Ghani, Ashraf — Transcript
FREDERICK KEMPE: Welcome to everyone. For those of you who don’t know, I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. And I say that partly because we record, so it shows up, then, on the transcript, and people will then Google and – let me, first of all, tell you what an honor it is for me to introduce this report, and introduce my friend Ashraf Ghani. Ashraf and I met – when was it, in –
MR. GHANI: In 2003.
MR. KEMPE: In 2003.
MR. GHANI: Yeah. When you came with General Jones, I think.
MR. KEMPE: Yes. You were in your job as finance minister. And I had flown in with General Jones, when I was working for The Wall Street Journal as editor in Europe. And we met at your home. And I remember you forecasting that things were turning in a problematic direction, if we didn’t understand what was happening in the narco-economy: what was happening in terms of corruption; what was happening in different ways.
And, at that point, people were relatively optimistic. And so it was quite prophetic – sadly prophetic, I’m afraid. But I do remember you talking about how property prices were moving in your neighborhood in an astronomic way, because of the drug money coming in and buying up things, which was one of the early indicators of what was going on.
When I came to the Atlantic Council two years and a couple of months ago, we built an International Advisory Board, of sitting chairmen and CEO’s of globally significant companies, and Cabinet members – former Cabinet members of some renown from key countries.
At that point it wasn’t so much I was determined to have Afghanistan represented on the International Advisory Board, because not all countries in South Asia are. But I was determined to have Ashraf Ghani because he’s a person who understands the world; understands his region; understands his country. It’s very rare to meet someone who understands the local politics of the various regions of Afghanistan, as profoundly as he understands the workings of the United Nations – both of which are somewhat arcane to me.
This is the – I want to also thank two members of the Strategic Advisors Group. Ashraf Ghani is on the International Advisory Board, which is a group of these businessmen and politicians I told you about, but he also is a member of the Strategic Advisors Group. This is actually a working group of the Atlantic Council. It was co-chaired by General Jones. He was one of the co-chairs until he took his new job and left as chairman of the Atlantic Council.
The co-chairs are now Senator Hagel, who is the new chairman of the Atlantic Council, and Tom Enders, the CEO of Airbus. It has European and U.S. members. And it was in that guise that I first talked to Ashraf, and we talked about how the long-term goals weren’t really known. For all the resources we were putting into Afghanistan, the long-term goals weren’t obvious. And, secondarily, the short-term actions there were not attached to any long-term goals, because there were no real long-term goals.
At that point, we came up with the idea that there had to be a 10-year framework for Afghanistan. Little did we know that we were developing and implementing strategy – because it was always thought to be an implementing strategy. But, suddenly, we had an Obama plan, behind which to put this implementing strategy. And if you’ll see in the report, they fit pretty well.
So I want to turn over to Ashraf, but I also want to say that Ashraf’s work – our work on Afghanistan, our work on Pakistan – inspired me, over my Christmas vacation, to lose a lot of time recruiting Shuja Nawaz to lead a new South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council. This is a joint project of the Strategic Advisors Group of the International Security Program. And the South Asia Center – it’s the second major report to be released in four months at the Asia Center. The first one was on Pakistan – honorary co-chairs of Senator Hagel and Senator Kerry.
And they are a part of our attempt to stay in front of this story. Senator Kerry called our initial report on Afghanistan seminal. He said the report on Pakistan should be read just as closely. We feel that this is a good follow-up on those two reports and should be read just as closely.
It is our attempt – we also had the ambassadors of Pakistan and Afghanistan here – two weeks ago, Shuja? That drew a lot of attention. They were quite blunt. In diplomatic speak, we could say they were “frank.” These two reports we’ve put out this year reflect our attempt to put South Asian affairs in a broader regional context, that includes not just Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, but also understands that this is all interlinked with the Gulf; with Russia; with neighboring China; and with neighboring Central Asia. And so we’ll continue to work those issues.
I’m sorry that I’ve done so long of a warm-up, but I wanted to put all this in context. This is a report that’s been long in the making. There’s no one better-equipped to write it and to speak about it. And, Ashraf, thank you so much for producing this important work.
ASHRAF GHANI: Thank you very much, Fred, for the very generous introduction – but, even more important, for your friendship and support. And thanks to Shuja for enormous work. And your colleagues and the members of the board – both Frank Kramer and Julian French – for commenting.
The goal that the new administration has put to the American public is very clear: it is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return. But this is a goal that has been put to the American public. What is the means for realization of this goal?
A more capable and accountable government. Hence comes the issue of implementation. There are two messages in the strategy: One is about disruption; the other is about creating a capable state. I would argue that the creation of the goal of a capable state requires a midterm framework. This is not a goal that can be realized through short-term action.
But how do we create a medium-term framework? By connecting short- and medium-term actions together to backward mapping. Meaning that we need to have a picture of where we want to be in 10 years from now, so that actions that can start today lead to that. Unless there is a road map, there cannot be benchmarking. Measurement cannot come from short-term actions, because the unintended consequence of those will be greater than their intended consequence.
So the first challenge becomes: What is the current context? I am offering a framework that is defined by threats, weaknesses and assets. The business literature is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. We’re changing, because of this driver.
What are the threats? Three of them are well-known. Al Qaeda, because it’s a global threat. It has a regional manifestation, but the “tango of terror” is regional. If you’ve looked at the recent pattern, there is an event in Afghanistan, followed by Pakistan, followed by India. That threat is regional in nature, and it is really a tango. And we need to understand that all of us are threatened by this threat in common, yet the response of our three countries is individual. And it often is involved blame games among us.
And, until now, the United States has not focused on the regional nature of the threat. It has focused on country-specific nature of the threats. Elevating the game to the regional dimension is really important.
The second threat is insurgency. I will not elaborate on the full dimensions that are in the paper, but highlight one thing to you. This is probably one of the best-financed insurgencies in the history of insurgency. Roughly 400 to a billion and a half dollars a year are at their disposal. Their sources of finance are getting more diversified, more consolidated. And because of that, they do not need long lines of supply, et cetera – they can buy a lot of things, in a cash environment.
Three is narcotics. It’s a very large part of a small economy. And the threat of narcotics is again global. Just look at the way it changes from a gram of heroin being worth a dollar twenty in Afghanistan to being worth $32 in Europe. The path is spatial, the networking global, and it’s integrated.
The fourth part is the one that I want to really emphasize as a threat, because that’s not what usually one associates as a threat: it’s bad governance and corruption. My argument is that bad governance and corruption have created the vacuum to allow for the three other threats to be consolidated. Unless we, and until we, address this central issue of the threat that emanates from bad governance, we are not going to make a break.
