In an interview published in the Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet on August 31st 2007, Ambassador Jawed Ludin says that he is tired of the countries int he West portraying the situation in Afghanistan as hopeless. Below is a translation of the interview ”Lei Vestens Svartmaling”:
Tired of the West painting everything black
The new ambassador of Afghanistan to Norway knows what takes to destroy Taliban.
Ketil Raknes/ Morgenbladet
Last week Morgenbladet wrote that the situation in Afghanistan seems like the one of Iraq in slow motion. The ambassador of Afghanistan to Norway does not comply with that conclusion.
He returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after 11 years in exile in Pakistan and England. The last five years Ludin has worked as both spokesman and chief of staff to the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.
- What really inspires working together with Karzai is his complete dedication to his work. He works non-stop. We could never convince him to go on a holiday, says Ludin.
Ludin, who started his PhD on Afghanistan before he became a part of Karzai’s staff, is tired of accusations in the West that Afghanistan never has been a real state because of the weak central authority.
- That Afghanistan cannot be ruled and that the country never has been governed from Kabul is a myth that has taken root. The country has always been governed. The only area that has not been possible to rule is the tribal areas on the border to Pakistan. The reason is that the British wanted that area to be a buffer between Afghanistan and the British Empire, says Ludin.
- The modern definition of state is that one has monopoly on violence exertion. Is that the situation in Afghanistan today?
- The authorities have had monopoly on violence since the modern Afghanistan was established in 1747. Obviously there has been both insurgency and wars with other countries, but they have been defeated by the central governance. I have myself researched on the role of the state in Afghanistan and know that the average Afghan has a deep understanding for the role of state and authority, says Ludin.
- What is then the problem of the Afghan state?
- The main problem is that the state has been so poor that it hasn’t had any visible presence in people’s lives. Therefore it is very important to build schools and a national entity for healthcare, says Ludin.
Decline of trust
The ambassador says he understands that the opinion scales show that the trust is declining to the afghan state, six years after the fall of Taliban.
- It is understandable that people feel disappointed. The security and wealth everyone envisioned has been absent, the world didn't come to Afghanistan to solve the problem of Taliban’s growth, and we never got a Marshall Plan.
- 78% of the Afghans say that corruption is a main problem in the areas that they live. Doesn't that show that the afghan state does not function?
- Corruption and governors that misuse power is a problem. But it is not something new. Six years ago all of Afghanistan’s state structures were exclusively a war machine. No money went to health and education. Taliban demanded taxes, but gave nothing back. There was more corruption and violence than now. We have moved forward.
Many experts think that the large civilian losses last year gradually undermine the Karzai-governments legitimacy and the coalition forces. Ludin says that Karzai has taken in a central role in this debate, and that the civilian losses doesn’t necessary empower Taliban.
- It is a myth that Taliban acquires recruitment on the bases of the civilian casualties. Every time there is a civilian casualty, people come to Kabul for talks with Karzai. They do not turn to Taliban or Pakistan. This is the strength of Karzai. It is totally wrong to render Karzai as a western choice which is forced on Afghanistan. He has a deep legitimacy with his own people. Karzai has been very clear on the matter of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, says a committed Ludin.
The return of Taliban
Ludin underlines that Taliban’s return is not a cause of their military strength, but that in the aftermath of the 2001 invasion a power vacuum came into existence in the Afghan periphery. The international coalition forces were at the beginning only placed in Kabul, and the Afghan state had neither police nor military force.
- Taliban got themselves large open territories to frisk in. That is why the districts began to fall back to Taliban. This time they are as well supported by sophisticated PR machinery.
- So the authorities are about to loose to the propaganda war in these territories?
- When we cannot manage it from Kabul, we can neither manage it from these districts. There are news agencies that spread Taliban propaganda. What happens is that the Taliban attacks from civilian areas and provoke a respond.
- And when they get a respond, they immediately spread news on civilian casualties. We have to contact the coalition forces and find out what really happened. It takes minimum 2-3 days before we can comply with Taliban’s version, and by that time it is already too late.
- Commander in chief for the Norwegian forces says we can never win against Taliban because they have infinite access to recruits, but that the Taliban can be controlled. What is the long term strategy to the Afghan authorities?
- There is a simple way to stop the recruitment, and that is to destroy the Taliban’s infrastructure. People do not join the Taliban because the government is corrupted or that civilian lives are lost. Taliban has an extremely limited recruitment in Afghanistan. The only Afghans they recruit come from refugee camps in Pakistan. Training is provided in the religious schools in radical Islam, and they make them break with their families so that they can become suicide bombers. In Afghanistan people are very much attached to their families, therefore is it almost impossible to recruit suicide bombers within Afghanistan, concludes Ludin.