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Afghan National Security Adviser Sees A Central Role in Anti-Terrorism Struggle

FILE: Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Aleksandr Mantytsky (L) hands over a AK-47 rifle to Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar during a ceremony at a military airfield in Kabul in February.
FILE: Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Aleksandr Mantytsky (L) hands over a AK-47 rifle to Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar during a ceremony at a military airfield in Kabul in February.

One of Afghanistan’s most powerful leaders says his country plays a central role in preventing terrorist groups from threatening regional and global security.

Mohammad Hanif Atmar, national security adviser to the Afghan president, called for continued international consensus in helping Kabul fight the varied militant groups it currently faces.

His call for a united front against terrorism came as regional powers, including Afghanistan’s neighbors, increasingly engage with Afghan insurgents or even deliberate on security threats emanating from Afghanistan without involving the Kabul government.

“We told everyone -- Iran, NATO, Russia, China, India, Saudi Arabia -- that they will only benefit from aiding the Afghans in their struggle against terrorism,” Atmar told Radio Free Afghanistan. “We have warned them against tainting this consensus with their bilateral differences.”

On December 27, Russia, China, and Pakistan warned of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

"(The three countries) expressed particular concern about the rising activity in the country of extremist groups including the Afghan branch of Islamic State (IS)," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters after the trilateral meeting in Moscow.

Atmar, however, says any actions against the militant groups operating from Afghanistan need to be coordinated with Kabul.

“These countries are responding to a changing global situation, and their changing postures will not have a positive effect on us,” Atmar noted. “We want to keep the previous global consensus on terrorism. We would like to keep a united front.”

Responding to reports that Russia and Iran have recently developed contacts with the Afghan Taliban, he called on Moscow and Tehran to refrain from cultivating such relationships.

“Iran and Russia are our friends, and they need to use their contacts [with the insurgents] for peace instead of exploiting them for war,” he said, adding that both countries should learn from Pakistan’s experience.

Since the early 1980s, Pakistan has supported various domestic and transnational militant networks in Afghanistan. But many among those eventually turned against Islamabad, resulting in large-scale bloodshed. More than 60,000 Pakistani civilians, militants, and soldiers have been killed in terrorist attacks and military operations since 2004.

“The contact and understanding among states is the basis for participating in the war against terrorism,” he noted. “We have told them that this [contact with insurgents] will ultimately result in a defeat in the war on terrorism -- for us and for them.”

The Afghan national security adviser noted it was important to understand the kind of militant threats his country faces. He said that four different categories of militant groups are active in Afghanistan.

These include the Afghan Taliban, Pakistani groups such as Lashkar-e Taiba and Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and other Central Asia groups, as well as international terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and IS.

“They cooperate because they need one another,” he said. “Now only one of them is interested in Afghanistan, but the rest want to use terrorism there against other states.”

Atmar said that after surviving a major economic downturn and the burden of fighting on their own last year, Afghan forces successfully defended major population centers and key provinces against a resurgent Taliban.

“Very few armies in the world can fight eight different fronts simultaneously,” he said. “Next year will be a year of success for us because of our trust in our people and forces.”

Atmar said security interests will prompt Washington to continue its support for Kabul after President-elect Donald Trump assumes office next month.

“The interest of Afghanistan and the United States complement each other in the struggle against terrorism,” he said.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this based on Radio Free Afghanistan bureau chief Hamid Mohmand’s interview in Kabul, Afghanistan.