Stakeholders in instability now are more consolidated, more organized, than stakeholders in stability. The great tragedy of the last eight years was that the nature of governance was not understood – not – (inaudible). When Afghans reformed, the international community was not ready; and when the Afghans retreated from reforms, the international community closed its eyes and ears, and was in denial.
There’s a very good study by the World Bank and UNDP that, for instance, documents on the criminalization of the drug economy, as how criminal interests took over state institutions, very specifically, and turned them from protection of people into protection of criminals. So now we deal with the task of bad governance as the critical issue.
Weaknesses. There are two fundamental weaknesses. And we’ve usually – my colleague, Clare Lockhart and I, in our book, “Fixing Failed States,” have called these the “double failure.” There’s a failure on the part of the international system, and there’s the failure of the Afghani lead. The failure of the Afghani lead is that it’s still vested in the war economy. Our usual mistake in transitions from conflict to seeming peace – because it’s not environment of post-conflict – is that people don’t realize what a fundamental obstacle invested in war economy is.
And we need to understand this. The failure of international financial institutions, in particular, to understand this, and to invest in creation of legitimate economic institutions, is a fundamental issue – because the challenge here is to articulate an agenda that would guarantee both the interests of the elite and that of the population. That requires game-changers. Those kind of game-changers have not been put in place.
The failure of the international system is that it’s 20th-century institutions that simply cannot meet the needs of the 21st century. They’re made for a different era. You have U.N. agencies coming, with all kinds of alphabet that nobody understands, but their main function, supposedly, is to provide technical assistance. Now I can buy all the technical assistance I need from Nepal, at one-hundredth the cost and 10 times the efficiency. Why would I need the U.N. agencies? Or on the ground. So the design of these institutions needs reworking.
The other major failure that confronts U.S. decision-makers is USAID. USAID is a shell of its former self of the 1960s and ’70s, denuded of capacity for delivering development. It’s a contract-management agency that is largely beholden to the Beltway bandits, and does not have the personnel and the resources to supervise its contractors. So it’s the problem of the principal and the agent. The agent has become much more powerful than the principal. Net result: out of one dollar of U.S. assistance, 10 cents to 30 cents gets to the ground. The rest ends up along the Beltway. That is not what the American public wants, or not what the Afghan public wants.
That’s the negative side of the story, and I said this is 5 percent of my work. Ninety-five percent of my work is actually a positive. My message, contrary to my message of 2003 to Fred, when I was beginning to become pessimistic and warn against the signs that people were ignoring – I’m quite optimistic today that we can get Afghanistan right. It is very difficult, but it’s by no means impossible.
Why this message? First, what are the assets? First, geology. The natural capital of the country is fantastic. The recently completed U.S. Geological Survey is very good news. Afghanistan is not Iraq, so let’s not mistake, but it has enough natural resources to provide the basis of a sustainable economy that would be an alternative to a drug economy.
Second, it has water. We have 80 billion cubic meter of water a year, and we pump 60 billion of it to our neighbors, without getting advertising in return. But water, during the next 10 years, is going to become as valuable as oil, if not more so. So it provides the basis.
Its location, that has been the source of enormous problems in the last three decades, actually makes it the natural connection between South Asia and Central Asia. It is the only place that can give Pakistan strategic depth in the true meaning of the sense, meaning economic and relational. So the dynamic can change, from lose-lose to win-win – as well as between South Asia and the Middle East.
The other is that, contrary to headline news, there’s a series of major institutional successes in the last six years. I’ll mention two. One is called National Solidarity, a program of block grants rural development that has given 20 to $60,000 to each village in Afghanistan and has truly covered the country. From Ambassador Holbrook to Senators Levin and Durbin, to Bob Zoellick at the World Bank – everybody has reviewed these and are stunned by the results. Democracy at the grass roots is possible and is working. People have bought in. Self-management social capital is enormous success.
Second is the telecom. We went from having 100 mobile phones in 2002 to having 7 1/2 million phones today. The largest single taxpayer outside custom revenue comes from the telecom sector. It took six weeks of work, because it was about transparent licensing. Four companies, each worth more than $600 million, are operating in Afghanistan today. So it’s not about risk – it’s about how risk-management tools are brought in.
OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, has made commitments of more than $1 billion to Afghanistan, and the amount that has been recalled is infinitesimal. What it brings is the issue of design. When institutional design is approached the right way, it’s not the context but the design that makes the difference.
This brings me also to the international assets. First, in the wake of the global financial crisis, it is incredibly gratifying to see the international community commit both forces and resources to Afghanistan. President Obama has walked the walk; he has not simply talked the talk. To commit more forces in this time is an act of both courage and statesmanship. But, also, the commitment of resources that that entails is quite a significant statement.
However, with that comes the question of conditions. It’s a second chance. Afghans have to do our part – otherwise, it will be a delimited engagement. International commitment is not going to be there forever – but it is here, and we need to utilize it.
The issue now that forces and resources are committed is regarding the strategic utility and utilization. Forces in themselves are not the answer – it is the strategy that is going to use them that is the issue. If these forces are deployed within a counterinsurgency doctrine, the results could be enormously beneficial. If they are used in other ways, the results could be counterproductive. So there is the question of choices that arises.
But we also need further imagination. And I think imagination has been largely lacking because of a simple issue. The United States, Europe, Japan have not really known what to offer for development of Afghanistan, and the Afghans have not known what to ask for.
What do I mean by that? First of these are guarantees. OPIC has not been matched by Europe. Europe should become, really, an engine of now not just providing aid, but providing financial architecture. From Hermès in Germany to Lloyd’s in London to others, really need to be brought together to provide what OPIC has demonstrated – the utility. And the framework should extend both to Pakistan and Afghanistan, not just to be limited.
Second is green financing. If 40 of the world’s worst polluters come together to finance the hydropower in Afghanistan, Afghanistan within four to six years could become a major exporter of electricity in the region. Northern Afghanistan alone has the potential of producing 10,000 megawatts. Overall, the country could be a major drive of new energy. And if energy is put on the table, the dynamic will change in the region. If Europe was about coal and steel Afghanistan and Pakistan could be about energy and transit, and then built on that kind of foundation.
And third is trade. And in terms of trade, our first port of call is NATO. NATO is not buying from us. NATO is bringing tons of water from abroad, not to mention grapes and other things. It’s enormously ironic to see Frenchmen eat French grapes in Afghanistan, while we export grapes. Buying Afghan first could change the dynamic of agriculture radically.
