tv Afghan National Security Adviser CSPAN March 24, 2018 7:04am-8:02am EDT
>> q&a sunday night at eight eastern on c-span. >> earlier this week afghanistan national security adviser spoke at the u.s. institute of peace on security and politics in his country. and relations with other countries in the middle east. his remarks are just under one hour. >> good morning, everyone. good morning. my name is nancy lindborg. i am the president of the u.s. institute of peace and the police vehicle to welcome everybody this morning for a very special program. i'm glad the weather cooperated to let us continue with this morning. welcome to everyone who braved the sort of pseudo-weather events to join us this morning.
where specially pleased to see the members of her in national advisory council, to those who are joining us by webcast. as many of you know usip was founded in 1984 by congress, dedicated to the proposition that peace is a very practical undertaking, that it is actually essential for our global security, that it is eminently possible. so usip works with partners in conflict -- society leaders, women and youth to equip them with the kind of tools and learnings and information that enables them to work to prevent conflict from becoming violent and to resolve it when it does. as a think everyone in this room is well aware, afghanistan remains one of the most critical foreign-policy priorities for the united states. some extremely pleased that usip
is able to host this morning national security adviser mohammad atmar. we are very honored that you chose to accept our invitation to come here and had a conversation with washington policymakers on critical events that are occurring in afghanistan. usip has been deeply involved in afghanistan since 2002. it's one of our longest and largest programs, and afghan team works with governments, religious leaders, civil society organizations to address the underlying causes of instability and to create the conditions for peace pics of this is a really important moment for a conversation on the afghan peace process. last month the afghan government hosted the kabul peace conference and made a very
forward leaning offer to the taliban to find a political solution to the conflict. also last month the taliban indicated their willingness to talk to the united states about peace. and next week president ashraf ghani will open the conference together with the president of uzbekistan on regional support for a peace process. earlier this month usip posted ambassador alice wells from the u.s. department of state, who joined us to shed light on the u.s. response to all of these recent developments. so this is an important opportunity to now go directly the afghan perspective with the afghan national security adviser, mohammad hanif atmar. we very much appreciate your coming today to share your thoughts and to give us an update on how the afghan
government is approaching this process for peace, special as it deals with multiple security threats from within the country. of course i also want to extend a special welcome to the afghan ambassador here in the united states. national security adviser atmar as many critical leader in afghanistan. he's been a minister of interior, the minister of education, the ministry of rural rehabilitation and development. and his efforts through the years have led to remarkable gains, most particularly in the education of girls, but also in rural infrastructure, in governance and much more. he was a driving force in the creation of the first afghan national development strategy, and he has been an important partner in peace efforts. so today he will discuss the security challenges that afghanistan faces and a
potential path for peace. he will make some opening remarks and then he will be joined on stage by stephen hadley, our board chair here at usip and, of course, the national, the former national security adviser for president george w. bush. so we will have a great opportunity of listening in to a conversation between former and current national security advisers, followed by questions from the audience. so please join me now in welcoming afghan national security adviser at atmar. [applause] [speaking in native tongue] >> excellency stephen hadley,
andrew, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. such a privilege to come and talk to such a distinguished audience. it's an honor to be invited by the famous institute with its remarkable achievements worldwide, but particularly and afghanistan. so let me first take this opportunity to thank the usip for not just inviting me and my delegation, but for the excellent work it has undertaken in afghanistan and elsewhere. colleagues, today i'm here to represent the president of afghanistan and our people in thanking you all, to pay our
respect and appreciation to the sacrifices of your brave men and women in uniform, your dedicated diplomats, aid workers, researchers, and politicians and policymakers. afghanistan will continue to appreciate your service. afghanistan will remain indebted forever for what you have achieved through our joint partnership. some of you have personally served in afghanistan or together with us on afghanistan. i am personally grateful to each one of you for your dedicated service. i often argued that if you compare my country, our country to what we were 17 years ago,
despite all of the security challenges that we have now, we are certainly a totally different place than, for our citizens than we were 17 years ago, from every perspective. from the way we govern our country, the way we give voice to our people, men, women alike, to the education of our girls and boys, to healthcare that we provide to our citizens, and to economic uplift for millions of our people. i used to be a humanitarian worker in the '90s, and late '80s. so i understand where we were 17 years ago and where we are today. in this remarkable achievement of the people of afghanistan,
