Afghan Officials To Ask NATO For More Funds

Reporting from the Afghan capital Kabul, Morning Edition's Renee Montagne talks to Afghanistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin about the strategic partnership recently negotiated between the U.S., and the case Afghanistan will be making for future economic support.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep with David Greene in Washington.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne in Kabul, reporting on a country poised between a troubled past and an unclear future.

I'm talking to Afghans who will help shape that future. This morning, a man at the center of President Hamid Karzai's political circle, former Chief of Staff and now Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin. Jawed Ludin will be with Karzai next week at a key NATO meeting. For Afghanistan, this meeting won't be about more NATO troops, but rather more financial support. Their goal is some four billion dollars to help pay for Afghanistan's own national army.

JAWAD LUDIN: We don't require continued troop presence because we Afghans are perfectly capable to secure the country and to defend our country against threats. What's clear is that for our Security forces to become stronger and to become confident as an institution, it will require support. And we simply haven't yet made the economic transformation that will enable us to pay for these things ourselves. In order for us to really make that transformation we will require a few more years.

MONTAGNE: Well, for these security forces, you'll be asking hundreds of millions of dollars from any given country. And what are the arguments you're going to make when many leaders in these countries are paying a big political price for imposing austerity measures on their own citizens?

LUDIN: We are keenly aware of the economic hardship that's the case around the world. On the other hand, the economic hardship can hardly be an argument for not addressing the security environment in the world. The fact that there are serious threats to Afghanistan's security and by extension to the security and stability in the region; by further extension to the security of the United States and the rest of the world.

We are a nation that does not like to be a burden on others. At the end of the day, for the countries who have had forces here or had to make sacrifices for the sake of our common security, for them it is actually a good bargain. At the end, they will be saving money. They'll be withdrawing their forces which has been a very costly affair. And they will be only reinvesting some of that money back into Afghan security forces.

MONTAGNE: Presidents Obama and Karzai last week signed an agreement that you were a major participant in negotiating. This agreement would extend the relationship between our two countries for a decade after American troops draw down in 2014. From Afghanistan's point of view, what is the greatest value that this long-term partnership offers?

LUDIN: Well, the greatest value in this is for Afghanistan to have a enduring friendship with a country that's been the greatest supporter that we have had in the last 10 years. And clearly, the whole transition would have been perceived differently had it been about Americans just leaving and forgetting about Afghanistan, particularly in...

MONTAGNE: Perceived differently here in Afghanistan.

LUDIN: Yes, and in the region and because no one should be under the illusion that the problems remain, that terrorism is still a challenge. And now that this agreement is signed, it's very clear that the U.S. will be taking out its troops, but it won't be leaving this region, to the mercy of the spoilers and the terrorists.

MONTAGNE: In my experience, when Afghans speak of spoilers, they're speaking of their neighbors that have interfered in Afghanistan for a long time, and in particular, Pakistan. Is it not true that unless it decides to stop supporting and providing safe haven for various elements of the Taliban, that the insurgency will continue for years to come?

LUDIN: There is a problem. As far as we are concerned, we will engage Pakistan on two fronts when it comes to security. Probably the most urgent one is for us to engage their help with regards to reconciliation. Without their support, I think the reconciliation effort, which will bring in the Taliban leadership, will not succeed.

And the second area obviously is then what do we do with the rest of the threat that's there, some of the elements who will never reconcile. Obviously, you know, elements of international terrorism who have sanctuaries. We continue to speak with Pakistan on that account.

MONTAGNE: What's your assessment? Is Pakistan behind a stable Afghanistan? They say that for public consumption.

LUDIN: Some in the civilian leadership in Pakistan are fully on board in terms of the concern that we have, in fact, they share our concern. They have suffered as much as we have, and I wish I could say the same for the leadership in the military in Pakistan.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much.

LUDIN: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: That was Jawed Ludin, Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister speaking from the Foreign Ministry here in Kabul.

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