Following is the transcript of the speech by the Afghan National Security Adviser Mr. Hanif Atmar to a Security Conference recently held in India.
The transcript is done by: Faheem Nazimi 3/14/2017
In the name of almighty God, the merciful and the compassionate.
Honorable defense minister Parikar , ambassador Parsat, the good friend of Afghanistan and mine, his Excellency Shaikhul Islam sahib, excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning!
First, let me thank ambassador Parsat for his kind invitation for me to attend this important conference. It is an honor to be one of the speakers at a conference that is dealing with most defining challenge of our time. Security, and counter terrorism. Let me congratulate ambassador Parsat , his colleagues and the Indian government for creating this forum, a genuine and effective forum, not just for our region, but also for the global community to hold honest and open discussions about the threats to our societies, our nations and the ways in which we can get together to neutralize their threats. It is all the more important this is held in India. Because of its international credentials to respect norms and our shared values. It gives us a level of comfort to hold those discussions in good faith and with the understanding that they will be transferred into good policies. Let me also take this opportunity to thank the incredible India, its great people and its government for its strong friendship, generous support and reliable partnership with Afghanistan. I am personally grateful to you ambassador for the way you contribute to the friendship and partnership. I am honored to have my honorable colleague defense minister here who has been a key leader to continue to contribute to the friendship of the two nations. Just a few months ago our president was here, I suppose right in this room when he thanked every Indian for the one dollar contribution made to Afghanistan. First of all a billion dollar contribution from India to rebuilding Afghanistan is extremely important. It is quite a lot of money, but more than that it represents the good will of an honorable nation that honors friendship and values solidarity with a nation like Afghanistan that has been the frontline country against our common enemies and threats. So thank you for all that!
Honorable minister, I have a speech that may be rather long. I do understand the daily pressing priorities of a security minister. Please feel free whenever you decide to leave. I will not mind, but I must say that this does not apply to everybody else in the room. I was thinking of speaking only about Afghanistan today. Because it’s a context it is extremely important. It is extremely important and relevant to the theme and more importantly to the security of Asia, our region and the global community. I was hoping to offer a few perspectives. The first question that I would like to answer is why does Afghanistan matter? First, we share region with Pakistan and other neighboring countries that has the highest concentration of organized terrorists anywhere in the world. According to known statistics, 20 out of 98 US designated terrorist organizations are operating there. Not all of them with Afghan objectives alone, they have goals beyond Afghanistan. Why is Afghanistan important for them? It is because it is a place they see as a breeding ground, as a sanctuary, from where they launched the 9/11 attack and there is the place where they would do the same thing again. For that reason, you have the highest concentration of the world’s most lethal terrorist’s organization. What enables them to be there? It is the proven sanctuaries for them. They have the symbiotic relation with state and non-state actors and the critical support and enabling infrastructure that they enjoy.
Success in Afghanistan against terrorism is vitally important for the security of the region and the global community. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Failure in Afghanistan is the failure of the region and the global community in their own effort to secure their nations. There lessons to be learned from Afghanistan experience. There are many. I would not provide an exhaustive list of such lessons, but there is one that I would like to definitely highlight and that is, we as the region now have a common enemy, but unfortunately, we do not have a common strategy to defeat it. In this context let me offer 4 key points to summarize our perspectives to the debate that we are going to have over the coming two days.
The First point is: terrorism is morphing and adapting in the region to pursue its goals beyond Afghanistan. Since 9/11 they have established a distinctive ecology, system and industry. We are no longer talking about a lone wolf or a violent terrorist organization. There is a symbiotic axis of three critical actors. First, violent extremists, second criminal economy, and third state sponsorship of terrorism. We are faced by the symbiotic axis of three enemies of humanity that have come together to threaten security of every nation in the region and by extension the world community. How do they play out in Afghanistan? Let me focus first on violent groups. There are 4 groups of extremist terrorist organizations that we continue to fight. Group 1 includes the Afghan terrorists including the Taliban and the Haqani network; we are successfully able to negotiate a peace agreement with the third group, the Hizbi-islami. Second is the Pakistani terrorist groups, including the lashkaritaiba, jaish Mohammadi, and the Tahrik TalibaniPakistan. The third group of such networks are regional and that includes, the so called Islamic movement of Uzbkistan, the East Turkministan Islamic Movement of China, Ansarulla and Jandulla. Finally, the fourth group is the one that is very well known and talked about including Al-Qaeda and Dayesh. What is important about these groups that they have two sets of relations that are symbiotic. First, among themselves, they need each other, they need the Afghan terrorists in order to be able to come to Afghanistan and the afghan terrorists need them for finances, technology and trade, but they all need two other sets of relationships, one with rogue state elements that provide them sanctuaries or at least tolerate them and second with criminal economic networks including the drugs. Let’s be fair about the assessments. Sometimes we