you've had a great contribution and i'm particularly grateful to the generosity of your taxpayers, whose generosity actually meant more school, more education, more healthcare and better living conditions for afghans. thank you for all of that. in today's opportunity i was thinking of offering a few opening remarks on where we are with the security and that peace strategy, and will have the honor of working together with mr. hadley on responding to some of your questions, if you may have. to understand the peace offer that president ghani generously made last month, let me first
off provide the context. three things are important in that context. number one is the threat that we are commonly faced with. this threat in the mate from, it comes actually from the nexus of violent extremism -- emanates from -- from national criminalized networks and from covert state sponsorship of terrorist. it's not just a threat against afghanistan. it's a threat against the region and by extension against the entire global community. so the starting point for our discussion when we analyze the
situation in the region, we must understand that this is a common threat from a common enemy which calls for a shared mission and responsibility. it's not just the taliban and the haqqani network that we are fighting. increasingly, we see foreign fighters associated with at least three categories of terrorist networks, a global terrorist network such as al-qaeda, daesh, the regional terrorists such as i am you, from central asia and china, and pakistani terrorists such as the taliban in pakistan.
all these four categories the afghan, the global, the region and the pakistanis have a symbiotic relationship among themselves. and they are all joined on the criminalized economy, chief on drugs. the drug networks need them and they need the drug income. and, unfortunately, there has been a growth in the number of foreign fighters in the country, primarily because four years ago there were 352,000 afghan troops, plus 140,000 international troops in afghanistan, with combat patrol of all the sophisticated weaponry and equipment humanity has ever produced.
now, four years ago a decision was made to transition to combat the response of a security responsibility to the afghans. now, four years ago there was -- and still not yet developed with its strategic capabilities, including its air force. but the transition has taken place successfully. yes, there has been setbacks, especially in rural areas, but no major population center as ever, welcome with the exception of -- has been under control of taliban, no one, and that was -- [inaudible] so what we have achieved, colleagues, that, number one, i often hear this, when is the
timeline to bring this to an end? well, our enemies, unfortunately, did not have any timeline in pursuit of their hostility towards all of us. but one thing that you have achieved 17 years ago you have to intervene yourself, the international community, to respond to the terrorist networks of using the threat to all of us. now that responsibility is -- by the afghans. so we do the fight, we do the combat with support that we very much appreciate from our u.s. and nato partners. so one of the most significant achievements in addition to the
fact that afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for these terrorists is the creation of the afghan national security forces, which does the job now. it will continue to require support from our international partners. so if you look at how much of the sacrifice in blood the afghans do and how much our international partners, it is clear now that afghanistan has begun to stand on its own feet. in this process the south asia strategy of president trump's administration has played a key role. we welcome the strategy it has already a significant impact the reduction of violence and
capabilities of the terrorists. and to create an enabling environment for our peace reconciliation strategy. the response from the region has been mixed. first, and fortunately we haven't had any positive response from pakistan. not any change in the policy that they are pursuing, and response from the region is slightly next. while there is -- peace and reconciliation and afghanistan but the consensus on how to fight the terrorists has broken slightly. and fortunately, there are actors in the region that draw a
distinction between good and bad terrorists. and, unfortunately, another side of the breakout of consensus is that we all agreed to have state to state relations for counterterrorist, but there are those now who looked at state and nonstate actors relations for counterterrorism with serious implications for all of us. like there are those who say that they work with the taliban against daesh, against ias, and we say that not only this is an ethical -- and ethical in terms of policy, this is self-defeating. without going into details of this, we are in an environment where we have a significant
progress, but we also have challenges, primarily associated to the growth of the foreign fighters and the weakening of regional cooperation. so in this context, last month based on the environment that we shaped pretty much by the south asian strategy, afghanistan launched to majorly enforcing strategies, the peace and reconciliation, and the counterterrorism strategy. now, the peace and reconciliation strategy aims to separate the afghan taliban from the foreign fighters, and we can make peace with them because they are afghans, if they are interested in peace.
