2 years ago




Q&A.M ICHAEL SHANKPoppy, Poverty and the TalibanAfghanistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Said Tayeb JawadMichael Shank interviewed Afghanistan’sAmbassador to the US on March 6, 2008,regarding Afghanistan’s poppy and povertyproblems, relations with Pakistan, U.S.presidential candidates’ policies vis-à-visAfghanistan, Paddy Ashdown, and talkswith the Taliban.JIPO: What do you make of the UnitedStates’ new tack in dealing with poppy inAfghanistan – that of plantingpomegranate instead of spraying crops?What’s your assessment regarding the mosteffective way of addressing the opiumproblem? Do you see promise in providingfarmers with alternative crops?Ambassador Jawad: First we have tobe very clear that there is no one solution fora very complicated problem such a poppy.There is no silver bullet to kill this beast.Over-emphasis has been made, actually a lotover the past five years, on eradication, alltypes of eradication, manual or aerialspraying or others, which is important butonly aspect of fighting narcotics. It’s onefifthof the strategy.That strategy must have five pillars.First is eradication. The second isinterdiction, going after the traffickers. Theguys who are making most of the money arenot the farmers it’s the trafficker and theprocessor. It’s important to enhance theinterdiction capabilities of both theinternational community and the Afghangovernment.The third is alternative livelihood.Again, not alternative crops: logically,economically, socially it doesn’t make senseto say “now don’t grow poppy, instead growpomegranate or grape.” It’s not going towork. If you’re looking for alternativelivelihood that means that you’re going tohave to introduce a number of cropsdepending on the region. It could be rose forrosewater, it could be sunflower, or it couldbe cotton or a number of other products. Butequally important if you’re going to succeedon that you have to have facilities to processthis. A pomegranate, in order to create value,must be converted into pomegranate juiceand exported outside. Or grape [converted]into a more valuable product. So the thirdaspect is an alternative livelihood and thatincludes an alternative crop, but thealternative crop is just one part of thealternative livelihood. The real task isdevelopment, infrastructure, building theE-mail MShank@gmu.eduThe interviewer is the government relations adviserat George Mason University’s Institute for ConflictAnalysis and Resolution.roads, making sure that the legitimate cropgets to the market.The fourth component is buildinginstitutions, police, judicial system, thecourts, and others. The fifth component isreducing demand through regionalcooperation. As long as there is demand,somebody will grow them. And as long ascountries around Afghanistan do notcooperate on eliminating trafficking andprocessing, that problem will continue. Sothere has to be five pillars. Eradication is onepillar but this is only one-fifth of the fight.JIPO: Do you feel that theinternational community is predominantlyfocused only on this one aspect?Ambassador Jawad: Eradication,yes. That’s why there hasn’t been that muchprogress.JIPO: In light of the recent UnitedNations report, which focused on thedemand for opium throughout the world, doyou think there is insufficient attention paidto the demand side of Afghanistan’snarcotics problem?Ambassador Jawad: Again, as muchas reducing the demand is a long termproject, as much as the regional cooperationis a long term project, as much asdevelopment and building infrastructure is along term project, fighting narcotics is a longterm project. It takes from five to ten years.But it takes a comprehensive approach by allparties. We are not going to succeed on thatif we’re going to try one aspect, justinterdiction or just eradication. We have tohave all of them.We have to have an incentive for thefarmer to do something else. But you have tohave a strong enforcement capability, whichcomes from interdiction, institution buildingand eradication. Eradication just by itselfpushes the farmers into the hands of theterrorists.JIPO: Focusing in on HelmandProvince, with its social services andinfrastructure remaining underdeveloped —only two hospitals serving a population ofover 800,000, for example — what are thelinkages between poverty, lack ofinfrastructure, and the fact that HelmandProvince produces much of Afghanistan’sopium and maintains the strongestinsurgency?Ambassador Jawad: Not only inHelmand but in every province where wehave most of the security challenges, that’sexactly where we have most of the poppy.One exception is Badakhshan. InBadakhshan, in northern Afghanistan, wedon’t have a lot of security problems. Therethe problem is one of