wonder whether this war is about politics, or economics, or a combination of both. The drug industry and criminal economy produces such an amount of resources that they can easily use to finance both state and non-state actors to pursue terrorist goals and there is also a personal accountability issue here. Operators involved in the drug industry may hardly listen to the policy makers and these sorts of relations actually make it possible for them to sustain their operations. Considering these facts, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to try to dispel the important myths that are commonly held at terrorism and the war in Afghanistan. The first myth is for those who argue that the war in Afghanistan is a civil war, it is not. It is a drug war, it is a violent terrorist war and it is unfortunately, an undeclared state-to-state war. The combination of all of this can be easily demonstrated by the multiplicity of the actors on the ground sustaining the war. The second myth is those who believe that a distinction between good and bad terrorists will bring them security and will enable them to pursue their goals without being affected themselves. We have seen this that making such can actually change a perpetrator to a victim as well. Because such terrorist organizations are capable of morphing into Frankenstein, monster and they will come after their own masters. The third myth is associating such terrorism with Islam. It is untrue. Let me offer three reasons why this is unhelpful. First, technically associating terrorism with Islam is wrong, because it will deprive us of the true understanding of what terrorism is and what it stands for. It is therefore misleading. Second, ethically it is inappropriate to associate terrorism with Islam,. Because it fails to understand to appreciate, the enormous sacrifices that the Muslims are making in order to defeat terrorism and the suffering that the Muslims have had at the hands of the terrorists. No Muslim nation is losing more its innocent life to terrorism than Afghanistan, but collectively, the Muslim world is losing more people to terrorism than any other civilization. Third, politically associating terrorism with Islam is unwise, because they are extremist ideologies that have nothing to do with Islam. This understanding is important for shaping policies. The conference is about how to contribute to a policy environment in which sound judgment is exercised in identifying the threats and appropriate and effective strategies. With this understanding, we will be much better placed to shape both our counter-terrorism strategies and peace and reconciliation. This brings us to the second point that I would like to make and that is the irony. Despite the international investment in counter-terrorism, terrorism is growing its capabilities and its presence in the Afghan-Pakistan region. Because, they have been provided sanctuaries, because they have financial, recruitment, training and equipment facilities there. In Afghanistan we estimate their number between 40-45 thousands terrorists soldiers, that have been deployed in the region. One fourth of them are foreigners. They are not even from the region and that makes it extremely difficult for us to decide who to make peace with and who to fight. We cannot peace with foreigners, as they are not Afghans and we will have to think of a different strategy together with you. Because, these foreigners are coming from not just from the countries in the region, but also from the rest of the world. There has been a displacement effect too. The operation by the Pakistani Army called Zarb –Azim and the exertion of pressure on ISL/Dayesh, Al-Qayeda elsewhere in the Middle East have had a displacement effect and that is why you have such a high concentration of these terrorists organizations in Afghanistan. As I have said earlier , these net-works have their individual goals to pursue, however, they have one thing in common and that is the destruction of the state of Afghanistan, so that they can establish a sanctuary, but let me tell you that if you study these individual networks, there is hardly any country in the region that does not have an enemy among them. Al-Qayeda and Dayesh will be the enemy of every one of us , not just the West, not just the United States. Lashkaritayiba and Jayshimohammadi is aimed to hurt India. Axis such as IMU, and ETIM are planning to threaten China, Russia and the Central Asia. While there are Pakistani based terrorist networks threatening Afghanistan and the rest of us, but TTP and its splinter groups are actually waging violence in Pakistan against innocent people. One thing we all need to acknowledge, we do not have any friends among them, if anything, every one of us have an enemy among them. It is important for our common understanding and common policy. For Afghans it is extremely costly. Over the past 14 months, we lost over 10 thousands and five hundred men and women, 25% of them civilians. Every day we are losing 28 Afghans to terrorism on an average. If you combine it with wounded, every day we are losing 81 people on an average. It is a very high cost. Despite all that high cost, we are still holding our grounds and let me take this opportunity to thank the United states, our NATO partners, India and Russia and Iran for the continuous support for their noble struggle. Some would argue that we have a stalemate, as our president responded. Yes, we do, but we are having the stalemate made with one 10th of the international soldiers that we had between 2009 and 2014. Therefore, the Afghans, those who have been trained with your tax money are holding their grounds successfully. However, my third point is rather worrying that the inadequacy of regional response to terrorism is actually making the challenge worse. Our regional response at best is inadequate. Why is that? Over the past two years, we have engaged all of our regional powers and unfortunately much to our disappointment, we are seeing a continued break down of regional consensus over terrorism. Whatever the reasons, some would cite their rivalries; disputes and incompatible interest strategically with global actors and try to translate that into their policies in Afghanistan and the region. Frankly speaking, there is no justification for that. Because at the end of the day every one of us will lose. What are these breaking consensus issues?
