بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
Draft Speech of H.E. Hamdullah Mohib, National Security Adviser of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the Raisina Dialog, New Delhi 2020
Becoming the Anti-Fragile: How Afghanistan is Progressing in the Face of Uncertaintyz
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor and a privilege to be among such a distinguished group of friends and colleagues. I thank the Observer Research Foundation and the Ministry of External Affairs for bringing such an illustrious group together and for offering me the opportunity to address the occasion.
Let us take a solemn moment to send prayers to the souls of 176 Afghans, Canadians, Swedes, Iranians, Ukrainians, British and Germans who perished in the disaster that befell the Ukrainian Airline flight 752. Among the Afghan victims were a couple who had just celebrated their wedding and were embarking on their happily ever after, a shared life that never came to be.
As reflected in the panels and speeches of this conference, it is clear that our world is susceptible to sudden events that can produce volatility, risk and uncertainty. What this requires is the exercise of prudence, restraint and the recognition of common interests upon which we can build alliances and common policies. But is also requires a certain creative optimism.
Where there is a challenge, there is also an opportunity. The Lebanese thinker-philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb had a term for entities that gain strength from adversity: “anti-fragile.” He said, “the anti-fragile gains from disorder.” The events of recent weeks requires the global community to recognize and recommit to the principles of de-escalation, peaceful resolution of conflict, neighborliness and responsible statehood. We can grow stronger from the current disorder by adhering to these tried and true principles. In Afghanistan,President Ghani has urged our neighbors and partners to seek peaceful resolution to violent circumstances – not just because our own national interests require it, but because these principles are enshrined in the U.N. Charter and they have been the basis of international comity for generations.
We have learned a lot as a nation over the past four decades about what there is to lose from disorder. We did not do so well in learning how to gain from it.
Over the past 40 years of conflict, Afghanistan was never able to achieve ‘the antifragile.’ We were never able to grow from disorder—we only sunk deeper into it. We were never able to overcome the influence of regional and global powers who sought to use our people and our geographical platform to further their own agendas; we were never able to harness the strength of our own diversity; we were never able to take advantage of our geopolitical positioning in this world, turning it into a blessing rather than a curse.
But those days are gone. Things have been changing over the past years, for the better. Those of us who were born into war and displacement, and who have come of age as new returnees to the homeland we were forced to leave, see things differently. We are not sinister about the possibility of peace; we are not jaded about Afghanistan’s ability to tap its economic potential and thrive; we are not placing bets on the viability of our political structures.
We are determined to create opportunity from the midst of uncertainty, and move forward and progress, no matter how cluttered the path forward may be with obstacles of threats and risks.
And we are now seeing the fruits of our labors and the vindication of our belief in Afghanistan—particularly in the areas of peace, regional cooperation and security.
First and most importantly, peace in our land is long overdue. People still long to see a day where they can send their children to school and visit friends without the persistent fear that they might be the target of terrorism. Peace for our people means the end of violence – this is why we insist that a ceasefire is necessary to create a conducive environment for talks.
Violence and terrorism have no constituency in Afghanistan; peace and tranquility do. A ceasefire is a catalyst for sustainable peace because the Afghan people earnestly want it, and it will prove to the Afghan people and government that our enemies are not only serious about peace, but that it is within their control to maintain their part of a future deal.
As our efforts toward peace gain momentum, we must have the cooperation and support of our neighbors and partners for peace to be sustainable. In these trying times for the global community, Afghanistan offers the rare opportunity for shared action. Our national quest for peace is beneficial to the region and the world. As the frontline state in the war on terror, our success produces a global common good. This is both a starting point for cooperation and a common platform to unite around.
But let there be no confusion about one thing: In the same way that there is an open heart for peace, there is a steely resolve against violence. There is no victory for violence and terrorism. The Afghan nation stands resolutely against it.
The Afghan security forces have demonstrated this resolve. They are now better prepared than ever to take on our adversary. The world witnessed how our forces secured the presidential election, creating the enabling conditions so that the Afghan people could once again reinstate their belief in our republic and democracy. After a successful electoral process, our independent electoral bodies have finished tallying the votes, announced preliminary results, and are now addressing reports of irregularities in line with the process laid out by the electoral law. As we await the final results, we laud them for their tireless work to strengthen democracy in our country.