remoteness and lack ofinfrastructure. The government and policecannot be there. It’s a huge province withvery limited roads. Sometimes it takes threedays to travel from one district to anotherdistrict. So they’re taking advantage of thatlack of infrastructure, lack of civility.But in the south, Helmand has been thehotbed of Taliban operations. That’s wherewe have the most poppy. And the reasonsare manifold. First is, of course, where thereis a lack of security, psychologically, thefarmers will grow poppy because it onlytakes three months to grow. You’re not goingto invest in building your orchards orvineyards if there’s no road, no stability, andno sense of tomorrow. So you growsomething quick, you need the money then.Of course the Taliban are pushing them.They’re giving them money. They come inthe winter and they lend money to thefarmers with interest that goes up to 50-60percent up to 100 percent. The only way topay it back is by growing poppy. They willnot be able to pay by growing potato orwheat.Definitely there is a strong linkagebetween these. In the areas where we have astronger presence of the Taliban andoperation of the terrorists, then the militaryand the police is not going to do anythingabout poppy.JIPO: You’ve talked a lot about theneed to build institutions in Afghanistan. Isthere a role for the U.S. here despite the factthat U.S. aid to Afghanistan has beenprimarily military, with reconstruction aidtotaling only 10 percent of U.S. assistance?Ambassador Jawad: Yes, but morefunds should go specifically towards capacitybuilding of the government, trade andprivate sector capabilities. That capacitybuilding consists of two parts. One istraining, and the transfer of skills; trainingthe judges, the prosecutors, the traders, theshop keepers, to be able to integrate into thisglobal market, by having the pomegranatefrom Helmand to reach Dubai. That requiresa better degree of understanding of how topackage it, how to get it to an airline, how toget it to Dubai. So those are all importantsteps that need to be taken in training andtransfer of skills.The other part is to provide betterfunding for the government to pay better tokeep the civil servant, the teacher, andothers to continue to work for thegovernment. Pay forty dollars to the teacher,while the economy grows at a much fasterrate, and the teacher will leave the job andCONTINUED NEXT PAGE22JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL PEACE OPERATIONS — — VOLUME 3, NUMBER 6 : May-June 2008

Q&A.FROM PREVIOUS PAGEbecome a taxi driver or something elsebecause he can make a lot more money. Ifyou don’t pay adequately you don’t getqualified people. Particularly when theeconomy is picking up, if their salaries staythe same, instead of building capacity thegovernment is bleeding capacity.JIPO: Do you think this message ismaking its way to the U.S.?Ambassador Jawad: To a certaindegree, yes, specifically there is a lot moreemphasis on capacity-building but a lot ofthe capacity building is now based onsending consultants and getting reports.This is not the way to do it. You really haveto create this capacity among the Afghans.The consultant comes in, he is chargingsomething like $10,000 - $40,000 a week,and then they write a report and they take itback on their laptops. You really have towork with the ministries, the institutionsthat lack this capacity, not create parallelstructures, an advisory board, a panel or acommission combined of Afghans andforeigners, that is not effective. You reallyhave to invest that money and thoseresources in the ministries and in the officeof the governor or district chief at the locallevel too to create that capacity.The PRTs (Provincial ReconstructionTeams) can play an important role of notonly digging wells or building a clinic butalso teaching the Governor or his staff howto open an email or write an email. If thereare traders there locally, bring them in andteach them the basics of how to come upwith a balance sheet. [Teach them the]basics on the marketing and packaging—simple things that could be very beneficialfor them.Capacity-building is really a transfer ofskills, at every level. That transfer of skillsdoesn’t mean bringing them here to get anMBA, though this is needed also at adifferent level, but even a two-day course iseffective at the district level. Have a coursefor the police officers on respecting humanrights. This is all capacity-building.Equally important, make more fundingavailable to the government to pay better.When they pay better, they recruit morequalified people. When they don’t pay,nobody shows up, or they are unqualified.JIPO: Do you see any of the three U.S.Presidential candidates—Obama, Clinton,or McCain—shaping a new effective