Despite Challenges, Afghan Election Still A Success

Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S., Said T. Jawad, tells host Liane Hansen that Thursday's presidential election was "a success," but acknowledges that there were some "challenges."

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

We're joined in the studio now by Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad. Welcome to the program.

Mr. SAID JAWAD (Afghan Ambassador to the United States): Thank you very much.

HANSEN: What are your thoughts on how the election went?

Mr. JAWAD: The election was a great victory for the people of Afghanistan. There were challenges, of course, but overall it was a successful process.

HANSEN: Do you consider it to be free and fair, given there was violence in some places that disrupted the voting, coercion and others' complaints of fraud?

Mr. JAWAD: We are not talking about holding elections in a perfect condition in a perfect country. We are facing a very brutal enemy who cut the fingers of those who go out and vote. Comparing it to the elections in the neighboring countries, it was free and fair.

HANSEN: The results of the preliminary results are due on September 3, your country's independent election commission, which is responsible for tallying all the votes, plans to wait another two weeks before releasing the final results. Why the lengthy delay?

Mr. JAWAD: Because we have an election complaint commission and they need two weeks to receive, verify and adjugate all the complaints. But the way it works right now, it's a very transparent system. So, in every polling locations -there were more 6,500 polling locations - they are counting the ballots right away and posting the results on the wall. So, we will know the results as we move on, but the certification will take two more weeks because we want to make sure that there's enough time.

HANSEN: The international and the Afghan media were asked by your government not to report on violence during the election. Why did your government feel that it was necessary to make that request?

Mr. JAWAD: The reason is that there's a history of self-censor in the world. If you look at 9/11, for instance, right on the day of the 9/11 the U.S. media, because it's a mature and experienced media, realized that it is not helpful to show on and on certain angles of, for instance, the airplane hitting the building because of the psychological impact. And we knew the Taliban as a terrorist would conduct a terrorist attack. So, in order not to discourage people from going out, we asked the media to put a constraint and don't report on violence. But everything else they have reported and they could report.

HANSEN: The votes are still being counted, but President Hamid Karzai, as well as former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah are both claiming to be in the lead. So, how will these competing claims affect the formation of the government?

Mr. JAWAD: So far, 4.2 million votes have been counted but indications are that President Karzai is leading. The way President Karzai has governed in the past seven years is by building consensus, by trying everyone into the fold. In fact, sometimes he has been blamed for bringing too many people into the government.

So, regardless of who's going to win, I think everybody realized that we are facing a brutal enemy. We are under also pressure to show results both in Afghanistan and internationally. So, there will be new efforts to enhance the pace of the reform in Afghanistan and to deliver services to the Afghan people.

HANSEN: You were a guest on NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED in 2008, and at that time you said that the Taliban was a necessary evil. Do you think that's still the case? Is there any hope for bringing members of the Taliban into the political process?

Mr. JAWAD: We had defined who the Taliban are. Basically, as we can divide the Taliban into three distinct groups. The first and small group are probably 10 percent ideological elements of Taliban affiliated with al-Qaida and intelligence agencies of the neighboring countries. Those guys could not be reconciled. And then about 30 percent of the Talibans are militias who are fighting for money. They have been recruited by the narco-traffickers or they've been antagonized because of the lack of proper governance in Afghanistan, or the military operation by NATO or U.S.,. This group, we should talk to them. We should convince them that there is hope for them to come back and join the Afghan government.

But more than 60 percent of the Taliban are young, illiterate youth who does not have an education, who have been promised paradise or money to carry out their suicide bomb and others. For that group, we need to create jobs. We have to make sure that they understand that if they come back to their country they're welcome.

So, we have to have three different approaches, depending on what level of the Taliban we are talking to.

HANSEN: Said Jawad is Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States. Mr. Ambassador, thank you for coming in.

Mr. JAWAD: My pleasure. Great being with you. Thank you.

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