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Afghanistan Envoy In Washington Optimistic Over Continued Support

Hamdullah Mohib
Hamdullah Mohib

Hamdullah Mohib, 32, holds a doctorate in computer science. As Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, he is now, however, tasked with looking after Kabul’s interests in Washington. Mohib says that despite engaging in the longest war in U.S. history, Washington views his country as a “dependable” ally in the fight against terrorism.

RFE/RL: How would describe your country’s standing in Washington today?

Hamdullah Mohib: Afghanistan is seen as a dependable, loyal partner to the U.S. who shares its national interests in defeating terror and stabilizing the region. Although Afghanistan was long synonymous in Washington with “the war on terror,” that has changed.

People here [in Washington] agree with the aims of Afghanistan’s national unity government, led by President [Ashraf] Ghani -- who spent many years in Washington as a World Bank economist -- and there is considerable support for the government’s reform plan, which is designed to help Afghanistan to be self-reliant within a decade. We are creating jobs, combating corruption, investing in our large youth population, forging regional cooperation, and developing our natural resources. As much as the United States and other international allies are committed to supporting Afghanistan’s development and security goals, our desire to stand on our own is widely applauded here.

When I talk about Afghanistan to people here -- politicians, public opinion leaders, members of the military and ordinary Americans -- they understand we are trying to recover from decades of war while still facing attacks from a common enemy and still very much need the help and support of the United States.

RFE/RL: Pakistan is known for being active in Washington, while Afghanistan has been criticized frequently for falling behind on that front. Are you trying to change that?

Mohib: As the Afghan ambassador, I have one main goal: to strengthen understanding, relations, and cooperation between my country and America. Any embassy can hire a lobbying firm or a PR company to do that, but then the people advocating for your interests are only doing it because you are paying them to.

Since taking up my post last year, I have met with scores of people, interest groups, and prominent organizations who regularly speak on behalf of Afghanistan out of their own interest and desire to help. I have learned that in Washington -- actually, all over America -- Afghanistan has many friends and allies who know how important the U.S.-Afghan partnership is and genuinely want to see Afghanistan succeed.

These supporters work at government agencies, on Capitol Hill, at think tanks, universities, and nonprofits. They advocate and amplify our message to policymakers and the media, and in the process generate considerable support and influence for [securing] our interests. Add this to the work of our own talented diplomats at the Afghan Embassy in Washington, and our voice is quite strong here.

RFE/RL: Are Americans listening? Former President Hamid Karzai was very vocal in complaining about Washington’s attitude toward his country. Do you think such recriminations are a thing of the past now?

Mohib: I can’t speak for anyone else, so I won’t comment on other people’s impressions. In my experience, though, the considerable investment America has made in Afghanistan over the past 15 years and the desire to have a stable, strong partner in our region has created a consistently high level of interest here in our progress and challenges.

I have never had any difficulty getting members of Congress, the media, or the public to meet and discuss such matters. I am often asked to speak to groups and attend panel discussions, and I am in regular contact with members of the [U.S. President Barack] Obama’s administration. So Afghanistan is getting all the attention it deserves, in my opinion.

RFE/RL: The United States is now in a presidential election cycle. What would be the best scenario for Afghanistan? Do you feel one or the other presumptive Democratic or Republican nominee winning the election would result in drastic changes in the U.S. approach toward Afghanistan?

Mohib: I don’t want to comment on the domestic politics of another country, but whomever wins the White House in November will have a strong partner in Afghanistan. We very much hope the new U.S. president will choose to continue to support our development and help us defeat terrorists on the battlefield. As Afghan ambassador, I will work very hard to make sure she or he does.