Emory Report
December 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 14



Emory Report homepage  

December 8
, 2008
Diplomat: Afghanistan needs more help from international community

By leslie King

“What do Afghans want?” Ashraf Haidari asked Marion Creekmore’s South Asian politics class Dec. 2. “Basic security and basic rule of law and government.”

Haidari has a front-row seat at the struggle of the strife-torn nation; he is the political counselor at the Afghanistan Embassy in Washington.

Seven years after the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan is beset by the Taliban trying to reclaim its brutal political dominance; violence from Al Qaeda; drug traffickers; and criminals, particularly kidnappers.

The “reality on the ground” in Afghanistan is that “the international community has not sent enough forces to stabilize the country,” Haidari said, and “2008 has been the bloodiest year so far.”

The international forces put restrictions on military operations. For example, Germany won’t send troops to the south and east where the Taliban is strongest. “First we don’t have enough forces, and second, the forces we do have are in areas where they’re not really needed,” Haidari said.

The small number of international forces means they are insufficient to battle the Taliban so they call for airstrikes, which increases the possibility of civilian casualties.

“One way [to prevent civilian casualties in airstrikes] is to coordinate with the Afghan government in advance and I think some of these situations would be prevented,” he said.

If civilian casualties occur, “a quick apologetic response would be powerful,” he advised. “It helps if the apology is upfront and you help the victims.”

Haidari also noted: “We need more international special forces. They can engage enemy so there’s really no need to call for airstrikes.”

Class members are reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” by Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini, described as an “epic of Afghanistan in turmoil.”

They asked about the recent violence in Mumbai, India. “Unless we truly shut down terrorists,” Haidari said, such incidents will continue. “Our hope is the international community will recommit to tackling this problem.”

Following the class, Haidari spoke at a Halle Institute event. “Our allies have so far faltered on three key accounts,” he said. They have failed to provide the necessary level of aid for reconstruction; to coordinate aid efforts with each other; and to engage the Afghan people and deliver on expectations.

Address these, Haidari said, and “when they exit Afghanistan, the Afghan people firmly stand on our own feet.”