October 11, 2007.
As far as his diplomatic communication skills go, the Afghan Ambassador to the U.S., Said T. Jawad, is the equal of any ambassador posted in Washington. In a live chat with readers of the Huffington Post he answered many hard questions from those Americans who are actually concerned about Afghanistan.
Here are a sampling of some of the better questions (taking into account the format):
- Would you please elaborate on the progress being made on the training of Afghan security forces?
- What, in your honest opinion, is the single greatest mistake the US has made since driving out the Taliban 6 years ago?
- Quite simply — how can we turn things around in Afghanistan?
- How can your government justify asking the Taliban to join Mr. Karzai’s government? Don’t you believe this is an insult to all the Americans and Afghanis that have lost their lives at the hands of the Taliban? Knowing the Taliban’s human rights record and the damage they inflicted in the population of Afghanistan and their support for Al-Qaida, what kind of role will they be playing in your country’s government?
- Do you believe that the current rise is violence in your country is directly attributable to the shifting of American forces from Afghanistan to Iraq when Iraq was invaded? If so can you help to bring that to the attention both the American public and the international community?
- The position of women in your Afghanistan has not improved even without the Taliban in government. The president of Afghanistan has said that members of the Taliban who say they will no longer fight the government and commit violence can have positions in your government. How does this make the women of Afghanistan as well as anyone who was victimized by the Taliban feel safe?
- Is the Iranian Government helping in the reconstruction and security of Afghanistan? If they are what are they doing? If they are and it is a good thing for the Afghan nation will you report it to the world?
- The Policy of hiring private contractors to rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure has been a controversial issue in our country. Do you think Afghanistan has the skilled labor and capability to rebuild itself if it were given the resources to do so. If our policy were changed to hire Afghan firms for reconstruction of schools, highways, and utilities, wouldn’t that enable the country to create jobs and become self sufficient more efficiently? What do you think?
Ambassador Jawad deftly handles the above questions. Though I can’t say I was in 100% agreement with all of his answers. He’s a diplomat for Afghanistan, and to a certain extent this constrains him regarding the answers he can provide. But as good a communicator as Jawad is, there is no good answer for the question below:
- I am an active-duty naval officer who recently returned from a one-year tour with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Asadabad (Kunar province). In my twelve months in Kunar & Nuristan provinces I saw many things – and not much to give me any lasting hope. We provided some help and implemented some improvements in the infrastructure (mostly roads and bridges), but much of what we did I would classify under the heading of ‘Too Little – Too Late’. The province is still as dangerous and deadly as it was several years ago; the daily lives of most of the citizens aren’t appreciably improved, and our efforts (PRT, DOS, USAID, etc.) still run up against the almost-immovable object of local, provincial and national corruption and inefficiencies. I am saddened when I think of what could have been accomplished in Afghanistan – had we not been sidetracked in an unnecessary and wasteful war in Iraq. All that national fortune, energy and manpower, were it spent where it was needed, would have made Afghanistan a much different – and successful – country and society than it is today. What are our plans now? How will we reach a critical mass of goodwill and assistance (indeed, can we?) to counteract the policy failures, especially the opium problem, that have led to the worsening of the political situation given that the American public’s fund of patience and forbearance won’t last much longer?
Actually, there is a good answer to this question. But Ambassador Jawad is too diplomatic to give that answer. The questioner should really direct his question to the American government (though the Afghan government does share the blame on the corruption issue).
You can see the answers to these questions and more here. It is an open format and not all the questions are from informed people so a few are sort of stupid (plus one indignant question from a Pakistani).
Ambassador Jawad also does well in front of a camera. Here is a recent interview with Foreign Policy TV.