Afghan opinion-makers discuss transition with high-level NATO officials
On 29 and 30 March, a group of opinion-makers from Afghanistan visited NATO Headquarters. The group included Members of Parliament, representatives of the Afghan media and civil society, and independent activists. During the visit, the Afghan delegation met with a range of high-level NATO officials, including Ambassador Kolinda Grabar, Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Ms. Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson, and General Knud Bartels, Chairman of the Military Committee.
During the visit, the group discussed at length the various aspects of the ongoing process of transition to full Afghan security responsibility. The visit also provided an opportunity both to take stock of the progress achieved so far across the security/governance/socio economic development nexus in Afghanistan. Participants underscored the importance for Afghanistan and the whole international community to stay the course in order to ensure that progress becomes irreversible and self-sustaining.
"At the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago, we will map-out the mechanics for the completion of the process of transition to full Afghan security responsibility by end 2014; also, we will define the profile of a NATO-led mission after 2014; and we will provide a strong signal of NATO's commitment to provide its contribution to the financial self-sustainability of Afghan National Security Forces after 2014," Ambassador Grabar emphasised.
The visiting delegation pointed out the achievements made in the past years and outlined some of the priorities lying ahead. "Despite all risks, Afghans went and voted in the last elections. That is a strong message that they are for the consolidation of a democratic path in Afghanistan," Mr. Nader Naderi, Chairman of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, said. "The media speaks more and more openly," he added.
Mrs. Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, Member of Parliament, highlighted that, "Sixty-nine women (more than the quota established by the Afghan Constitution) are now in the Afghan Parliament." There are also, “more women in the government and in the civil society,” she continued. These achievements require a long-term perspective and effort to make them sustainable. "We do not want to loose what we have," Mrs. Naderi added.
"Democracy is not only about elections. Justice and the rule of law are essential parts of a democratic state," Mr. Naderi pointed out.
Ultimately, "the engagement of all Afghans in the policy making process and the implementation of justice are what can guarantee lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan," said Dr. Niazi Mohammad Sharif, Director of the Civil Society Forum.
While in Belgium, the Afghan delegation also visited the NATO Allied Command Operations and took part in a round-table discussion with EU representatives and members of the Brussels-based think-tank community organised by the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.