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Regional, global powers should not repeat mistake by abandoning Afghanistan: Diplomat

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“Both the regional and international powers should have learned a lesson from their mistake right after the Cold War and should not repeat the same mistake by abandoning Afghanistan,” Afghan Consul-General in Dubai Masood Azizi told Al Arabiya English.

Azizi, who formerly served as Deputy Interior Minister for Afghanistan, further called on the international community to use all possible leverage, particularly political influence, to “stop the atrocities of the Taliban.”

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Provincial Afghan lawmakers confirmed the Taliban have taken control of another provincial capital, the fourth to fall into insurgent hands in less than a week, in a punishing blow to government forces.

Afghan Consul-General in Dubai Masood Azizi.
Afghan Consul-General in Dubai Masood Azizi.

Below is a Q&A with Azizi on his recent efforts as Consul-General in Dubai and his thoughts on the recent developments on the ground in Afghanistan:

The sustainability of any peace deal with the Taliban will also depend on regional consensus. In your conversations with your counterparts here in the Gulf and the Middle East, is there a sense you’re all on the same page?

Indeed, such a consensus is imperative in our time. Regional powers including the UAE and the Middle East nations do have a significant role to play in bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan. UAE is our historical and strategic partner in the areas of security and economy and can certainly play a crucial role.

We do need to draw on the cooperation of the region, particularly our neighbors. You cannot choose your neighbors. You must co-exist with them in peace and harmony. So, we expect from our neighbors to honestly contribute to the Afghan peace process for a final successful settlement leading to a long-lasting peace in our war-torn country. We want them to be sincere what they promise us in this process.

But more importantly, we want them to put their words in practice leading to tangible results. We have been living in an era of globalization where the security and prosperity of one nation is interlinked with the security and prosperity of the region and consequently the whole world. A stable Afghanistan is in the interest of every country.

Damaged cars are seen at the site of a night-time car bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan August 4, 2021. (File Photo: Reuters)
Damaged cars are seen at the site of a night-time car bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan August 4, 2021. (File Photo: Reuters)

Afghanistan is witnessing an unprecedented level of attacks that do not discriminate between military and civilian targets. You’ve also served as Deputy Minister of Interior of Afghanistan. How can your country cope with this challenge post coalition withdrawal?

Foreign troops are not supposed to stay in Afghanistan for an indefinite period. We also do not expect them to remain here forever. Following the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, no room is left for the insurgents to justify or substantiate their current violence persisting in Afghanistan for any reasons of “foreign troops involvement”.

The ANDSF, including the special forces have been maintaining the security and stability in the country since the transition of security responsibility in 2014.

Despite the release of thousands of Taliban prisoners by the Afghan government that was agreed upon in Doha peace process, far from reducing the level of violence in the country, Taliban have intensified their attacks throughout the country that resulted in many causalities, particularly civilians, including women and children, and in huge destruction and damage of public properties.

We do call on the international community to use all their possible leverage, particularly political influence to stop the atrocities of the Taliban.

In February 2019, right before the world changed amid COVID-19, you wrote an insightful piece on a strategy to move Afghanistan forward. You wrote that a strategy of engagement with all segments of the Afghan population — included those that the Taliban depend on— through local councils and events be pursued. With the hurried departure this month of the remaining Western forces from Afghanistan, many feel it has emboldened Taliban insurgents. How does this strategy now change compared to 2019?

A consensus has always been required at national, regional, and international levels for a successful peace process. Consultations with and confidence of communities are vital for Afghanistan’s development and prosperity. Therefore, the Afghan government called the Loya Jirgah (people’s grand assembly) and appealed to people for their consultations concerning the peace process. Tribes and ethnic groups in the country have played a crucial role when it comes to national issues in our history. Peace is a journey.

It starts with negotiations leading to a deal that needs to be implemented. Therefore, mutual trust and confidence are the key factors to complete the journey. We delivered our commitments. However, the other party, far from implementing their commitments, escalated widespread attacks.

We all the Afghan people believe in a peaceful and political solution to the conflict, not in a military one.

Our people are tired of our hostilities. Almost every family has lost a member or their beloved one in this conflict. Both the regional and international powers should have learned a lesson from their mistake right after the Cold War and should not repeat the same mistake by abandoning Afghanistan.

You’ve been praised in your role as CG in your consulate’s ability to repatriate more of your citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to India and Pakistan. Can you talk us through how you were able to achieve that record?

Under the pandemic I held comprehensive consultations with both my government and the government of the United Arab Emirates and discussed the issue how best we could repatriate the Afghan nationals stranded in the UAE. I received the full support of the UAE and Dubai government authorities for which I am very thankful. On the other hand, the Afghan businessmen residing in the UAE reached out and provided aid for their repatriation.

As you know, there is a sizable Afghan business community operating in the United Arab Emirates. It is a great potential to tap on not only for bilateral trade between Afghanistan and the UAE, but also to engage them in humanitarian and cultural activities. Moreover, we activated a 24/7 Covid-19 helpdesk to receive calls from our citizens residing within the UAE, responding to their calls and questions, providing transport, food and face masks and gloves. In addition, a mobile team was formed to assist the stranded compatriots.

I am grateful to all of them for extending their hand for help, including my team at the Consulate General.

Ahead of Expo 2020, you’ve said that it would be an opportunity for Afghanistan and Afghans to showcase a different side of the country compared to the doom-and-gloom stereotypes of war and bloodshed. Can you talk to us about your country’s preparations for the Expo and what we can expect?

The world is hardly familiar with the positive side of my beloved country. They frequently hear only the reports on fighting and conflict. In my capacity as the Consul General of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Dubai and Northern Emirates I have been trying to showcase the positive aspects of Afghanistan through cultural and economic diplomacy. For the first time, the Consulate General’s magazine will be launched in English soon, depicting and illustrating the history, culture, business potentials and achievements in contemporary Afghanistan: a country located at the heart of Asia. We are planning to establish an Afghan cultural center in one of the UAE emirates and set up an Afghan language school for Afghan children. Around 150,000 Afghan citizens have been residing in the UAE.

Moreover, we have a pavilion in the Expo 2020 where you will find spectacular examples of Afghan culture, handicrafts, agricultural and industrial products. Particularly, the samples of our mineral resources will be displayed as one of the richest countries in terms of mineral resources. It will be a great opportunity for the world business to explore and initiate investment. We also organized a public-private partnership conference in Dubai last year with the participation of many international businesses and local institutions to highlight the business opportunities in Afghanistan.