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Forum urges help for Afghans to look within for inclusive governance

By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-03-16 20:41

A decline in the moral credibility of the West and their prioritization of Ukraine's conflict with Russia should serve as a lesson for Afghanistan to get its political resources together and work toward building its inclusive governance, a forum heard on March 15.  

Participating in a session titled "Afghanistan: Current Challenges and Future Prospects" during the 2023 Global Security Forum in Doha, Qatar, experts also said that the consensus of the international community's engagement with Afghanistan should be one that is supportive of building up an inclusive government led by the Afghan people. 

Fawzia Koofi, former second deputy speaker of the Afghan Parliament, noted there is lack of international consensus when it comes to Afghanistan. Usually engagement with the country has been based on a "security-centric lens" about some security threat from Afghanistan. 

Such thinking arises with groups that include Daesh, a militant Islamic group also known as the Islamic State, which has become a threat for the Taliban authorities to deal with.  

The Taliban, an Islamist group that emerged in the 1990s and rose to power decades ago, took control of Afghanistan in August 2021 and formed the current interim government following the messy pullout of US and NATO troops and evacuations of foreign citizens.

Koofi urged making space for political discussions for Afghans "to talk among each other" to help mobilize the country and form a government that is accountable and inclusive, including more women participating in society. 

Saad Mohseni, an Afghan who is co-founder and chairman of the Moby Group, a Dubai-headquartered media company serving South and Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa, said "Afghans haven't had much of a say … when countries invade you and fund different groups within your country. And we've had many countries involved in Afghanistan," 

He added that Afghans have to sort out their own affairs.

Mohseni said though there was currently "not much space" for Afghans to talk among themselves, he believes the "space will open up" because even some Taliban members question some of the group's policies. He also said he personally knew some individuals who are working on mechanisms through which Afghans can return and talk in Afghanistan.

"I think the danger is if we start talking outside, it will be seen as a foreign-led, foreign funded endeavor. It's a complicated issue. But I think we have to, amongst ourselves as Afghans, come up with solutions ourselves, and the international community would need to obviously support it," said Mohseni.

He said the "Americans simply don't have the bandwidth", but the region can play an important role, including Qatar and others.

Hekmat Karzai, former deputy foreign minister of Afghanistan and chairman of the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies in Kabul, said there are two categories of peoples who have leverage over the Taliban and they are Afghans "that come together" and the Muslim leaders who have leverage and influence.

Karzai said there have been circumstances where some members of the Taliban have spent time in prisons "that have not been human rights friendly". 

"There are circumstances where Western countries were preaching to the Taliban (and) they were talking about human rights and things like that. Sadly, afterwards when you have conversations with these individuals they say: look, you've no moral ground to preach to me about these things," said Karzai.

He said it should be Afghans taking the lead and taking ownership in their engagement with the Taliban. 

The international community, particularly the West, "seem to have three priorities and that's Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine".

"For them it's fine. But that gives us an opportunity as Afghans to get our own elements together to be able to rely on ourselves, to be able to realize that there's going to be no international partner that is going to hold our hand and walk us down the line somewhere," said Karzai.

Mohseni of Moby Group said one of the issues the government and the region would have to deal with are the terrorist organizations within Afghanistan.

"We have to get back on the road to legitimacy and recognition and lifting of sanctions. That's the only way Afghanistan is going to move forward," said Mohseni.

The Global Security Forum, an annual event organized by The Soufan Center, a New York-based nonprofit organization, was held in Doha from March 13-15 under the theme "Reshaping the Global Order".

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