By Alvin Loong, Emerging Global Leaders Intern
On May 23, 2016, the World Affairs Council – Washington, DC hosted His Excellency Dr. Hamdullah Mohib, Ambassador of Afghanistan to the US. Ambassador Mohib delivered remarks to a full house at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The audience was comprised of WAC-DC members, correspondents of domestic and international press, representatives of diplomatic delegations, and members of the general public. The event was aired live by CSPAN-2, CSPAN Radio, and was recorded by Voice of America and Ariana Television Network (Afghanistan).
The event commenced with opening remarks by WAC-DC President and CEO, Mr. Tony Culley-Foster, speaking on the recent successes of Afghanistan’s burgeoning democracy, while noting the challenges that continue to remain. Mr. Culley-Foster then introduced Ambassador Mohib, and former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann, President of the American Academy of Diplomacy, and discussant for the night’s event.
Ambassador Mohib began by talking about his path to become an Ambassador, and how “as a child, nobody believed this child would have potential.” As a refugee multiple times—first following the Soviet invasion, then civil war with the Taliban, and then fighting during the American intervention—Ambassador Mohib stressed the importance of keeping hope within the people of Afghanistan. “People leave when they have no hope—they’ve lost their home, their fortune, their future,” the Ambassador commented. “The opportunities we didn’t have [then], a democracy—we continue to build upon today.”
On the topic of democratic governance and security, the Ambassador noted that last year was the first time Afghan forces were in charge of defending Afghanistan – ever. When asked about the disputed election in 2014 between eventual President Ashraf Ghani and now Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, the Ambassador stated that this power-sharing agreement was not simply a compromise. “If you are willing to put down the guns, then you get a part in governance.” In response to the recent death of al Qaeda leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, the Ambassador noted that he was an ‘impediment to peace’, and his advocacy of violence opposed Afghanistan’s values for democracy.
The Ambassador continued, stating that peace is a process, not a one-time event. It is not easy to run an Afghan power-sharing democracy, when there is no precedent of a democratic Afghanistan. Part of a national unity government is the ability to disagree.
In terms of economic development, the Ambassador noted the importance of welcoming the Afghan diaspora home from neighboring countries and resettlement abroad. Only when hope in Afghanistan emerges, will people find the enthusiasm to rebuild and lead Afghanistan, and more importantly, to return home. As the crossroads of Central and South Asia, a democracy that follows international legal principles and Sharia law, and a culture that has historically maneuvered through adversity, Ambassador Mohib closed on an optimistic prospect for his country’s future.