On Thursday, November 28, 2013 The German Marshall Fund of the Unites States (GMF) in collaboration with NATO invited a select group of Afghan government spokespersons to a private roundtable discussion on the future of Afghanistan. Participants included regional experts from thinks tanks, Afghan journalists, EU and NATO officials, and representatives from foreign ministries.
Deputy director of the GMF Brussels office, Corinna Hörst, opened the discussion starting with the topic of security. 2014 will be a crucial year for Afghanistan with international troops departing and the country’s presidential elections taking place. Major General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, spokesman of the Ministry of Defence, highlighted many of the Afghan government’s concerns including: organized crime, human trafficking, and narcotics. In addition, civilian causalities have created some resentment against the Afghan government and pushed support in rural areas toward the Taliban. President Karzai’s responsibility for his people and was emphasized by the speakers. Said Hafizullah Moududi, deputy spokesperson and director general of communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, claimed terrorism was not specific to Afghanistan but also a serious concern to neighboring countries. The problem of terrorism and extremism should be tackled as a regional issue.
The discussion then moved to the upcoming elections. Sediq Sediqqi, the director general of public diplomacy and spokesman for the Ministry of Interior Affairs, stated that it was necessary to have wide participation, effective monitoring, and official leadership ensuring the legitimacy of the election. Sefatullah Safi, the acting director of the Government Media and Information Centre, addressed corruption and lack of transparency as well as the role of the international community. In concluding remarks, Adela Raz asked for GMF and others to think more about the concrete impact that our analysis might have on EU and U.S. policy, and the impact that those policies have on the people of Afghanistan. Raz is the first deputy spokesperson and director of communications to the President of Afghanistan. She is the first woman in the history of Afghanistan to hold this position.