That’s the assets in the question: How do we prioritize state building? My recommendation and argument is that we need to tailor the strategy into four orders of institutions, hence the 10-year framework. So let me very quickly go over these.
First order core function – law and order. The emphasis overwhelmingly is on security. In my judgment, this is the wrong emphasis. We need to reframe security within law and order. If we go for security without framing it in terms of law and order, we’ll end up with repressive security institutions.
Second is public finance. We are leaking 70 percent of our revenue today in Afghanistan due to corruption and mismanagement. Afghan revenue can be doubled or tripled very quickly, if the political will existed, in a series of mechanisms.
Third is administrative control. Afghanistan has five levels of government: the village; district; municipality; province; and the central. We are a unitary system – we are not a federal structure. Our American friends often confuse our provinces with their own elected governors, and this has produced a lot of unintended results.
These five levels need to be brought together. It’s not a question of centralization or decentralization – it’s the question of alignment. And, again, National Solidarity provides one example. I designed other programs, for other levels, but they were not followed.
And the fourth is human capital. Not one university in Afghanistan is functional. We, together – the Afghans and our international counterparts – have delivered the youth to the arms of the Taliban and irrelevance. We need to invest in youth. Two billion dollars is gone in technical assistance. And Afghanistan’s ranking, in Transparency International, has dropped from 117 in 2005 to 176 – namely, the fifth most-corrupt country – in the same time. There’s surely something wrong with this recipe. If we invest in the Afghan higher education and technical education, one could change the dynamic.
The second-order institutions is, simply put, about jobs. The most common definition of a Talib is an unemployed youth. Seventy-one percent of Afghans are under the age of 30, and 40 to 60 percent of these are unemployed or suffer from hidden unemployment. My goal would be to create 1 million jobs in two years. And five sectors – agriculture, mining, construction, transport and information-communication technology – can provide this.
In agriculture, the goal should be to raise the income of rural Afghans from $1 a day to $4 a day. Why $4 a day? That’s the tipping point in which production of opium does not make economic sense. You can have any amount of investment in repressive institutions to contain narcotics. You won’t get there, unless it’s simultaneously accompanied by an agricultural development. And the irony is, the United States knows how to do this better than anybody.
A county in Nebraska or Oklahoma has all the knowledge that is required to transform agriculture in Afghanistan. And not only did you do it in your own country, after the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, you did it fantastically in East Asia. We just need to draw those models, rather than the Beltway models.
Here my emphasis is on building the market. We have not paid sufficient attention to building the market, because there was a feeling, during the height of the 1980s and ’90s, that the market was a natural institution. It is not. It’s a social construct, and it’s an institution-building process. And this requires innovative approaches. And, again, I would emphasize the use of NATO as the first port of call.
Our third-order institutions are about infrastructure. In creating the global linkages, I have mentioned the hydro potential, then roads and railways, are critical as the next linkage. China is going to be the greatest purchaser of the mineral resources of Afghanistan, and two things are required if Afghanistan is going to benefit. One is rule of law. We need the right contracting arrangements. The extractive industries’ initiative and transparency is the key requirement. Second is the railway. All of Afghanistan’s potential exports are bulky – and without investing in the railway, it will not happen.
It is really ironic at times to see, with hindsight, what one was requesting and was being rejected. In the Berlin conference of 2004, I requested $27 billion for eight years. And we had a huge fight, for over four months, because our international colleagues wanted to give us 1 billion, and I was asking 8.2 as the first installment. I got 8.2. But the thing that they took out was $500 million for railways. And today, every single military planner is coming back and is willing to put three times that amount to secure NATO supply routes. Sometimes locals do know best. (Chuckles.) And I think local wisdom, at times, has to be appreciated in commitment.
The third part is social policy. We need an activist social policy, but it’s a social policy that is to balance the market and redistribution together. I offer one example. We have 700,000 disabled in our country. An artificial foot costs between $3,000 and $15,000 in Europe or the United States. So it’s outside our affordability limit – and, hence, you see these people. But you know what? India has created an artificial foot that costs $40. It’s called the Jaipur foot. It does not require immense imagination to produce the Jaipur foot by Afghan women in poor urban neighborhoods who are unemployed, to hit two goals at the same time. A new social contract can be arrived at, that is both affordable and drives both the economy and the polity.
And related to this is, we need to approach development through creation of platforms. The National Solidarity program that I brought to your attention is a platform for rural development. A lot more could be built on it. For instance, in my count, 40 percent of the country could be provided with power through microhydro, and within two years. Thirty-5 percent of Nepal has this, so it is not outside the range. But one needs to think institutionally and create the linkages.
The fourth-order institutions, first and foremost, are about three things. First is public borrowing. Municipal borrowing could become an engine of municipal change. We have to get outside aid to trade in borrowing capability. But here is the constraint. One hundred countries around the world, Iraq being the worst, cannot spend their money. Everybody talks about the need for money – very few people talk about the expenditure constraint. The expenditure constraint is removed when you have a proper construction industry and the rules and regulations. And that is the lubrication when public borrowing becomes a driver of efficiency.
Second is regulation. Regulation is often considered a luxury. But it was failure of regulation in Afghanistan that created the deepening of the criminalization of the economy. So things that look like luxuries at times become very necessity. And here, particularly in terms of public cultural environmental assets, is critical.
I’ll give you just one example. I pay $400 a month for my Internet service in Kabul. What I would like to see is the first country that is Wi-Fi-free. The taxes that you will get from Internet are a fragment of the economic benefit that we could have if we created a Wi-Fi-free country. So one has to jump over a lot of things, because if we had a Wi-Fi-free country, with spectrum, education in the remotest areas could be brought to access. Market relationship would change; efficiency transparency will increase, et cetera.
Then, again, we need to come back to the centrality of human capital, because there are two predictors today of development: natural capital and human capital. We have the natural capital, but we do not have the human capital. And here what is required is a 10-year framework of the capabilities that are going to be required, and relentlessly investing in them.
For instance, if mining is as important as I’m arguing it is, then we need at least 500 people who understand the legal aspects of mining contracts. Or 500 other people who are going to understand every aspect of copper. We have probably the second- or third-largest copper deposits in the world. These things cannot be done unless there’s a framework.
What’s the strategic justification for the medium-term objectives? First, the country has had a history of stability. The first eight decades of the country – those of you who are old enough to have been on the Hippie Trail will recall that you went through Afghanistan paying $20, and you were never stopped. The last 20 years are an aberration. And those 20 years were the results of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and then the decision of the West, and the Arab governments, to fight it. They are not typical.
