Afghanistan's Ambassador On The Future Of The War
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The news from Afghanistan lately has been grim, a record number of civilian casualties last year. And yesterday, suicide bombers and gunmen dressed as doctors stormed a military hospital in Kabul.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
They killed at least 30 people and wounded 50 more. It wasn't the Taliban but ISIS claiming responsibility.
GREENE: Now, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani expressed outrage saying this assault was an attack on the whole country. Earlier this week before that attack, Afghanistan's young ambassador to Washington, Hamdullah Mohib, stopped by our studios.
INSKEEP: He told our co-host Rachel Martin that as the Trump administration reviews its Afghanistan strategy, his government has come up with its own set of proposals. It's a four-year plan to improve Afghan security forces so they can eventually defend the country on their own.
GREENE: And Rachel asked Ambassador Mohib if the Trump White House is seeming receptive.
HAMDULLAH MOHIB: I think this administration has had a lot of positive signals towards Afghanistan, partly because they have an open option. They have not said anything that they would have to stick to. So they have...
RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Yeah. Donald Trump has - actually hasn't talked a lot about Afghanistan.
MOHIB: So they have - and during the campaign, they didn't make any promises that they would now perhaps be bogged down by. So they have a free hand. And we have seen that the hesitation that existed with the previous administration doesn't exist with this.
MARTIN: I don't have to tell you that Afghanistan has been dealing with some kind of low-level insurgency all the way up to a civil war since the '80s. And part of preventing that country from again becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups means creating a central government, a functioning civil society, institutions that aren't corrupt that Afghans believe in.
MOHIB: Today, we're as a democracy, as a nascent democracy these last 15 years, we have been working on rebuilding the institutions that we had lost, the institutions that were destroyed. Now, our institutions may not be where we want them to be. But the foundations are there. And we are working on that. We have a functioning Parliament. Now, it may not be the ideal Parliament that we want. But it is a Parliament that prevents the executive branch from becoming a dictatorship and holds the executive branch responsible. It implements the constitution.
We have government institutions that do its job in delivering the basic services to the Afghan public. The time it will take to develop will be larger. But that's the Afghan investment. But what we are asking our international partners is in ending and helping ending that menace of terrorism that was brought in which is not our problem on our own. It is an international problem. Most of these terrorist groups do not want anything from Afghanistan. We can not give them anything. They want to terrorize the world. And they want to use the instability in Afghanistan as a platform for them to be able to do that.
MARTIN: But you know, and I'm sure you've heard this argument from U.S. officials who say you can always say that, that things are precarious, things are fragile. At any moment, Afghanistan could turn again, and it could become this safe haven, so we require U.S. investment. We require U.S. military assistance. And then there is no end.
MOHIB: Well, this is where there is an opportunity to redefine the future. This is why we're suggesting that we go with an Afghan plan of ending and having an end goal in mind on where we want to be and then what kind of support is necessary, instead of just randomly implementing strategies that are built for one year at a time instead of a long-term vision.
MARTIN: Can you imagine a time when there is not a robust U.S. military presence in Afghanistan?
MOHIB: We must.
MARTIN: We have talked with senior officials in the U.S. military who have said the best-case scenario from their vantage point is a kind of partition of Afghanistan. Let the central government, the democratically-elected government, control Kabul and the major urban centers and cede, essentially, the rural parts of Afghanistan, maybe the south to the Taliban. Is that a possibility?
MOHIB: It's a short-sighted vision. It's people who want to just get that problem off their shoulder and think that we can pass it along to someone else - in four years, let it be someone else's problem then. We will not allow that.
MARTIN: Your family fled Afghanistan before the Soviets took over. Eventually, they came back and then fled again when the Taliban came into power. You yourself spent several years living and working in the U.K. before you went back to Afghanistan. How do you convince people to stay?
MOHIB: Because there is no place like home. And we have a responsibility to rebuild. I came back to this country. My generation, who were born in a war, are determined to end it. This is a country where we have never produced a single bullet, yet we have never run out of it when the war started. Yet we don't have enough money for bread and other basic human needs.
This must end. And the Afghan people - we, the new generation, this demographic of Afghans that have grown up in a war who are fed up with it and want to end it, have the commitment and the vision to understand what it is that is necessary to end this conflict.
GREENE: Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S. speaking with our co-host Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.