US Looks to Manage Crisis

15 July 2013 | 16:22 Code : 1918576 Interview General category
An interview with Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian, Iran’s former ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan
US Looks to Manage Crisis

The Taliban office in Qatar was closed. There has been tumult regarding the opening of this office and then later its closure. Why has the issue of negotiation between the central government and the Taliban become such a sensitive one?

The point that should first be mentioned is that the important issue is peace and negotiation with whom, where and about what issues, while now the matter of negotiation with radical groups is not the main issue. Hence, this issue must be better evaluated. The shortcoming which exists in the context of this trend is that these negotiations move in the direction of compromise with regard to Afghanistan’s achievements, the most important of which is the constitution.  Therefore, why aren’t the provisionary solutions in the constitution referred to in this regard? In other words, in a country which has legal institutions like the parliament, an important issue such as this one must naturally be discussed among the representatives of the people. The issue of the High Peace Council is also significant. It is true that legally they are sensitive about this issue and other countries do not follow this path since it is not legally binding, but why isn’t this matter pursued in the High Peace Council? Therefore, when they bypass the main issue, they would reach the stage where an office becomes an important matter. Furthermore, there is no talk about any opposition, an example of which is the Taliban, (due to its positions and measures) or the point of whether their participation in elections or in other areas is accepted or not, but there has always been talk about this office.

What is the main criticism against compromise with the Taliban?

The main criticism against this trend is about the place where it has taken place. Qatar, from the viewpoint of its political weight, has no background in Afghanistan and the region. Why has Qatar been chosen? There are methods which are accepted in the international community and adopted by the United Nations, such as the position of the European officials in this organization, thus, besides these UN members, Afghanistan has neighbors which have political weight in the region but these countries were not selected. Right now, the two issues of the flag and calling it an emirate have been discussed which seem are aimed at exaggerating these issues to deviate public opinion from the main issues.

If the Karzai government does not intend to negotiate with the Taliban, then what other solutions could be substituted?

Governance has responsibilities, one of which is strengthening national institutions and this can be achieved through not only dialogue with radical groups but also with any other movement and by referring to the parliament and the people’s representatives, which has not yet happened. This matter could even have been pursued through the High Peace Council– which was mentioned earlier and despite its legal shortcomings, is still more acceptable than the path which has been taken – but unfortunately this did not happen. Any dialogue between the Karzai government and the Taliban must be done through the predicted channels, because during the past few years, the international community has not fulfilled its promises and the expected results have not been achieved. Of course the inefficiency of the government must also been mentioned here. Hence, the most reasonable path is dialogue and these negotiations must take place through acceptable channels and at an acceptable venue, neither of which has yet been considered.

The other issue is the issue of Afghanistan’s disintegration. Some analysts believe that the Taliban, with the US’ support, pursues Afghanistan’s disintegration and control over this country. Do you agree with such an assessment?

Considering my experience, it does not seem that any Afghani would agree with Afghanistan’s disintegration. On the other hand, the issue of the sovereign integrity of neighbors, including Afghanistan, is very important for the countries of the region, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, it does not seem that such an issue would find supporters and no group or government pursues such a matter. There is the possibility that certain policies have led to this conclusion, but no individual would allow himself to think about this matter and the people of Afghanistan are strongly sensitive about their sovereign integrity and anyone who would look for such an issue would be condemned. But what has been proposed is the issue of Afghanistan’s federation, which is not a new topic and has been repeated several times and proposed but has not yet reached a conclusion.

Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has talked about the peace-seeking and war-seeking Taliban and mentioned that the war-seeking Taliban create obstacles for negotiation. Is there a criteria based on which the US divides the Taliban into good and bad?

There has never been such a classification and there are no criteria based on which one is radical and one is not. Most experts believe that the members of a radical group can never be categorized.

The issue of the Zero Option, which means the complete exit of forces from Afghanistan, is also an issue which is proposed by Britain this time around. To what extent, do you believe, is there the possibility that Britain, in pursuance of the US, would bring out all of its forces and what would the consequences be?

Some analysts believe that the option of a complete exit does not exist, but that the issue is rather the number of forces in Afghanistan. Therefore, this issue is serious and many in the government are bargaining over the number of forces which are to remain in this country. Hence, the Zero Option is not an operational issue. Even the Afghan government has proposed the question of what number of US forces would remain in this country after 2014; the same 10,000 or more?  It seems that considering what has been shown in the media from both sides, the issue is that, in reality, a complete exit is meaningless and if these issues are proposed based on the question of what the consequences would be if NATO forces left, it is in fact a way of bargaining over giving and getting concessions.

Considering the insecurities which exist in this country, which have not yet improved, do you, as an expert, believe that the issue of the exit of forces until 2014 is a propaganda affair or has the US really decided to take such a measure?

It seems that the policy of all countries, including the US, is to reduce the number of their forces and leave the scene as an element involved in it and be transformed into a crisis manager. But to what extent they will succeed is another issue. But considering the economic problems, the issue of reducing the number of forces is a real issue. The other issue is that the extent of insecurities in Afghanistan and even in bordering regions with this country has grown and it is predicted that despite the fact that this year is an election year, this amount of insecurity would remain, under the best circumstances, at its present level or even increase. Therefore, the present conditions in Afghanistan are not related to the decisions made by NATO and these insecurities have been the result of the same inefficient forces. The issue of to what extent the presence of these forces would impact the insecurities is not the main issue.

What would Europe’s decision be at this juncture?

It seems that the reduction of forces due to the existing problems is the collective decision made by the NATO members and the exit of the forces of smaller countries is more certain.

How would you predict the role of Iran’s new government in the issues related to Afghanistan?

In the end, it must be mentioned that considering the emphasis put on the policy of paying attention to the neighboring countries, Iran’s elected government must certainly prioritize the issue of its neighbors and the détente policy is the solution to reduce the issues Afghanistan and other countries are faced with today.

tags: Afghanistan taliban nato karzai qatar US

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