Second, there has been a national consensus for state-building and institutional success between 2002 and 2005. Thirdly, the most-important factor: the Afghan people want to buy into the process of globalization and change. You know what we want? We want to be ordinary. My desire is to be able to go back to the village where my family has been for 400 years, and sit under a tree without a bodyguard. I cannot do that. There are 50 gangs in my province. But that desire for ordinariness is what drives the foundation, and provides us with a sense of justice and peace.
And here I think American military innovation is the next key strategic justification. COIN, or the counterinsurgency doctrine, connects to deep Afghan cultural roots – namely, the quest for justice. Thompson, who first worked in Malaysia, put the equation best: Legality plus construction plus results should equal government. Illegality plus destruction plus promises should equal insurgency.
Today, unfortunately, the first half of the equation is not there. But because COIN recognizes the centrality of government, COIN in Afghanistan is to be seen as a medium-term. It’s not going to be like Iraq, with a quick surge. This is going to require four to 10 years, at the minimum. And that is the important issue. And, lastly, internationally, donors now understand the costs of incoherence, and, I think, already – (inaudible). Everybody is talking about coordination, but not knowing.
So how do we get to those goals, given the current context? Five quick observations. One – get the elections right. The game-changer is not the insurgency and counterinsurgency battle to the finish. The game-changer is to produce a legitimate election, that the next government of Afghanistan can have a mandate for governing.
Two – make this international strategy coherent. We don’t have a coherent international strategy. Incoherence has been the name of this. It’s called “strategy” on paper, on the ground – it’s been advertising but strategic. Lower the objectives, by all means, or elevate them, but make it coherent – and stick to them.
Three – prepare a series of new national programs, along the models that I suggested. Four – use national solidarity as a platform. And five – because everything cannot be done at the same time, invest in creating eight model provinces this year. Afghanistan has 34 provinces. If we can demonstrate success in eight provinces, we would have regained the initiative vis-à-vis the insurgency.
The final message: It is doable. Afghanistan is difficult, but not impossible. South Korea in the ’50s; Singapore in the ’60s; and other places – Malaysia – all demonstrated enormous difficulties at the beginning. But there were changes that shifted the direction from incoherence and improvisation to coherence in pursuit of a clear strategy. And that give us the winners.
I hope, 10 years from now, we can celebrate the successes of a joint venture and adventure. Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Ashraf.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Ashraf. I think I undersold you in the beginning when I said someone who knows the local situation intimately but understands the global context intimately. I think you’ve just heard a presentation on somebody’s country and its context in not only the regional order or global order – which is stunning – and that’s the reason we have published this report. Also for those of you who are here, we will do a full transcript of this proceeding so that you will also get Ashraf’s ideas off our Web site as soon as we can get it up there.
Let me also acknowledge Joe Snyder here, the former head of our Asia program, who got our Pakistan work on the report that we got going last year. I’m going to start with a question, but I’m going to turn to the audience right away, so please get ready. Here’s my first question – and I hate to go to news from today when we’re talking and we’re trying to have a longer gaze, but just as you can’t achieve tomorrow – just as you can’t know what to do today if you don’t know what you’re after tomorrow, you also won’t achieve tomorrow unless you recognize the dangers of today.
So the news – if you haven’t seen it already – is Secretary Hillary Clinton’s testimony today on the Hill where she talks about Pakistan posing a mortal threat – quote, “poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.” Pakistan’s government – Reuters reads, “Pakistan’s government has abdicated to the Taliban in agreeing to impose Islamic law in Swat Valley and the country now poses, quote, a ‘mortal threat’ to the world, said U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Ashraf, I wonder if you could talk about this in two respects. First of all, do you agree? How would you respond to Secretary Clinton? And second of all, are we in danger of losing Afghanistan again as a priority in America? Before, it was for Iraq, but are we now going to go headlong in Pakistan, which one has to do, no doubt. But at the same time, have you seen signs or are you concerned that the Obama administration, which started with a very, very sharp focus on Afghanistan – and I’m not trying to say they’re separate, but one could see some distraction from what really seemed to be a very – a real shift from Iraq to Afghanistan as the place to focus energies on now.
MR. GHANI: Thank you. I studied Pakistan from 1980 to 1996. So in some ways, I know it better than Afghanistan. And the central issue is Pakistan has not figured out succession. There’s been – the process of succeeding to office legitimately has not been figured. Second, the Pakistani military is a real factor. Afghanistan does not have the equivalent. So in a context like this, what is – but the civil and the military have not reached agreement on rules of the game.
The fundamental issue, if Pakistan is going to shift to address that kind of situation, is going to be a civil-military alliance , realistically, because security in Pakistan has been deteriorating for 20 years. Karachi is not ruled – the largest port in the country. Three of Pakistan’s – from a perspective of neighbor or from perspective of scholar or World Bank official, et cetera, I’ve seen Pakistan – and then as a high rank of one government official.
I’ve never understood what Pakistan’s national interests are. I’ve had no difficulty understanding Iran’s national interest; I’ve had no difficulty understanding Uzbekistan’s national interest or Turkmenistan’s national interest. But as neighbors of Pakistan, we get to be very confused as to who speaks and what is the order of priority. And this is the challenge in Pakistan. Because of this, it is a very difficult environment.
Second, however, is we need – Pakistan’s need for a stable relationship with the West has not been addressed during the last 60 years. What’s been the pattern? Pakistan has been floated when there has been a regional crisis or global crisis and Pakistan has been dropped when that crisis has been over. If we want stability in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, I think a 10-to-20-year framework of partnership really needs to be put in place.
Everyone cannot be a member of NATO; everyone cannot be a member of the EU. But more innovative mechanisms have to be devised to bring these sort of issues together. Pakistan is suffering from fundamental insecurity – two-thirds of its borders are still not recognized. So we need innovative mechanisms in terms of.
Now, as to the danger, David Sanger’s book, “Inheritance,” is something that everybody should read. It is a frightening book because the risks that he indicates and underlines on the basis of very high level access to U.S. officials frightens both us in the region and should frighten the rest of the world. And I think Secretary Clinton is highlighting those. Now, from risk to risk management is a different issue. Now that the risks in Pakistan are recognized, how do we arrive at the strategy that manages these risks through mechanisms of partnership that are going to be medium to long-term?
