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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Releases > 2001

Future of Afghanistan

Richard N. Haass, Director, Office of the Policy Planning Staff, and U.S. Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan
Testimony Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Washington, DC
December 6, 2001

Mr. Chairman: 

I am pleased to have this opportunity to testify before the Committee on Foreign Relations in my capacity as U.S. Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan.

Our aims in Afghanistan are well known to the American people and this Committee.  We seek to bring about an Afghanistan that is free of terrorists, that no longer is a source of poppy, and that allows its citizens -- including an estimated five million refugees and an unknown number of internally displaced persons -- to return to their homes and live normal lives in which opportunity comes to replace misery. 

Today, nearly 3 months after the horrendous attacks of September 11, and some two months after coalition military operations in Afghanistan commenced, we can all take considerable satisfaction in how much progress we have made towards the realization of these goals.

I say this fully aware of all that remains to be done.  Moreover, it is difficult to exaggerate the difficulties still before us.  Afghanistan and its people have experienced more than two decades of occupation and war.  An entire generation has grown up knowing little but violence.  Economic mismanagement and drought have added to the hardship.  As already noted, millions of Afghans are either refugees or displaced.  Millions of Afghans, including most girls, have been denied the chance to go to school.  When you add to this the political and religious intolerance that was at the core of Taliban rule, you have a picture of suffering that is extraordinary. 

Still, I view the future with some confidence.  This stems first and foremost from the great success of the coalition's military operations.  The Taliban regime no longer exists; its remnants along with those of its al-Qaida backers are reduced to a last stand in Kandahar and to hiding in caves.  This military victory is the basis for all else that we may try to accomplish in Afghanistan.

A second reason for guarded optimism is the behavior of the Afghans themselves.  What we have witnessed recently could not be more different from what took place when the mujahadeen defeated the Soviets in 1989.  Then, civil war and reprisals were the norm; the ultimate result was the Taliban.  Today, Northern Alliance soldiers are acting with discipline; reprisals and atrocities appear to be notably absent.  Moreover, we have seen at Bonn a remarkable demonstration of Afghans of all stripes -- insiders and exiles, northerners and southerners, Pashtuns and Tajiks and Hazaras and Uzbeks, men and women -- coming together to forge a common political future.  There is no better proof than the "Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan pending the Establishment of Permanent Government Institutions" just reached in Bonn.  

A third reason for my relatively upbeat assessment is the behavior of Afghanistan's neighbors and others with influence.  Again, the contrast with the past is telling.  One reason for Afghanistan's trials and turmoil during the last decade was the competition between and among outsiders for influence on the inside.  This time, countries appear to understand that restraint is necessary if a stable Afghanistan -- one that denies sanctuary to terrorists, one that doesn't export drugs, one that can take back refugees, one willing to live in peace with its neighbors -- will materialize.  This, too, was demonstrated at Bonn.  We are seeing less of the historic "great game" and more cooperation for the greater good.

A fourth and final reason for my optimism today is the attitude of the international community.  In 1989, in the wake of the Soviet military withdrawal, much of the international community, including ourselves, decided to limit their involvement in Afghanistan.  The reasons were not arbitrary; to the contrary, one motivation was to respect the strong Afghan tradition of independence from foreigners.  Yet Afghanistan clearly needed help to deal with its political, economic and security-military challenges.  This time around, the help will be there. 

Future success, though, will depend on translating this potential into accomplishments.  This will require continued, sustained effort in three areas: the political/diplomatic, the humanitarian/economic, and the military/security.

The Political/Diplomatic Front 

The U.S. Government has for some time sought to promote a viable, broad-based, and representative Afghan political alternative to the Taliban.  We knew that helping to create such an alternative was both desirable -- it would help persuade Afghans to shift their allegiances away from the Taliban -- and necessary, as the world needed an Afghan partner to work with on matters ranging from relief and recovery to reconstruction and security.

Towards this end, we have been active diplomatically.  Much of this has been done in collaboration with and support of the United Nations (UN).  U.S. officials (including Ambassador James Dobbins, who led our delegation in Bonn) have promoted our aims in Afghanistan at meetings of the 6 plus 2, the Geneva initiative, in multilateral fora, and in countless bilateral meetings with Afghan parties, other governments, and representatives of international organizations.  Diplomacy has made a difference. 

Much of this effort culminated over the past 10 days in Bonn.  The results of the Bonn meeting of the representatives of what were the four principal Afghan opposition groups are impressive by any yardstick.  A broad based, representative government is in sight.  Assisted by the able chairmanship of Lakhdar Brahimi, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Afghanistan, the delegates agreed to a political road map charting Afghanistan's political course for the next 2 to 3 years and beyond.  At the start of this road map is the creation of an Interim Authority, a 30-person institution (to be chaired by Hamid Karzai) that will on December 22 come to be the sovereign representative of Afghanistan.  This body will provide a partner for the entire international community as it endeavors to enhance Afghanistan's security and provide humanitarian and economic assistance for the country's recovery and rehabilitation.  What will follow within 6 months will be the convening (by former King Zahir Shah) of an emergency "loya jirga," a large council of many of Afghanistan's key citizens.  This gathering will lead in turn to a transitional administration and a second loya jirga to decide constitutional matters.  At the end of the process a legitimate Afghan government is to emerge through processes designed to give the Afghan people a real voice and vote.

Relief, Recovery, and Reconstruction 

As just noted, prospects for political progress are predicated in significant part on an improving humanitarian and economic context.  This has been the case for some time.  Indeed, the international community, with the United States in the lead, has provided generous amounts of relief to the people of Afghanistan over the past several years.  The liberation of the country's north -- the area of most severe humanitarian crisis -- has eased the plight of the people, and further improvements in the security situation there will have dramatic impact.  Although we still have a great deal to accomplish, it is now possible to envision an end to the era when relief dominated efforts by the international community toward Afghanistan.