if we succeed in making peace with the afghan taliban and separate them from the foreign fighters, this will be the most effective regional and global counterterrorism strategy, because then the foreign fighters will not have the face in afghanistan. so at the same time our counterterrorism strategy is reinforcing our peace strategy because it aims to increase the number of reconcilable, the taliban, that taliban must know that they cannot win militarily and, therefore, the two strategies are essentially reinforcing each other. those who believe that there is an inherent contradiction must look at the way these two strategies function, as two
sides of the same coin. there isn't any contradiction. they will have to be pursued simultaneously to get the result. peace with the afghan insurgents, and defeat for the international terrorists trying to use afghanistan against the rest of the world. in this context president ghani offered the most comprehensive and conditional and far-reaching peace offer to the taliban. i mean, you are familiar with the key features of the offer, ranging from the legal package to a political security and economic package. all the key issues that the taliban have been concerned with. but at the same time we did
mention to them that there are some key enablers. these are not preconditions but key enablers, renunciation of violence, cutting ties to international terrorism and fully respect for the afghan constitution, and especially the rights of our women and minorities. there hasn't been any official response from the taliban as yet to the offer. they are still pondering, consulting each other, but the unfortunate fact is that there has been increase in violence since the launch of the peace strategy, the peace offer. so clearly it is suggested that
those are those elements who do not want peace. now, this will not deter us. we will continue to pursue the peace strategy, but at the same time strengthen our counterterrorism capabilities. the way forward on the peace strategy, and then to make sure it succeeds, colleagues, as always it's complicated and, therefore, i would offer at least eight lines of effort as to how to move forward with the strategy. the first is that we have to strengthen the national afghan national security forces. the south asia strategy provides a good basis for the international, and without the afghan national security forces,
no peace and reconciliation would work in the country. second, there will have to be national consensus for peace and reconciliation, not just on political actors but also on sections of society. women must see themselves in the process. our minorities will have to be comfortable with the peace process. it will have to be a peace process for all afghans. third, there will have to be an intra-afghan process of dialogue. we have had good success with the -- process, one of the three major insurgent groups taliban,
and the two others, and so it works with an intra-afghan process and we need to have the right support for the process. forthcoming as an afghan alignment is key to the process. we have to make sure the two countries are fully aligned in pursuit of the peace process. this is regional cooperation. as i said, for the success of both strategies, peace and reconciliation, and counterterrorism. we have to have regional consensus and regional support. as i said, terrorism is a, threat to the entire region and we need to know how we fight them. peace and reconciliation is of
interest to all of them and the need to know what their interests are taken into account. in addition to pakistan, iran, india, turkey, central asian states, china and russia, we are also looking at the critical role that saudi arabia and other gcc countries can play in this respect, particularly to support the intra-afghan dialogue. saudi arabia, for instance, would have enormous influence in the process, one of the things that we will be doing together with our colleagues here is exactly to explore how that influence can be honest for a peace process. we often hear about the qatar
office of taliban, and it can play a role but it must start doing that, and soon rather than later. they have been there for seven years and we are talking to them that if you're not there for peace, then you cannot be there for war either. so have to start engaging in the process. finally is the role of pakistan, which is central to both the peace process and the counterterrorism. we are engaging them at different levels. there has been a strong welcome in pakistan, aside from the
on counterterrorism there's a huge difference of view between them and us, but that's the sad reality. we are simply putting this to them, that there will be no foreign fighters with taliban in afghanistan and there will be no taliban insurgency without sanctuaries in pakistan. so we need to see some action, a good process of dialogue has been initiated on pakistan-afghanistan action, fine. i hope we will reach an agreement they are, but that will definitely be necessary for the south asia strategy and regional cooperation to support. with this, colleagues, i just
wanted to explain the context in which we are in and how these two major reinforcing strategies can actually work together. i will be looking forward to your comments and questions. thank you again. [applause] >> well, thank you very much. we are delighted that you are here with us today. there is no one who has been more involved in afghans efforts for peace, afghans efforts for security, afghans efforts with its neighbors and with u.s.