The first of these: Do not rely on lynchpins. We have done this before. An individual cannot be a country. One has to strive towards building systems and this means now being a catalyst for building regional systems. It cannot be security per country. You know, there’s the whole joke of socialism in one country, and of course it imploded. But one needs security, regional arrangements and broader definition of them.
As to Pakistan taking all the oxygen the way Iraq did, that danger is real. And it’s because of this that I think we need to focus on the elections in Afghanistan and on the significant differences – both similarities, inter-linkages – but also differences. Afghanistan is difficult, but its easier establish democratic institutions in Afghanistan than it actually is Pakistan, ironically, because we do not have the military as a formidable contender and stakeholder to negotiate.
If, however, we understand, then, from a comparative perspective – not to speak as national but as a member of peer advisory board – Pakistan is a nuclear power, any instability in Pakistan will have deeply threatening effects on the region and on the world. But having said that, neglecting Afghanistan for a third time would have a very high price and we need to be able to make sure that now the definition of U.S. strategy is regional in the focus – stays regional in terms of the inter-linkages and getting there.
The U.S. team makes me optimistic. General Jones, Ambassador Holbrooke, Ambassador Eikenberry, Secretary Clinton – are all an enormously good team. So if cannot be done with this type of team, with the experience and forethought that they bring, then one would not be able to do it that way.
MR. KEMPE: Okay, thank you very much Ashraf. I see questions – I saw yours first and then we’ll go first. And please identify yourself as well as you ask your question.
Q: Good evening, my name is Andrea Kivandra (ph) from Georgetown University. I study anthropology and this area in particular so I know you are an anthropologist by training and I’ve studied your articles during my studies. So now my question is not so much to the former minister of the Republic of Afghanistan but to the anthropologist that, inshallah, will be the next president, hopefully.
So you talked about democratic institutions; you have talked about changing things; and the program that you envision fits perfectly, I would say, a liberal and Western-minded environment. Now, what I see, though, is that Afghanistan is hardly a liberal and Western-minded environment. Half of the country – namely the Pashtun section of the country – is a tribal society and mostly rural, which probably would have other ideas and, specifically, responses to democratic institutions as we see them.
So since the 1880s, Abdur Rahman and Amanullah and Mohammad Daud – they have tried to centralize, to endorse and enforce more democratic institutions. They have failed. They have failed because the tribal society has rejected these advancements, has rejected these modifications of their traditional way of life. So how do you think, now, your try – your next try – your attempt will overcome the problems that so many other people have had? How do you treat the tribal society?
MR. GHANI: Thank you. It’s an excellent question and I appreciate the question. First, tribes don’t have definitions. Afghan tribes are not corporate, meaning that there is no estate attached to an Afghan tribe. So imposition of the anthropological definition of an African tribe from the 1920s onto the Afghan context is a radical misreading. Western anthropology has been extremely bad in terms of reading Afghan culture.
And if you know my work, you know, I documented the last 400 years as a process of fluidity. Identity is not fixed. An Afghan, by definition, has multiple identities. That becomes very difficult for people from others to understand. Identity is situational. I’ll just give you one example from a Pashtun in Pakistan whose name was Walih Khan (sp) – the head of a major political party. He was asked whether he was Pakistani.
He said he was a Pashtun for 5,000 years, a Muslim for 1,500 years and a Pakistani for 32 years, so you judge – what’s his identity? We need to understand that symbolic systems have flexibility. A misreading – Khost is radically different than Helmand; Helmand is very different from Badhgis. To generalize too quickly would be problematic – that’s my first submission to you. So it requires reading context.
Q: So a local approach.
MR. GHANI: A local approach is one part of it in this model. The second is, you know, five million of us were refugees. You go to an Afghan village, you ask two questions. How many of you have been abroad? How many of you have relatives abroad? You will get the answer, usually, between 75 to 95 percent to one or both questions. To think that the Afghans of today are the Afghans of 19th or 18th century would be a vast misreading.
You know, we had electricity when we were refugees. Now, when we talk, and talk about electricity as defining the effectiveness of the state, it’s a different set of measures. Three, one-third of our society is urban; at least a third of us are living in cities. Fourth is the emergence of women. When I was talking to the elders of Khost as to who will determine the result of the election, you know what they said?
It’s the women. They said, it’s the women, stupid. If you don’t get the women, you’re not going to win the election. They are not following anybody. So anthropology is very useful when it’s processural (sic) – when it takes the long process. Anthropology is extremely dangerous when it’s static. And contemporary anthropology has become very ahistorical.
Q: (Inaudible, off mike) – diachronic approach.
MR. GHANI: It’s a diachronic approach that really needs to – in your jargon – (chuckles) – to become important to them. The question is between history and agency. People make their history, as – it’s been frequently recognized, particularly from the Balkans, you know, history is both a constraint and an opportunity. We have too much history. I want to overcome our history. And I think the way I read my people – I’ve talked, at least, to tens of thousands of people since July in a very organized process of consultation. I don’t hear what you say.
What they want is a functioning government that is accountable to them, foreign forces that are directed by rule of law, a development discourse that really is about change of opportunities. Then the question of which system of legitimation you put at it is much easier. Last observation on Islam: The Islam that I’d like to see is the Islam of 1,000 years ago. I want to go back 1,000 years ago in order to move 1,000 years forward.
A thousand years ago, we were the center of a global synthesis that brought India, Persia, Rome and the emerging Islamic world together. And it created the Abbasid-Ghaznavid synthesis. That Islam is enormously confident. You know, there was one man called Abu Rahihan al Biruni; he lived in Ghazni 1,000 years ago. His mathematical outputs alone are 20,000 current printed pages. We need to feel back – you know, that’s the man who transferred zero and the so-called Arabic numerals to the West.
So we need to reclaim part of our past, because our problem has been that a lot of my generation falsely embraced Western notions and lost its roots. I stand very firmly within that global Islamic tradition of dialogue, where we are not afraid, where we know who we are in certain senses and in other senses, we converse. So we have to shift to what President Khatami of Iran has also called the dialogue of civilization, not the clash of civilization. That, I think, is what I read. And I hope I’m right and that – I feel that the Afghan population – the public – is about five miles – for the first time in our history – ahead of our intellectuals and ahead of our political leaders. I think we can govern from the center.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you for that answer. I’m going to go to a board member of ours toward the back and then I’ll come to you second. Before Jim Woolsey asks this question I want to say one thing since the last questioner brought it up. We at the Atlantic Council realize that Ashraf Ghani is a candidate for president of Afghanistan. This project was started long before that; in fact, it took you a long time to put out this paper. (Laughter.) We are nonpartisan in the United States, so it only follows that we’ll be nonpartisan globally. And so we do not endorse any candidate for the presidency of Afghanistan.
