A Lot of Common Ground on Afghanistan

What Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, said at the international conference on Afghanistan, held recently in The Hague, was both promising and important. It also demonstrates a lot of common ground between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran on Afghanistan. The website of the Iranian Foreign Ministry quoting Mr. Akhundzadeh ends by saying that Iran believes in the Afghanization of Afghanistan “with the support of the international community” because Afghans know their country best but also says that Iran is ready to cooperate in curtailing drug trafficking and rebuilding of Afghanistan.

He said that “Afghanistan is an important member of our region whose internal conditions have deep impact on the security and stability of the region. Every step taken for the stability and security of Afghanistan will not only be considered progress for the government and people of Afghanistan but a step for regional and global peace and security.”

He also said that instead of increasing forces, “military expenses should be more directed towards training Afghan military and police force.”

Akhundzadeh expressed worry that drug trafficking is spreading faster than the means to confront it. On terrorism, he said that it “does not know rich and poor, guilty or innocent” and in Afghanistan it is being fed by drug money. But he also said that uprooting terrorism is not possible only through military means. Its sources must be addressed. “What is important is for the international community to offer a comprehensive definition of terrorism so that all forms of terrorism become defined, creating the necessary context for confronting this phenomenon in transparent and lawful ways and for providing the proper atmosphere for the participation of all countries and preventing the dual approach of some countries and powers.”

Akhundzadeh was a signal by itself; that Iran considers Afghan stabilization as part and parcel of its regular foreign policy objectives and hence handled in a routine fashion by its skilled diplomatic corps (along with a brief ambassadorship to IAEA, Akhundzadeh was also previously ambassador to Pakistan and Germany). The idea seems to have been not to elevate the issue of US-Iran cooperation regarding Afghanistan too much.

Now, two other, interesting quotes.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillaty Clinton: “We must … support efforts by the government of Afghanistan to separate the extremists of al Qaeda and the Taliban from those who have joined their ranks not out of conviction, but out of desperation.”

“They should be offered an honourable form of reconciliation and reintegration into a peaceful society, if they are willing to abandon violence, break with al Qaeda, and support the constitution.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai: “I welcome the growing recognition that without the true cooperation of Afghanistan’s neighbours the victory over terrorism cannot be assured.”

“We will spare no effort to bring back to Afghanistan and to normal life all those from the ranks of the Taliban, all those who have no association with al Qaeda and are willing to embrace peace and the constitution of the country. The policy of reconciliation, however, can succeed only if carried out under the aegis of the national institutions of Afghanistan.”