strategy, thereby bringing a disadvantage in the narrative and action battlefield. Taking advantage of these structural weaknesses, terrorism has been transformed into an ecological system. Like all eco-systems, forces in this ecology are characterized by cooperation and symbiosis as well as competition. To assume terror as mere aberration is to fall into underestimating the nature of the challenge and the threat. The enabling environment has enabled terrorist organization to morph rapidly. DAISH in comparison with Al Qaeda, as demonstrated by scholars, has jumped over several stages of network formation, swallowing its competitors in the process and becoming much more lethal and devastating. Techniques of expansion not only rely on millennia old patterns in Asia but also intensive use of virtual networks and platforms. As a result, narrative, action and organization are fused constantly reinforcing a compelling use of violence. The deliberate brutality and destructiveness displayed against people, institutions and places is part of a theater of terror, to break the spirit of the citizens and their opponents in the governments.
Afghanistan’s prominence in the narrative of terror is multidimensional, as our medieval past, our success against the Russian Army and our location for launching ground for attacks against all our neighbors from India to China and Russia, the Arab-Islamic world, and the international community make us a primary target. If our analysis regarding changing context and the ecology of terror is valid, then how should we proceed with a new phase of partnership between Afghanistan, the United States, and other stakeholders in stability and prosperity?
First, let me pay tribute to the sacrifices in blood and treasure by NATO and US forces, the successful completion of their combat mission by the agreed date of December 31, 2014 and the principled decision by President Obama and other leaders to advise, assist and support us through the Resolute Support Mission. The commitment of forces and resources for this mission through 2015 and three years of support for Afghan Defense and Security Forces has been critical to enable us to face the threats and be confident of overcoming them. We look forward to reaching an Enduring Partnership by the NATO Warsaw Summit.
Second, we need to create a common understanding of the drivers of terrorism, its changing ecology and morphology and its spatial and temporal dimensions in tempos. Common understanding will then lead to agreement and division of labor in the counter-terrorism arena.
Third, overcoming the ecology of terror requires agreement on rules of the game among the states on the regional and international levels. United States’ engagement is indispensable to creating agreement and adherence to the new rules of the game governing relations between the states.
Fourth, Afghanistan is in the middle of a market of three billion people and endowed with both advantages of location and natural capital estimated at trillions of dollars. As regional prosperity is within our reach and grasp, we must redouble our efforts to lift hundreds of millions of people from poverty to prosperity through regional and global cooperation. This will deny the terrorists a reserve army of labor.
And, finally, our quest for enduing peace requires understanding and support in its three-dimensional shape.
Pakistan, we have argued and Pakistani leaders have accepted, has been in undeclared state of war with Afghanistan during the last 14 years. In light of the threat posed by terrorists to our citizens and states, we need to reach peace and then strive for normal and cooperative relations between the states, sovereign states of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Second, peace with Afghan political opponents requires a political process. Expressing the legitimate will of the absolute majority of the Afghan electorate, the Government of National Unity seeks a democratic and just peace within our constitutional order. Third, there is no known framework for dealing with terrorist groups ranging from countries in the Arab-Islamic world to China, Russia and Central Asia and threatening the regional and global order. We must create the framework to entice these people to let go of violence.
Our five thousand year history gives us the confidence to look and plan for the next hundred years. Our very resilience, however, also makes us deeply aware of the costs that we have paid for our freedom and independence. Therefore, we are determined to create the conditions for order within our country and enter into types of partnerships and relations of cooperation that can secure the region and the world from the menace of terror, instability and poverty.
Your proceedings on changing assumptions are incredibly valuable for us. For if we manage to create consensus on a set of assumptions that would enable us to tackle short, medium and long term actions within an agreed framework of strategies and common approach, the use of force and resources will yield multiple results. Thank you for giving me the opportunity. Have a good day and good proceedings.