MR. GHANI: And I’m not campaigning –
MR. KEMPE: No, but I want to make clear that this is not the purpose of this meeting or this is why we’re doing it. We do endorse every word of this terrific paper and we are fundamentally against corruption and failing democracies. So let me just say that. Jim Woolsey?
Q: Jim Woolsey, Stanford University – (inaudible, off mike). I wanted to ask about the distributive generation of energy. The water and energy projects that you talked about are extremely important but also seem to require – (inaudible) – great deal of – (inaudible). And there’s a long history going back well before Jefferson was arguing with Hamilton about – (inaudible) – farmers, and Gandhi – (inaudible) – that suggests that global economic competitions, including energy does extremely positive things for a society. Claire (ph), earlier, was talking to – (inaudible) – progress and work she was doing in Afghanistan on solar, wind and biomass, done locally, used locally – (inaudible).
MR. GHANI: Sure. Well, thank you again, Mr. Woolsey, for being here and for the question. First experiments that took place were using literally the transformation of swords into plowshares – namely, taking the dynamo of a Russian tank and turning into an engine for generating power at the local level. There are lots of villages in Afghanistan that are generating, you know, five kilowatts to 50. It’s beginning; what’s the problem? The problem is that we don’t have manufacturing capacity with control. We have one million tons of scrap metal, but it’s fast disappearing.
So it’s – my first proposal is precisely to make national solidarity a vehicle for delivering micro-hydro. Essentially, the design is quite simple. You need an engine that can last – DARPA is examining some of the engines now to see. Then you need a patent to manufacture that engine so it can be reliable. And third is local involvement. There is a woman in Ghazni; she read about the fact that water could be turned into electricity. Her husband and her sons were all working in Iran. She mobilized the women, got stones to harness this form, then brought the men to work on the heavier stones.
Then she collected $20 per villager – she brought an association of villagers together. Without a single NGO, without a single foreign influence, she generated power for her village. And it’s the cleanest village, probably, in Afghanistan today. So local initiative is extremely important in this. But if we want to go to scale and change the dynamic, particularly for women, we need to bring to scale to it. And that means bringing production and distribution together and then investing in it and allowing for it.
In terms of meso-level, the French have come with – about 20 years ago – came with a method that puts the turbines in the middle of a river. So you don’t need the great, old dams like Hoover Dam or the dams of China or others. If you took a river – and this has been done in Canada and Thailand, as two examples – and really treated it as a network of these small to medium dams, you could generate the same amount of electricity as two or three huge dams that have a lot of environmental and social adverse cost. And this has none.
And that is my proposal. We need – you know, we have this great capability in PRTs as engineers. But they are not networked. If we could use the engineering capability of the Army Corps of Engineers to design our electric systems, we could really move very rapidly – or bring, for instance, Norway, which as enormous experience in this regard, or Canada. A lot of things could be done differently.
The reason I am emphasizing medium and then large power is because neither agriculture nor mining nor services can really move without power. I’m very much in favor of small participation. And the design of national solidarity – the way I designed it – was that in five years, the bulk of it would turn into national rural enterprise. The model that I really have is that most Afghan villages should become enterprises. We will not be able to afford a model of social policy that distributes forever.
So you need to generate the wealth that can pay for this. And that, I think, brings the two together because information technology today could bring – be the critical linkage between decentralization and centralization. Decentralization should be at the level of administrative practices. Centralization should come from economic magnets that attract people and link them.
Jewelry, for instance, could provide probably 500,000 jobs to Afghan women if the design connects us to major museums, to major shops and centers of outlet. An Afghan woman can produce enormous things of quality. Their problem is not production of quality; their problem is access to the global value chains. Heroin is linked globally, but not the fruit, not the textile, not the jewelry that an Afghan woman can produce.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Please.
Q: David Isby (ph). Sir, I note your frankness in which you identify the failures of Afghanistan’s political elite as contributing to much of the current problems, and I’ve seen much of that failure results people being mobilized not to a national vision but to either ethno-linguistic or local at different levels. How can a government, which by it’s constitution is not a federal system, incorporate its diverse ethnicity, prevent things fissuring on that line, when wealthy countries such as Belgium and Canada find intractable issues? How does Afghanistan do that?
MR. GHANI: Sure. Well, the first thing is we are the only country in South Asia that has never had a separatist movement. That is worth noticing. Every single province of Pakistan has had a separatist movement. No one in Afghanistan, during the worst of our days, has raised the question – the specter – of separatism. That speaks for a history that largely has a symbolic, common identity. The second issue is the question of segmentation. How do we segment really matters.
You know, the beauty of General Petraeus’s approach to Iraq was that, you know, everybody else was dividing and subdividing Iraq into 40 categories of Shia, 25 categories of Sunni, Kurds, et cetera; he came and simplified it to reconcilables and irreconcilables. It changed the dynamic of the strategy. In Afghanistan, there are three numerical majorities that are economic and political minorities today.
First are the poor. They constitute 80 percent of the country. Poverty in Afghanistan does not know ethnicity. Second are the youth. They are 71 percent of the country and again, the youth are not – both being divided and not being divided along ethnic lines. Third are the women. They are the third majority. But they are a minority, politically and economically. One has to focus on an agenda of creating the empowerment of these groups. Where is the common bond and where is the problem?
The problem is the vacuum of a political vision. Ethnicity filled a vacuum because the Islam ideology of resistance to the Soviets failed to deliver governance. They became warlords and fighters, not statesmen. The communist ideology failed to deliver because it gave us red terror. There was a democratic project that needed to be articulated in terms of citizenship rights and rule of law that the Afghan elites were treated for. Once that happens, ethnicity was the structure in reserve.
But ethnicity has not delivered development. You know, vote-banks have still not been created. There is a lot of dissatisfaction, but that dissatisfaction is taking the general characteristic of disenchantment with lack of development and absence of rule of law. So the turnaround issue is how can you use the center to become a magnet instead of the source of the repulsion? That means roughly 3,000 Afghans have to take a fast from corruption for 10 years. If we can persuade 3,000 Afghans in key, core government positions, you don’t need the 400,000 bureaucracy. You just need 3,000.
And think innovatively about private-public partnership in ways that Spain did or Singapore did – a democratic model and a more authoritative model. Then the capacity – the energy that is there – can really be harnessed. Not to go too long about it, but what – Afghans are an entrepreneurial people. We’ve known money for a couple of million years. The word check was invented by us and went to other languages. We were transferring money long before anybody knew what money was. We understand market signals.
