x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Misinformation only makes Afghanistan's task more difficult

News from Afghanistan sometimes oversimplifies the complex things happening there, an Afghan official says.

The Afghan people are going to overcome a set of complex challenges facing their country. But as in any country, citizens may often be overly worried about these challenges, or even panic. In Afghanistan's complex environment - where more than 40 nations work to build peace - public perception can easily be misled by frequent sensational media reports, which often fail to explain the cause and sequence of events.

This lack of objective information bolsters enemies' terrorising propaganda, turning the public against the government and its allies.

Indeed, for an average Afghan, it is difficult to accept without concern the recent killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, followed by the US announcement of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. Both events coincided with the escalation of insurgent activity including complex suicide attacks and targeted killings of prominent Afghans. The concern created by these separately evolving events was further compounded by the financial problems of the Kabul Bank, as well as judicial efforts to reinstate some  candidates into the Afghan parliament.

At the same time, Afghans worry about a lack of sincere regional cooperation to help stabilise the country, as Afghan villages in a number of eastern provinces along the Durand Line have come under heavy shelling from within Pakistan. Attacks have killed and maimed dozens of innocent people and destroyed property.

Moreover, despite Nato and Afghan efforts to stem the flow of insurgents into Afghanistan, militants continue to enjoy operational, intelligence and financial support from within Pakistan. Afghans could conclude that unless enemies are defeated where they are incubated, nurtured and deployed from, international military operations in Afghan villages will not help secure the country in the long run.

And Afghans may worry about the lagging process of finalising the US-Afghan strategic partnership agreement, since the Afghan people pin their hopes for a secure future on a solid partnership with the United States.

These converging challenges are normal - any nation in Afghanistan's position would face the same. Even developed countries are experiencing multiple domestic, regional and global challenges. In an increasingly interdependent world, however, nations work bilaterally or multilaterally to overcome problems that are often shared.

Afghanistan is hardly an exception. The Afghan government is keenly aware of the security and economic problems that it shares with other states in the region and beyond, and is doing its part to address these problems on its own and in partnership with the international community.

At the same time, however, there is positive momentum for the Afghan people to be hopeful about their future. The fact that enemies increasingly resort to suicide attacks and assassinations demonstrates the increased capability of the Afghan national security forces to win in conventional combat. This forces enemies to engage in cowardly attacks that cost their own lives and indiscriminately kill and maim civilians.

The Afghan government supports the phased withdrawal of Nato forces from Afghanistan, as Afghans gradually gain the capacity and resources to rebuild and defend their country. For that to happen, the government has initiated a conditions-based transition to Afghan responsibility, where the international community should increasingly focus reconstruction and stabilisation efforts on enabling Afghanistan to execute its sovereign responsibilities on a sustainable basis.

The government has taken serious steps towards resolving Afghanistan's financial and legislative problems, while pursuing a vigorous diplomatic and military dialogue with the government of Pakistan to end the indiscriminate shelling of villages in eastern Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's national defence forces reserve the right to respond to any unwarranted foreign aggression that violates Afghanistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity under the United Nations Charter.

And in an effort to consolidate the achievements of the past decade, Afghanistan and the United States are seeking a long-term strategic partnership agreement. The first round of bilateral meetings between Afghan and US officials took place last July, and both sides made significant progress in discussing their concerns and interests to help to institutionalise and sustain the progress the people of Afghanistan have made.

The Afghan people and the constituents of Nato countries, who continue to support Afghanistan generously, must recognise that these converging challenges that are confronting Afghanistan are not extraordinary. They are simply complex problems that occur in a difficult environment such as Afghanistan. But they can and should be resolved with time, patience and cooperation from the international community.

The Afghan government is doing its part to find durable solutions to current or emerging problems, while making sure that none of Afghanistan's hard-earned democratic achievements are overlooked.


M Ashraf Haidari is a senior policy and oversight adviser of Afghanistan's National Security Council