afghan relations than mohammad atmar, and we're delighted to have you. also, thank you for your comments. i think you provide a context that is not really penetrated washington media or policy community. we are grateful for that. what we're going to do is, it's not about 11:05 and we have a hard stop at about 11:30, some court asked to a three questions of the national security adviser, then at about 11:15, maybe a little bit before that we will take questions from the audience. there will be roving microphones that will come to you. please introduce yourself, ask your question, please keep it short, because the shorter the questions the more questions we will be able to get in and take advantage of this opportunity. i want to start if i can do something you said about the peace offer, and i don't think
american office really appreciate how remarkable this piece offer was. it was unconditional. it talks about the possibility of taliban participation in a political process, and it also talked about while why the constitution needed to be respected, it also could potentially be amended. so there could be a a dialoguen that issue. these are major moves by president ghani, and they deserve recognition and support. you said one thing that was very important, which was that there needs to be intra-afghan reconciliation. one of the things we had concerns here, andrew wilder, and his team, if you have reconciliation with pakistan which took up arms against the afghan people but don't have
reconciliation among the afghan people, what lessons to people draw from that? could you say a little bit more about that intra-afghan process you've talked about? what's the objective, what's the process, and where are you on that? because that is a crucial element of the peace process. >> absolutely. well, the way we look at it is challenge number one, peace between the state the state ofn and the state of pakistan. our people good friends and have always had a mutually an official relationship. the problem has been the relationship between the two states so that's element number one. element number two is intra-afghan peace, with taliban
and haqqani network. as i said with -- did happen but with these two we need to work on. and the third element is the foreign fighters in this, that we cannot make peace with. they are not afghans and they do not necessarily pursue an afghan objective. their objectives be on afghanistan. -- beyond -- will have get some kind of counter terrorism against him now, with the afghans, the taliban and the haqqanis are no longer a monolithic organization. they do not have the same level or strength of leadership as they used to. so they are brought together by the foreign influence, and there
are leaders now among the taliban and the haqqani network that question the continuation of the conflict. and they are certainly in contact with the peace council and with the government, and they are asking for process whereby they and their families are protected to engage in peace. something, mr. hadley, it needs to be understood, that most of, if not all of the taliban and the haqqani leaders have their families as a collateral kept somewhere, and that is the way they are to be trusted with
their doing at the moment. so they are concerned about their families. they are concerned about their own safety. so with this group our strategies, obviously they are reconcilable and we need to talk to them, but, of course, there is a -- as well. as i said for them, this conflict is as much about economics is about politics. and they are drawing on proceeds from a drug and criminal economy, and they are not alone either. there are state and nonstate elements that also benefit. of course not to mention the corrupt officials in afghanistan. but when it comes to the region
states and their influence, so the piece offer alone will not be enough. we have to have the right balance between instances and disincentives for them. but when it comes to the reconcilable elements, again the challenges, the government of afghanistan must have a solid national consensus to be able to engage them. it cannot be seen as piece for one section of the afghan society and lack of peace for another section. it will have to be a solid consensus on these in which the intra-afghan process will work now, the consensus built for the process gives us hope, that we
are capable of having it. of course, every afghan has suffered a lot but they are still kind, generous enough to embrace a principled peace opportunity. but that process of national consensus will have to be supported by regional and international concerns. so it's complicated because of the difference. how to do that we will be exploring that further with our american colleagues as well as countries like saudi arabia and the uae. >> and if i could just ask you one more question about that for moving. what is the mechanism for that intra-afghan reconciliation? what is the mechanism for building that consensus and support of an outreach to the