The first one is that we all have decided since 9/11 that there should not be any distinction between good and bad terrorists. They are all terrorists. They are all bad. But unfortunately recently , much to our disappointment, there are actors who are trying to justify that there are may be this terrorist can be a partner against that terrorist and normally that terrorist that they want to make a partner is the Afghan Taliban and the Haqani terrorist net-work or the LET and the Jaish mohammad. We have engaged these friends and said to them that number one you do not have empirical evidence that the Taliban is the enemy of Dayesh, because they are mutating. Because, the majority of Dayesh in Afghanistan today are either Tahrik Taliban Pakistan or Afghan Taliban and number 2 anything you give them they will use against us and who are we to you? A fried or an enemy? We consider ourselves a friend. Therefore, the breakdown of the consensus is to the detriment of not just Afghanistan, but the entire region. One lesson that we have to all learn is that, using a Frankenstein enemy against another enemy is dangerous and for sure is going to come after its master. Second breakdown in that consensus is the centrality of state-to-state relations for counter-terrorism and cooperation. There are actors in our region who are trying to use non-state actors in pursuit of their national security interest. That is wrong. There is no substitute to a state-to-state effective cooperation. Finally, the third point is when a state decides that wand to have security for them no matter what happens to the others. That is wrong. We either are being collectively secured or can be collectively unsecure. We have to decide. Finally my fourth point relates to the lesson that I have suggested right at the beginning that from Afghanistan what we have learnt painfully is that we as South Asia, Central Asia, Asia and the global community have all a common enemy, but we do not have a common strategy to defeat it. And this is the only way to defeat that enemy. I am not going to provide an exhaustive list of elements of how that strategy should be shaped and what it should contain, but let me offer a few key points which need to be considered in developing that strategy. First, it is going to be a generational challenge. We cannot defeat terrorism in a year or two or in ten years, planning every time for one year. We need to plan for decades. That enemy is not going to go away that soon. Second, we have to have considering the experience from our region action at four level, global, Islamic world, regional and national and we have to be able to coordinate our diplomatic, security, political and developmental assets in order to have action at all levels. What should be aimed at when we are to develop a strategy at the four levels? The first objective should be to end state sponsorship of terrorism. There is no other way to defeat terrorism, unless we end its sponsorship. There are states that support terrorism and there are elements within states. We often hear from the international community that it is difficult to designate a sate a sponsor of terrorism, because there are many implications. Well, first, it is disappointing that we do not have that courage. Second, even if we do not have that courage to designate a state, let us designate an individual that are sponsoring terrorism and hiding behind the state. International accountability will have to .. it has been long that it has gone beyond just states and holding individuals accountable on their support to terrorism. No matter which states they are working for. Second, it has to be a coordinated response of the intelligence, military, diplomatic to remove sanctuaries and the support infrastructure including financing, training, recruitment and equipment. Third level is national action. We agree with those who believe that in addition to doing things about terrorist organizations, we also need to address the internal dynamics, the fertile ground for terrorists. There are three things from our experience that matter the most; improving governance, addressing poverty and improving education systems among many other priorities. These will have immediate and decisive impact on terrorism. Our current engagement against terrorism with the United States and the NATO will definitely require additional regional help. Finally, peace and reconciliation. Again, from the Afghan experience. Afghan peace and reconciliation will be the most effective counter terrorism strategy in the region and beyond the region. If you remove the Afghan terrorists away from the regional and global terrorists, they will not have a sanctuary in that region, so therefore, peace and reconciliation legitimately pursued with the Afghans will have an immediate impact on regional and global terrorists. The End.
By: Faheem Nazimi
First, it is an excellent analysis of defining and dealing with the most challenging phenomena of our time. I commend him for the very precise and up to point explanation of the very nature of the problem and the very honest and realistic proposition to the regional players to agree on a common strategy if they wish to deal with the challenge effectively. Secondly, when addressing the internal dynamics of what needs to be done to defeat the enemy, I would like to add fighting corruption and the rule of law as the most superseding and pressing requirements that complement other measures such as good governance, eradication of poverty and improving the educational system in the country. Thirdly, Pakistan is a rogue state by all standards. On the pretext of recent terrorists attacks deep inside Pakistan conducted by their own home born radical Islamists terrorist proxies such as LeJ, LeT, JeM and others, they try to stage manage internationally the incidents to place Afghanistan as an scapegoat. They have resorted to extreme measures of violation of the international law and human rights by thoroughly closing the main Afghan transit border crossing with Pakistan stranding thousands of legal visa holder passengers on either sides of the border exposing its rogue and militaristic hegemony to the world. Pakistan is playing a non-state player role and has no regards for any international conventions governing international relations and international trade and transit obligations. Their leaders have no convictions or credibility for human rights or international law. Pakistan is emerging as violent and defiant terrorist sponsored state in the region posing threat to the region and the world at large. It has proven to be a permanent source of instability for Afghanistan and India. Soon it will spread its terrorist violence to its neighboring China and the Central Asian countries. Their pan Islamist agenda and militaristic hegemony must be curbed at once or the world will never see security and peace or a sigh of relief.
Afghan National Security Adviser Mr. Hanif Atmar speech in India.
Following is the transcript of the speech by the Afghan National Security Adviser Mr. Hanif Atmar to a Security Conference recently held in India.