NEW YORK, Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan's permanent representative to the United Nation, says his country expects continued international assistance after the withdrawal of most Western troops this year. In an interview with RFE/RL correspondent Ahmad Shah Azami, Tanin said that international support during the next decade could prove transformational for his country.
RFE/RL: What kind of partnership would you like to see between Afghanistan and the international community beyond 2014?
Zahir Tanin: There is a security and civilian commitment of NATO and other countries that have signed strategic partnership agreements with Afghanistan. Other donor countries [have also pledged] to help Afghanistan to stand on its feet and achieve its goal of self sufficiency in military and non-military affairs in the decade beyond 2014. We call this a 'transformation' decade. The nature of the [future] relationship will not be the same. The international community will continue its support for Afghanistan without the extraordinary presence that they had in this [past] decade. What is clear for the people of Afghanistan and international community is that we are working together to frame this relationship for the transformation period after 2014.
RFE/RL: President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly said that the instability in Afghanistan is created by regional interference in his country. Has Kabul succeeded in selling this perspective to the international community?
Tanin: Afghan President Hamid Karzai was persistent that the threat to regional or international peace doesn’t come from Afghan villages. I think Afghanistan, its neighbors and international community now understand that the threat to peace and security is not confined to the Afghan borders. We face a regional threat with [extremist] sanctuaries that are located beyond Afghan borders. The security of Afghanistan and Pakistan is threatened by these sanctuaries. The security of the whole region and international community is still being threatened by the existence of these terrorist networks.
RFE/RL: Why has the international community failed to persuade Pakistan to close militant sanctuaries on its soil, which Kabul claims provide hideouts to the Afghan Taliban and foreign militants?
Tanin: The presence of these sanctuaries is no longer disputable. There is recognition of the fact that Taliban leadership and associated groups like the Haqqani Network and others continue to benefit from their presence in Pakistan. The Afghan and Pakistani leadership [is now trying] to address this issue. Under the new [civilian] leadership and the previous leadership of Pakistan, steps were taken to understand [and address] the concerns of Kabul. The Afghan leadership tried whatever was necessary to see how the two countries can work together to address terrorism, to address the Taliban threat and instability in the region. I think we still need more steps to be taken. There is an expectation in Kabul to see how Pakistan’s new government can help to initiate peace talks that have been long overdue.
RFE/RL: How do you evaluate the role of the international community in Afghanistan?
Tanin: If you compare the Afghanistan of today with the Afghanistan of 2001 it is not the same. Afghanistan most importantly is now a home to all Afghans. Millions of refugees are back. Our flag now flutters in the remote areas of our country as well as [on our diplomatic missions] around the world. Millions of children are going to school. Access to healthcare has increased [exponentially]. We have a government. Of course, Afghanistan is not yet at peace. Afghanistan is still away from a self-sufficient economy. Afghanistan needs at least another decade to stand on its own feet in securing its people and building its economy.