Fired Ambassador: Factions Compete Under Karzai

Said Jawad served as Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States from 2003 until September of this year, when he was ordered to vacate his post. Melissa Block talks with the former ambassador and current fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School about his dismissal and the prospect of Taliban participation within the Afghan government.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Two months ago, Said Jawad was ordered to vacate his post as Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States. It ended his seven-year tenure in that position. Before that, he was President Karzai's chief of staff.

Jawad is one of a number of top officials from President Karzai's government who were recently fired. He says the Afghan government is fraught with factions competing for power, and the recent dismissals reflect an effort from within the government to silence moderate voices.

Mr. SAID JAWAD (Former Afghan Ambassador to the U.S.): They are making it more difficult for people like us to continue to work in the government and - but our commitments to serve Afghanistan is solid, and if there is no opportunity to work through the government, our work through civil society and private sector will continue.

BLOCK: How dangerous do you think that instability is?

Mr. JAWAD: It's extremely dangerous because we do need to fully utilize the limited amount of human capital that we have in Afghanistan in order to stabilize the country.

BLOCK: And what happens if people like you are no longer part of the equation?

Mr. JAWAD: It makes it difficult, I think, for Afghanistan to strengthen its bridges with the rest of the world.

BLOCK: Ambassador Jawad, I'd like to get your thoughts on reports of talks that have been underway between Afghan officials and Taliban commanders. Do you see those talks as credible? For one, do you believe they're happening? And if they are happening, do you think they're necessary for a political, not a military solution?

Mr. JAWAD: Yes, certainly. We - reconciliation and talk with Taliban is part of our shared strategy to stabilize Afghanistan. Under the current situation, there is more smoke to it than real fire, and there's a lot of talk about talk. And the reason is that there - we have money impediment that we need to overcome in order to start a sincere dialogue.

For instance, socially, in Afghanistan, peace is not secured. Justice is not delivered. The healing has not started. And politically, the fear in Afghanistan and particularly among certain circle of the Afghan government that if they don't reconcile, then it will be done without their participation by other players.

And the Afghan people, on one hand, are tired of the war and support reconciliation. On the other hand, that support is also based on fear that the alternative is civil war.

So we have to create a national consensus on that issue among Afghans first and then a consensus among Afghans and our international partners on indicating that what are the parameters of the compromises that we need to make in order to reconcile with Taliban. So it is a complicated process. So far, it's limited to contacts with individual mostly based on personal connections or tribal affiliations.

BLOCK: Would you assume, though, that at some point it would be the top leadership of the Taliban who would be engaged in those talks if they have already?

Mr. JAWAD: If Taliban perceived that they are not losing, they will not feel obligated to talk. There has to be more military pressure on the Taliban to convince them that they're losing that fight. And also, as long as they feel that there will be support for them in the neighborhood of Afghanistan, they don't feel compelled to talk.

So as long as the Taliban are able to destroy and disrupt their willingness, especially the willingness of their top leadership, will be limited. But we can start this kind of engagement with the lower-level Taliban, with mid-level and others to either reintegrate them or provide financial incentive to them to come to the Afghan society.

BLOCK: And by support from the neighborhood, I assume you're referring to Pakistan?

Mr. JAWAD: Pakistan primarily, but there are others also that have connections with Taliban and finance them.

BLOCK: How much of a fundamental contradiction is there, do you think, in engaging with political negotiations, talks with the Taliban? At the same time, you're fighting a war against them.

Mr. JAWAD: That's been the case in many countries and many areas. And I assume that if the talks get serious and that the fighting will also intensify for everybody to position themselves better. But, as I mentioned, we did not have a reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

We did not have an amnesty program there. All we had was an amnesia. The people of Afghanistan were asked to forget about the atrocities that happened to them, either by Taliban or other criminals.

Therefore, there's a sense of fear and uncertainty in major urban centers in big cities in Afghanistan, among women in Afghanistan, among minorities in Afghanistan, that these talks and reconciliation may take place at the cost of their basic rights.

BLOCK: Well, Said Jawad, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. JAWAD: My pleasure.

BLOCK: Said Jawad is the former Afghan ambassador to the U.S. He was fired by President Karzai in September. He just started a fellowship with the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard University's Kennedy School.

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