policyvis-à-vis Afghanistan?Ambassador Jawad: Fortunatelyeveryone — the Congress, theAdministration, media, the think-tanks —understands the magnitude of the problem.There’s a better degree of willingness tograsp that yes we are facing a seriouschallenge here. And what we have done hasbeen effective is certain aspects and in otherareas we have to do it in a better way, adifferent way.We are grateful that the Democrats areindicating that they will do more forAfghanistan. Equally important, theadministration is about to increase theirsupport for the country. What is importantfor us is for U.S. policymakers to see andunderstand that stability in Afghanistanmeans stability in the region and alsosecurity in the United States.JIPO: Do you have any thoughts onhow the new coalition government inPakistan will impact Pak-Afghan relations?Ambassador Jawad: I think it’s astep forward. We always in the past arguedfor the strengthening of civic organizations,civil rule in Pakistan. We are happy for thefact that the election was fair andtransparent. In the long run, what we expectfrom the Pakistan government is to fightextremism in a sincere way. And to recognizethat extremism is a threat for Pakistan, forAfghanistan and for the world. Anygovernment that is based on that, we offerour support, our friendship.JIPO: How do you see the Afghan-Pakborder issue being dealt with?Ambassador Jawad: The border isnot an issue. The same, weak capacity thatexists in patrolling the Pakistani border, infact a much weaker capacity exists along theIranian border, the border with Uzbekistan,Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Why is no onecoming from there? So the problem is notthe border. The problem is what’s happeningon the other side of the border.You have almost no one at the Canadianborder; most people are coming fromMexico. It’s not the border or how manypeople you have at the border with Mexico orCanada; it’s what’s happening on the otherside, poverty and many other things that aredriving people from Mexico into the UnitedStates. That force is not in Canada.It’s not the border. It’s not how manybig walls you build on the border. It’s what’shappening on the other side. You can buildwalls but it’s not going to help. You have togo to the source.JIPO: Why was Afghanistan notinterested in having Paddy Ashdown serveas the UN special envoy?Ambassador Jawad: Coordination inAfghanistan needs to take place at threelevels: First, among the internationalpartners; Second, among the internationalpartners and the government of Afghanistanat the national and local level.Paddy Ashdown played a role inbringing the international players together.But it’s equally important that thecoordinator enhance the coordinationbetween the international community andthe Afghan government. That will happenonly if the international communityconsiders Afghan important. Therefore,based on his experiences, and based uponwhat we heard, there was concern about theAmbassador Said Tayeb Jawad.PHOTO: EMBASSY OF AFGHANISTANway he operated in the past. Getting back toyour question on pomegranate, you’re notgoing to resolve the problem of Afghannarcotics by pomegranate. You’re not goingto resolve the problem of coordination at theinternational level with Paddy Ashdown.You’re not going to have coordination ifyou’re not ready to be coordinated.These different countries, with differentdegrees of commitment and differentmandates, they will not change overnightand say tell us Lord Ashdown what shouldwe do? Now the gentleman from Norway willtake his place. I’m sure that he’ll try his best.But this is not a key that you just turnaround and say we have appointed thisperson. No, there is going to be a lot of hardwork for us, for the internationalcommunity.JIPO: There has been a lot of debatewithin Kabul and within the internationalcommunity as to whether or not talks withthe Taliban should take place. Do you thinkreconciliation with the Taliban willultimately need to have them at the table?Ambassador Jawad: Yes. There aredifferent degrees of engagement right now.President Karzai, the government ofAfghanistan, our international friends nowunderstand more and more why we arecoming from that position and have shownwillingness. We will talk with the Taliban.Provided they respect the Afghanconstitution. The Afghan constitution is ajoint achievement of the Afghan people andthe international community that came toassist Afghanistan. Underneath thatframework, we have indicated ourwillingness to talk with the Taliban.BACKGROUND PHOTO: SGT. JIM WILT /U.S. ARMYJOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL PEACE OPERATIONS — — VOLUME 3, NUMBER 6 : May-June 200823

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