By definition, relief is just that - a stopgap.  The challenge is to move as expeditiously as possible along the humanitarian continuum to recovery and reconstruction projects.  Already, a number of international meetings have been convened toward these ends, including a meeting of senior officials convened in Washington on November 20 by the United States and Japan.  A second meeting of senior officials is scheduled for mid-December in Brussels, and a conference at which donors will pledge assistance is to gather in Tokyo in January.  These meetings will take place under the co-chairmanship of a steering group consisting of the United States, Japan, the European Union, and Saudi Arabia. 

The nature and scale of the effort will be determined not just by the generosity of the donor countries but also by Afghanistan's needs and absorptive capacity.  The necessary detailed assessments are being conducted by the United Nations Development Program, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.

Although the planning for Afghanistan's recovery and reconstruction is necessarily in its early stages, a good many of the principles that will inform it can already be anticipated. 

         The effort will be comprehensive, ranging from so-called quick impact projects (demining, local road rehabilitation, provision of seeds, renovation of water supplies, reopening schools, etc.) to longer term and larger undertakings in the areas of agriculture, household and light industry, infrastructure modernization, education, and health.  Resettlement of refugees and the internally displaced will be an ongoing priority.

         Another priority will be to discourage the production of poppy.  This will likely require focus on alternative economic development as well as eradication and border controls.

         Also a priority will be improving the situation of and prospects for girls and women.  Not only do girls and women constitute an estimated 55-60% of the country's population, but they were denied educational and employment opportunity in the Taliban era.  To deny them a significant role in Afghanistan's future would be equivalent to drawing a line down the middle of the country and ignoring all those on one side of the line.

         Recovery and reconstruction must be done with and not to Afghans.  This requires involving not only women in the planning and implementation of these efforts but involving also the Afghan diaspora in addition to elements of civil society who have remained in the country.

         Reconstruction will be an Afghan mainly but not an Afghan only endeavor.  Afghanistan is more likely to improve if the immediate region also fares well economically.  In addition, Afghanistan's neighbors are more likely to support and cooperate with international efforts to promote Afghanistan's stability if they participate in and benefit from the process.

         Last, recovery and reconstruction will require a sustained, generous effort by the international community.  We are clearly looking at a total of many billions of dollars over many years.  It is both right and necessary that the United States be prepared to do its share.  The Administration looks forward to consulting with this Committee and the Congress as our planning on the scope and scale of what we will do becomes more refined.

The Military and Security Front 

The immediate military challenge is to continue to prosecute the war against al-Qaida and the Taliban.  This entails bringing about the liberation of Kandahar, the last remaining Taliban stronghold, and then rooting out Al-Qaida and Taliban forces wherever they may be hiding.  Again, this will be something accomplished by the U.S.-led coalition in conjunction with Afghans.

Security arrangements also need to be made and implemented for liberated areas, especially Kabul.  The agreement signed in Bonn calls for an international security force to help Afghans provide near-term security in Kabul and the surrounding areas.  The signatories to the agreement have also asked the international community to help train a pan-Afghan security force.  The United States military involvement in Afghanistan will continue to be focused on our primary objective of destroying al-Qaida and routing out the Taliban. 

There are a number of questions still to be determined about an international security force, including its mandate, size, capability, composition, command arrangements, and precise area of deployment.  These and related issues will be discussed among U.S. officials, the Afghan Interim Administration, the UN, and troop contributors.  One thing is critical, however, it must do nothing that would in any way inhibit the coalition from carrying out the primary objective of ridding Afghanistan of terrorism.

Guiding Principles 

Mr. Chairman, as already stated, the United States and the international community face considerable challenges before we can be sure we have made Afghanistan a country free of terrorists and drugs.  It will take time and resources to help Afghans create a society in which the citizens of Afghanistan can return home to a life of security, economic opportunity, and greater freedom.  We do not harbor unrealistic goals of perfection, but we do believe it is both desirable and necessary to work with Afghans and others in the international community to make Afghanistan a viable society. 

The role of the international community is and will remain critical.  Yet it must remain limited.  This is not East Timor.  Afghanistan is not to be a UN or international trusteeship.  Indeed, many of the details of a future Afghan society, economy, and political system must be devised and implemented by Afghans themselves.  They will have the principal and final say about how to blend the traditional and the modern, the central and the local, the national and the tribal. 

We need to be clear about our time horizons.  The U.S.-led coalition effort will not be ended until its mission is completed.  Then, however, coalition forces will be prepared to depart.  This is as it should be.  But we should not be thinking about exit strategies when it comes to assisting the Afghans with their political, economic, and security challenges.  An engagement strategy is what is needed.

We need to be prepared for tactical setbacks.  Progress will not always be linear.  Attacks by individuals or small groups of terrorists or Taliban sympathizers could continue for months or years to come.  Some disagreement and even infighting among the Afghans is to be expected; not everyone is likely to endorse the emerging order.  Eradicating drugs will be an ongoing challenge, as will persuading Afghans to give up their arms.  Yet these and other tactical challenges should not preclude what should be a strategic trajectory of progress. 

Last, we must keep in mind why we are involved in Afghanistan.  We want and need to succeed, in part because we do not want to contemplate having again to deal with the consequences of a failed, pariah Afghanistan.  At the same time, history and conscience argue for doing a great deal to give the people of Afghanistan a new lease on life.  What we now have is an historical rarity -- a second chance -- to do right by ourselves and others.  American foreign policy at its best combines the strategic and the moral.  Afghanistan is a chance to demonstrate just this. 

Thank you.  I look forward to your comments and questions.

Released on December 10, 2001

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