KABUL - Dominic Medley, spokesman for the NATO senior civilian representative in Afghanistan over the past three years, has urged the global fraternity to stay committed to the war-torn country.
In an exclusive interview -- his last before leaving the country -- with Pajhwok Afghan News, he appealed to the world to work with Afghans to help them determine their future.
“Afghans must work out their own future and ask for support from the international community. But ultimately it is up to Afghans. The international community has expressed its commitments at major conferences,” he observed.
He viewed next year’s presidential election as the biggest challenge, saying it would also be an historical opportunity. For the first time in decades, he argued, Afghanistan has the chance for a peaceful political transition.
Having worked in Kabul for more than 11 years since February 2002, Medley left Afghanistan last week. Given below are some of the excerpts from the interview:
Q: What is your advice and recommendation for the international community in Afghanistan?
A: Stay committed and don’t abandon Afghanistan; work with Afghans to help them determine their future. Afghans must work out their own future and ask for support from the international community. But ultimately it is up to Afghans. The international community has expressed its commitments at the major conferences. Now that work must be taken forward to secure the achievements and the future.
Q: Do you think that NATO has finished its job in Afghanistan, or is it still not finished?
A: Fortunately, it is good to know that NATO has committed to a new mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014. That new mission, Resolute Support, will be different, smaller and it will not be a combat mission. So I would say the ISAF mission will be complete at the end of 2014 and then there’s a new mission on the way. NATO, with Afghanistan, has worked through the transition process and built up the Afghan National Security Forces. At the same time the ISAF countries have ensured that Afghanistan is no longer used as a launching pad for international terrorists. The threat to our nations has been reduced so real and tangible progress has been made. There’s more to be done for sure; we must continue the work. The ISAF has mission has provided the opportunity for Afghanistan to develop further.
Q: How do you see the developments over the past decade?
A: Everyone is using a mobile phone, or two or three, watching television and far more people are rushing about their daily lives trying to make a living. One of the best sights is always seeing young children, especially girls, on their way to school or university students lounging around the campus grounds. The thirst of Afghans for education, the respect Afghans have for their teachers, can only bode well for the future for the new young generation. And the new generation must include more women; a country cannot thrive without including more than 50% of its population. The developments have undoubtedly been historical. Never before in Afghanistan’s history has so much been invested. So that’s the first reason to continue building for a better future and not to put the gains at risk.
Q: How can Afghans achieve their goal of peace?
A: Afghans certainly desire peace. Of that I am in no doubt. The reconciliation process is in place and the requirements are clear as laid down by President Karzai and supported by the international community. Most importantly people should respect the constitution and that means the human and women’s rights achievements of the last decade. Only Afghanistan can make peace for itself and the international community will support.
Q: What do you see as a major unresolved issue or challenge ahead for the Afghan people?
A: The biggest challenge will probably be the presidential election next year and it will also be an historical opportunity. For the first time in decades Afghanistan has the chance for a peaceful political transition. NATO is confident the Afghan Security Forces can provide security for the elections, and ISAF will support where necessary. So now everyone in Afghanistan must engage in the political process, voter registration, campaigning and political meetings and ultimately on the election day itself. I know many Afghans believe there is no alternative to an election, so they must participate actively and exercise their democratic right to vote. The elections will be watched by the world but of course they will be primarily watched by Afghans themselves.
Q: If you summarize your three years’ experience with NATO in one paragraph, what it will be?
A: On a professional level representing NATO for three years, I can say that NATO has stated many times that the Afghan National Security Forces are capable and growing in experience. Afghans can be proud in how far their forces have come in the last few years. At the same time the NATO commitment to Afghanistan will be enduring with the new mission, Resolute Support. NATO will remain committed to Afghanistan. NATO will not abandon Afghanistan and NATO will have a long term friendship with Afghanistan. On a personal level I can say that I have worked with men and women from 50 ISAF nations. All of them have worked so hard for Afghanistan, away from their families and friends for long periods and long working days and some have paid the ultimate and tragic sacrifice, like many Afghans. Everyone’s determination to help Afghanistan succeed is to be commended.
Q: You spent 11 years here in Afghanistan. How did you find the Afghan people, community, and their culture?
A: I’ve lived a very Kabuli and Kabul-jan, capital city of Afghanistan life, with occasional trips out of the hustle and bustle of the city. I was most surprised at the warm welcome I received in 2002. I walked many of the Kabul streets then, bargained in the markets, changed dollars in the money bazaar, and bought everything for the house and office I was working in. I do enjoy Afghan food, hospitality and music, especially Farhad Darya. I have to say I love the history of Afghanistan, not just the turmoil and news-grabbing last decades, but the history that is on show at the Kabul Museum and the treasures of Afghanistan that have been on display in international museums.
Q: Please tell us about the Afghan media, as you worked with and trained them.
A: The media has been a tremendous success for Afghanistan and an example to the region. The growth since 2002 has been amazing. Program making is flourishing, debate is lively and journalists are bravely reporting on Afghanistan, sometimes at tremendous risk to themselves. There is still a lot more to do and more training is always needed; the media is after all very young in Afghanistan so there will always be pressures and problems. But the pattern and way ahead has been set. Basically the audiences want the information, education and entertainment that the media is providing so that’s good news. It’s important to remember the many Afghan journalists who have been killed, like Zakia Zaki of Radio Solh and Ajmal Naqashbandi. They and many of their colleagues risked their lives for the new media here in Afghanistan.
What is your message to the Afghan people and government?
I know from my long time here and from Afghan friends, that there is no going back to the dark days Afghanistan experienced. We may all be impatient for change, bemoaning why some things take longer than we want, efforts will always be challenged and sometimes thwarted. But the only way, the only course and option, is to keep moving forward; to strengthen the partnership and to build on the achievements and progress made together since 2002. It is ultimately up to all Afghans to seize on the opportunities that have been created in the last decade and lead the country forward. With the support of friends, Afghanistan can craft a better and brighter future. (Pajhwok)