taliban? is it the high peace council? is it an electoral process? is it an internal process? what is the mechanism within afghanistan to achieve that objective? >> we have all agreed that this is the high peace council. we are representing almost all of the political actors, a political community as well as civil society and women. so they are the mechanism, but they will have to be supported by the state institutions to establish the process. the electoral processes obviously the future. now, we often hear about sharing of power with taliban. our position, the position of people of afghanistan is it an
electoral process. come and participate in the process and if you're interested in power, , that's the only way forward to have the political authority to govern. so all of these processes will be open to embrace taliban participation. >> i want to ask you to more questions and then i will throw it open to the group. you talk about pakistan and what you are doing there. and the need for regional actors to support this process. there's been a lot of focus in the media these days about russia. we talked a little bit before about the role rush is playing. i'd like to talk a little bit about that competent also think if you could address the internal security situation in afghanistan. we've read press reports of the terrible attacks, many of them
by daesh that have killed innocent afghans, and we express our condolences for those, but we read about those and it gives the impression to americans that this situation is deteriorating rather than getting better. so could you address the role rush is playing and a little bit about the internal security situation and the strategy for combating the challenges you now face? and then we'll go to the audience. >> until quite recently we've had this regional consensus, and russian was part of it. over the past couple of years, unfortunately, there has been weakening of the regional concerns. where we agree with the russians is about that terrorism and especially the foreign fighters are a threat to all of us.
second agreement is that the best way forward is peace and reconciliation in afghanistan. so we agree on these two issues. when we disagree is when we hear about the distinction that is made between good and bad terrorists. and then finding a way to work with taliban. now, of course, we received assurance that taliban will not be provided with weapons and resources. we would welcome that assurance and then would like to see that in practice. but we also get concerned that when they claim that there are u.s., nato, afghan marked
helicopters so far bringing daesh from the south or even tribal areas of pakistan to the north of the country, and just quite simply during the conference we respectfully engaged them. if you have any evidence of this happening, please produce it and we welcome a joint regional investigation into the evidence that you have provided. but if you don't have evidence, we do have evidence that we would like you to have a look at. and the evidence that we have is that already we have over 80 daesh, i.s. related, associated foreign fighters in our custody. so ask them to come and question
them as to where they were recruited, who trained them, who provided them with the resources and who brought them into afghanistan and to the northern region. i am sure when you do a little bit more of that to constructively engage each other and look at the evidence we have. but, frankly, speaking sometimes when we engage these regional actors it's not so much about afghanistan. it's about have outside of afghanistan, like always bringing those interests or those conflicts into afghanistan. so, therefore, we suggested to our american and western partners that probably afghanistan is a place where we all have a common interest to
cooperate. like as china said, want to see afghanistan as a cooperation place with united states and not as as a confrontation place. i hope there's also the case with the russians and iran and other regional actors. you are absolutely right about these heinous acts of terror in the country, including the one on now the killing of 26 of our innocent people. these attacks have increased over the past couple of weeks in a way in response to the significant setbacks and crushing of the taliban suffered, and the i.s. suffered. so it is an act of desperation.