Over the last few months, our brave security forces have carried out successful operations across the country, beating back our enemies and clearing territory long under their reign of terror. They have cleared 8 districts from enemy control, taking the fight to the enemies and reversing a situation where the Taliban had military momentum. Through offensive operations they have nearly obliterated ISIS in our eastern provinces, where they had terrorized the population there for years. As a result of the pressure from our security forces, more than 600 ISIS fighters have surrendered, their bases cleared and their hideouts emptied.
Communities in these areas, long oppressed and brutalized, are now returning to their former way of life, growing crops and nurturing their families. Our government is offering assistance as they rebuild their lives.
Let the progress of our security forces be a call to those fighting to subvert our democracy and undermine our institutions: The Afghan people and government stand ready to engage in peace talks. But if you refuse to answer this call, prepare to face the full force of the Afghan nation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the midst of conflict, and all of these competing priorities, we have also focused heavily on economic development, particularly via regional platforms that for decades were not utilized.
Parallel to peace efforts, Afghanistan is gradually transforming into a regional hub for cooperation, connectivity and development. As per President Ghani’s vision, we are transforming Afghanistan from a land-locked country to a land bridge country, a crossroads of regional trade and connectivity. Our initiatives such as the Lapis Lazuli Corridor and air freight corridors are already paying economic dividends, opening new frontiers for trade and the movement of goods, people, and ideas throughout South and Central Asia. Large transnational energy, trade and transport projects spearheaded by Afghanistan are finally taking shape across regional borders, to our collective advantage. With India alone, we have more than tripled our trade volume since 2015 after opening up air corridors and improving bilateral cooperation. This is only the beginning of a vast potential. We hope that these and many more projects will continue to play a defining role in enhancing the economic prospects of our country as we look towards the building of a platform for multilateral cooperation where our success benefits the region and the world.
We have achieved this progress over the past five years in no small part due to the commitment and generosity of our allies and partners. India has been one such key partner that has been able to recognize and share in our creative vision for a secure, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. The assistance extended by India to train our officers, provide needed military equipment, and educate our youthat quality universities has been essential. India has assisted in helping us build critical water, agricultural, health and governance infrastructure. This type of creative assistance is what Afghanistan needs to move forward, not only for our own benefit but for the benefit of India and the region. As India celebrates its Army Day, we stand in recognition of this great country's important role in the world and in the contributions of its Army to peacekeeping, humanitarian support and defense of common human values.
At this time, I would also like to extend our thoughts and our support to Australia, where brave firefighters and volunteers have been battling catastrophic fires across the country. While we take courage and inspiration from their sacrifices, we also pause and reflect on the devastating impact that climate change is bringing upon our environment, and potentially, the human race.
Like Australia, Afghanistan is going through a drought that has threatened the livelihoods of our farmers and their families. Afghanistan’s Sustainable Development Goals is a recognition of the dire need for sustainable development practices that ensure humanity’s future. We take note of the efforts made in Madrid last December during COP25 and retain the earnest hope that the remaining obstacles can be resolved this year.
Climate change and its effect on our country is forcing us to think creatively about how to protect, harness and maximize our natural resources, particularly our vast water resources which for years have been exploited and out of our control. So again, we are forcing ourselves to think optimistically and creatively about how to create an advantage out of circumstances that have, in the past, left us fragile and vulnerable.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Afghanistan embarks on this new year having made steady progress in security, democracy and peace. We continue to focus on maintaining an offensive posture in the battlefield, and improving the readiness of our troops, who are in the lead in the battlefield not only for Afghan security but regional and global security.
Yet in the midst of conflict, we continue to think positively and creatively, making progress toward economic self-reliance, particularly via regional platforms and through regional cooperation. We continue to fervently yet practically pursue sustainable peace, which is the priority for the Afghan people and government.
We look to this new year with hope, yet we are realistic about the uncertainty and volatility that seems likely to continue to define our times. We are not deterred. We Afghans are not looking inward or retreating from this uncertainty. We are forced to embrace it, in the hopes that Afghanistan can too become the ‘antifragile’, the nationstate that learns how, after 40 years of perpetual conflict, to grow stronger within the disorder that surrounds us. We Afghans are taking a risk, despite the uncertainty—we are taking a risk to pursue peace, to strengthen democracy, to create cross-border economic opportunity, to strengthen our security. We are taking this risk because we have no other choice, but we are embracing this risk because we are united in our belief in the strong will of the Afghan people to achieve peace, to protect our democracy, and to keep progressing.
We invite our neighbors and international partners to embrace this risk-taking with us, to continue our joint efforts toward peace, global security, and regional prosperity.