The other is that collective conscience really is very powerful. Individual judgments can be problematic. But there is a collective conscience and it’s the harnessing of that – is it difficult? Absolutely, because the playing field has become strewn with a lot of mines. Is there an alternative to building that kind of vision? No, because what would be the alternative? It would be 40 years of conflict.
We can go to a prolonged type of conflict, like Columbia, but be much more intense. And it will have devastating consequences. So 1991, you could have gotten Afghanistan right roughly with $500 million and five days of attention in Washington. You didn’t. We got 9/11. Now, the scale of the problem and the nature of attention required is vastly different, but I don’t think we have an alternative but to focus to get it right.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thank you. Thank you very much for this report. I have rarely seen a report that deals directly with the long-term issue as it should be. And especially in Washington, the comprehensiveness of the report and the policy options – very solid. So having said that, let me take issue with one item of the report, especially in relations to the short-term recommendations. I think that the nature of the insurgency today in the region – as you have mentioned, this is a regional issue – is such that, in my opinion, it’s very likely that it would actually overwhelm the short-term issues, recommendations that you have just described.
I could imagine a scenario that now, the insurgency certainly are taking territory across the border, and in the South of Afghanistan, have a certain amount of control. So if that is the case, you know, people refer to the fact that Pakistan will be – the army will take over and it will be okay. But this time, it will be different, because the army actually have to fight against this insurgency that’s very powerful and sophisticated. So we will see bloodshed and somewhat of a chaos that would affect Afghanistan.
My question is that given that likely scenario, that the nature of the insurgency is imminently important, perhaps there would be a way of viewing the short-term recommendations from a different context. In an otherwise excellent report, I think this is one aspect that is somewhat missing.
MR. KEMPE: I think that’s an excellent question, Ashraf, and let me pile an additional question onto that, which is, how does the situation now look on the ground with the insurgency in Afghanistan? There, of course, is this surge – whatever you want to call it – that’s happening in terms of U.S. troops. On the other hand, you speak of a Taliban that’s enormously well-financed and seems to be getting more sophisticated and perhaps even more capable. So building on that question is my own question.
MR. GHANI: Sure, I think – thank you for an excellent question and observation. The section on threats clearly underlines the logic of what the insurgency is doing. The contrast between the insurgency’s learning and counterinsurgency’s absence of learning is really quite striking. The insurgents are building on everything in the last thousand years of tradition of insurgency in the region, and are incorporating everything from Mao to Diep.
The counterinsurgency, by contrast, is not a learning organization, particularly on the part of the Afghan government. The Afghan government is not standing for governance. So the problem is, where would you need a game-changer? Unless the election becomes the critical game-changer, you’re not having anything else. The current Afghan government is not capable of ruling. They have been in power; can they point out to a single program that they’ve initiated to arrest the decline?
Instead, the game has been on whether the term of the president runs on the 22nd of May. We’ve wasted enormous amount of time on an issue that, really, the elite cares about. You know, whether he stays in office six more months or others is neither here nor there. The national interest would have required about two days’ discussion on this and a mechanism of resolving it. So if you’re pointing to the mechanism that the insurgency’s threat can be addressed in the short term, without the election, you’re not going to get it.
So it’s not that I’ve not considered; it’s that my considered judgment is that change is not going to occur. Too, in terms of where the situation currently is, my reading is that the Taliban has upgraded their capacity to all 34 provinces. The plan of action that they have arrived at is targeting a two-phase series of actions. Phase 1 is choice of targets; Phase 2 is simple verification. And they’ve put a structure for doing this. Now, this produces a changing environment for the new forces.
So the question is, who’s going to have the initiative? The Afghan government is not. It has not produced the kind of governance, the kind of district administrators or the kind of strategy to be able to get a reputation for good governance or delivery of services or tackling agriculture or tackling any of the major needs. The international community has not been coordinated. It failed miserably to address last winter’s drought and the consequences of it.
What will the implementation plan look like? The strategic goals are the right goals; the deployment has taken place; but what is the implementation arrangement on the ground? We are going to find out. So in that regard, on the one side, we know the nature of the threat has become enhanced, but the nature of who is going to take the first initiative is not known.
And I think this is the critical set of decisions that is going to confront both the new key international players on the ground and the Obama administration, because changing context is going to bring a series of decision where the contours of the strategy, where different things were accommodated within the same paper, would need to be defined much more clearly.
MR. KEMPE: So in other words, the signs of progress we’re reading about in the U.S. press and otherwise right now are over-exaggerated?
MR. GHANI: It’s a difficult balance, because the fighting season has not started in earnest. And once the fighting season starts, we will know the full nature of the threat.
MR KEMPE: General there, I see you. Yeah, thanks. And if you could identify yourself for the audience too, please, if you don’t mind.
Q: I’m Bob Magnus and I’m the one who is going to ask all of the questions, but I will ask just one. (Laughter.) Thank you very much for an excellent presentation and response to some very difficult questions. So you’re – even though this isn’t a political forum, you’re well prepared. (Laughter.) It’s not a big surprise, given what I will call the seasonality of the insurgency – I mean, there’s winter, there’s planting season, there’s harvesting season and there’s fighting season. I know because I’ve had the pleasure to be in your country with an enormously talented society, even though by standards of Iraq or the United States, we think that it’s primitive. But in fact, there’s a tremendous resilience of the people.
The concern I’ve got is exactly this flow of good and bad news and the distraction that it creates in Afghanistan or it creates when the shift goes to someplace else, like Pakistan. And understanding that this is inevitable, but the problem is, it’s no surprise that we’re going to get more news out of Afghanistan and more good news out of Afghanistan because we’ve got more U.S. forces going there. And on a transient basis, they will do some good, and the good will be reported and hopefully, there will be a few number of tragedies, but there will be in war, and those will also be reported.
But to be careful, as we are a very – we’re very fluid people; we like to see a problem, solve a problem and move on – to mistake what happens in this harvesting and fighting season as a long-term trend for the society. And I think the biggest problem we’ve got is not so much that the country will be distracted by the – our leadership will be distracted by Pakistan – but, in fact, that our populous will become weary of these ebbing and flowing – and I agree with you that this is a multi-year problem; four years is – I’m not saying it’s optimistic, but clearly, that was the lower band of something which we have.