it's desperation because they no longer think about the thoughts and minds of the people, so they just commit a level of violence to demonstrate to the world that they exist and they have not been crushed entirely. and that is the wrong way to actually send the message. while we do realize that we need to do a lot more to prevent these attacks him happening, certain degree of this will be happening all the time, unfortunately. but if you look at the growing strength of the afghan national security forces with the right support from our international partners, we strongly believe, welcome the same way that kept the country together without any
direct combat form of the international forces, they will be able to improve security in urban areas as well. thank you. >> we will now go to your questions from the audience. the microphones will come down. if you will raise your hand will bring you a microphone. let's start with the gentleman back there. >> thank you, sir. mr. atmar, as you mentioned china sees afghanistan as a place of cooperation with u.s. what is china's interest in the future of afghanistan and how it could be helpful in the peace process to help change pakistan's conduct toward peace? thank you. >> why don't we take to questions at a time? that way we will get more
people. other question for national security adviser? please. the second row. >> following on the question about into afghanistan peace process, it would seem that the involvement, to have driven by kabul alone and not including the provinces in the province, governors and the parson outside of kabul, it would seem that would be the right way to approach this. not too many years ago i was having tea with a governor and i'm aware of the differences between the president and the governor. so in general the provincial involvement in the peace process and in particular can you give us some insights into the governor-president differences,
shall we say. >> on china, their number one interest is security, that is extremely what is about eastern turkestan islamic movement. their number we estimate to be between three to 500 fighters in afghanistan. mostly coming from pakistan and then the region. the last group of them that we arrested was basically a family six children, two women, a couple of male fighters. these are from the province.
china knows about it. frankly speaking, and until quite recently they had this wrong information that perhaps the united states or india is behind these fighters. we engaged in and provide them with the evidence, so now they have a better understanding that etim rolls out of china, , goes all the way to vietnam, to indonesia, in step in turkey, comes back to pakistan and then afghanistan to fight. so have a better understanding of the threat now and, therefore, there's confidence in our cooperation now with them. but, of course, they also have
an economic interest, the one belt, one road vision they present for the region cannot happen without stability in the region and security in afghanistan. security in afghanistan is central to the stability in the region, and afghanistan in addition to its vision probably the most comprehensive vision for economic reintegration and regional connectivity that president ghani has so eloquently presented to the leadership of china, the leadership of the entire central asia is now having more traction. so we are cooperating with them both come on regional economic cooperation as well as regional security and counterterrorism. they are fully supportive of peace and reconciliation.
we have obviously slight difference of view asked about that needs to happen. their primary focus is to encourage the taliban through soft means. we agree on that but add that there must be some disincentives when it comes to the irreconcilable elements and consensus will have to be provided by pakistan. as long as the taliban leaders have safe haven in pakistan and they are able to draw on the proceeds from drugs, there will always be an element of irreconcilable. so that needs to be addressed. we are working on the chinese on that aspect as well.
on the differences between the national unity government rather than president ghani with governor atta, the good news is that probably we have brought that to an end as of yesterday. i knew governor was introduced to the job. governor atta reached an agreement with the national unity council. our commitment was always for a peaceful and principled way to resolve the differences. no matter what difference we afghans may have, we have a common thread, a common enemy, and we have to strengthen our national unity. hence, our emphasis on the
enclosed but of all political actors at national and provincial level to be involved in the peace process so that they don't see it as a threat to themselves. now, this was exactly our challenge. they had a difficult past with other mujahedin factions. hopefully now they are voting to work together -- the hope we have with the taliban that if they show commitment to dropping violence and terrorist attacks, based on our constitution, join the political process. the rest of the actors in the country will be supportive. but what we need to have the
ground rules, and that is important, number one is the role of islam in our country with the interpretation of the majority afghans have, not the interpretation that the taliban have. that's ground rule number one. ground rule number two is democracy and representative democratic polity. and ground number three is the human rights and the rights of our citizens, men and women alike. these three things, if in place, i believe national consensus for all actors, provincial or national, will be conceivably achieved. >> we have regrettably come to the end of our time.
the national security adviser has a hard stop at 1130 time i come at the clock here says it is 1130 to make that what you think you're coming for your questions. sorry we didn't have time. these join in thanking mohamed ottmar. -- mohammad atmar. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until the official party departs. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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