So could you talk to us, as Americans, and to the quote, “West,” about how to translate a coherent U.S. strategy, which is now Af-Pak, but also a coherent NATO and ISAF strategy into something that we can sell ourselves over time? I think the Romans had a word called tolerance, which was not the kind of thing that Americans think of in tolerance; it was the ability to endure pain and suffering. And this is something where we, along with the Afghan people, have to endure.
MR. GHANI: Well, thank you. I had to count on you for asking difficult questions, and I’m delighted. Thank you and thank you for the service that you’ve rendered, both to your people and to Afghanistan. My first observation is, in a counterinsurgency environment, or in war, it’s the direction of the news, not the final result, that really matters. So we have – the first game-changer would be to produce a series of good-news stories from Afghanistan – not that they’re good news in the sense that the media temporarily reports it, but that there are changing events that convinces the American public that the blood and treasure that they’re putting is producing results.
So how do we do this? There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit. We pick the low-hanging fruit in order to create the sense of confidence among the Afghan people that things are going right, because if things are prioritized – when I was finance minister, I carried a reform every four months, but I carried 100 percent. I would not start something that I wasn’t intending to finish. I centralized the revenue in six weeks. Our strongmen had taken control of customs; we generated the political consensus and then I implemented it relentlessly. That created a sense that we knew what we were doing.
If we want to regain the initiative, we have to go from improvisation to a bit of choreography, because then you can provide a sense of where you’re going, and once you get there, you can tell people what you have done, and then say the next step. The first change with the new Afghan administration would be a 100-day plan of action. And it would have to be credible enough to create, then, the environment for subsequent things.
Let me shift, just slightly, grounds and see why I’m arguing this. You know, you’ve had troops in Korea – in South Korea – for decades. Is it really dawning on American public as to how many troops you have in Korea? They take it for granted because they’re not front news. Because there is not a threat on a daily basis, tolerance in the second sense – and in the first sense – is increasing. So we have to bring a condition. Second is the justification for the American public and for the European public is to be really there, front and center. Where is the justification coming? The justification is going to come from Afghan citizens.
When women stand up and say they want to go to school, even though people throw acids at them, that convinces the American public that these are people worth supporting. You know, Dexter from the New York Times – yeah – has just ended up, because of that story, he’s in Kandahar right now. You know, incidentally, congratulations – he’s won the Pulitzer. A lot of American citizens wrote and provided money to that school – I think over $25,000 has been collected by small checks, to just give to that school.
We need us to humanize the situation – to get the ordinary Afghan citizens to say their lives are improving in fundamental ways. Second is NATO needs to have an exit strategy in a very conscious way – not in the sense that NATO has to run away or break apart, but it has to have a sense of what will Afghan security institutions and political institutions look like to enable it to get out. This is what this paper attempts to lay down, because if you look in 2002 or 2004, the expectations were just the opposite. They were not arriving at an architecture of governance with us; it was a temporary set of measures in order to accommodate temporary considerations.
I think wisdom will now require really arriving at a four-to-10-year framework and relentlessly pursuing it. And this means two things: One, recognizing the limitations of every contributing country, that if they are not going to contribute troops to a real command structure, then it has to be understood as such. Two, what is the other contributions that they can make? Europe can make enormous set of contributions to the economic area. And if that area is brought, then the key insight of counterinsurgency, that it’s 20 percent use of force and 80 percent about governance and development, could become the mechanism of how to engage.
In this context, I think we have to develop joint decision-making mechanisms. The agricultural commission that was created for China by President Roosevelt, and actually signed into law by President Truman, is a model of the type of joint decision-making that one has to explore a lot of other mechanisms so that this fission that comes from parallel organizations in attempting to do things the most expensive way is changed. Illustration: One-third of U.S. forces today are doing civilian tasks. Are those civilian tasks really to be performed by American civilians, or can we perform them by Afghans?
You know, PRTs for instance, contract building of wells and building of schools – each supervision of a well takes a convoy of six to 10 cars. It’s a very risky adventure. Afghans have been digging wells for about 5,000 years; I think we should be trusted with digging wells. It will be done at one-tenth of the cost. So some simplification of the mechanisms and creating the mechanisms of joint ownership and decision-making could go a long way. And then the type of news that comes would be reinforced.
If the direction is right and the fight is seen as just, I think a cause matters both to the American public and to Afghan public. American public, in my reading – you know, I have two American children – are very patriotic. If the patriotic sense is harnessed to this global effort and that the threat is regional and the threat there is to lives here, the justification could be established, but they have to see movement. And I think movement is possible.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Ashraf. I know there are more questions in the audience and I particularly apologize to a couple of people who I just didn’t get to. And I’m sorry about that and I’ll get you first at the next meeting. Let me just say, in brief, that there’s a lot to chew on in this report and what you said today. I think the whole idea of matching short-term actions with long-term goals is such a simple one, but it’s one that so rarely is done – and the fact that we’ve laid out the long-term goals here against which the short-term actions can be matched.
Now, will that always be perfect? No, but you at least have to have them in front of you. And I think the long-term goals you’ve laid out are actually inspiring in the sense that they’re doable, there’s a lot there, there’s enormous possibilities in Afghanistan. And I think one of the things that one has to combat in this town is, you know, too rapid a fatigue about a situation and great cynicism, very often, about situations. So I think this is a very important report.
There’s also some interesting news in all of this today, for anyone who was following that. I think the response to Secretary Clinton’s remarks on Pakistan was quite interesting, and the doubts about what’s going on in terms of counterinsurgency on the ground in Afghanistan from someone who’s just come back from the ground in Afghanistan.
The election is a crucial turning point, of course, and the call for a hunger fast on corruption for 3,000 senior officials. Not to mention, for all of those who follow anthropology, I think we have delved into anthropology in a depth that is not usually done at the Atlantic Council.
So I want to thank you on behalf of the audience, Ashraf. But I want to thank you in the way that you thanked General Magnus for your service to your country, Afghanistan, for your service to your other country, the United States, for your service to the world – but, most of all, for your service to the Atlantic Council, of course. Thank you very much.
MR. GHANI: (Chuckles.) Thank you. (Applause.)
It’s a treat to be with you. My last thing is, there’s a 300-page version of this in Pashto, Dari and Uzbek that is really going to, hopefully, launch a national debate in Afghanistan. So we are not keeping this confined to English and thanks to Fred’s prodding because, without your prodding, I think I would have never done this or that one. (Chuckles.) So thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Every week. So where’s that tenure – (inaudible, laughter). What do you mean they’re running for president? We haven’t finished the report. Thank you very much, Ashraf.
MR. GHANI: Thank you.
Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.