nCa Report and Commentary
Ashgabat, 19 April 2012 (nCa) — Turkmenistan hosted Wednesday an international conference on Afghanistan. The outcome can be described as a midway point in the arduous journey toward the start of the peace process in the unfortunate country not in a position to author its own fate.
The conference, officially titled ‘Second preparatory meeting for the Kabul ministerial conference to be held on 14 June 2012 in Kabul,’ was attended by the Heart of Asia group and supporting countries and organizations. The first such meeting was held in Kabul on 29 February 2012.
Heart of Asia
In order to grasp the proceedings of this conference in their proper context it is first necessary to look at the concept of Heart of Asia and its composition.
The Istanbul conference held in November 2011, recognized Afghanistan as Heart of Asia and expressed support for a peace and reconstruction process that should be mainly led by the Afghans with the support of a group of members and observers. The purpose was to give the Afghans the freedom to determine the best path to peace without external pressure or intrusion.
The members of the Heart of Asia group are: Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Iran, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The observers are: France, Canada, the EU, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, Spain, Norway, the UK, the US and the UN.
The phrase ‘Heart of Asia’ is taken from a poem by Iqbal, the national poet and philosopher of Pakistan. President Karzai read the entire poem in his speech at the Istanbul Process conference in November 2011.
The complete text of the Istanbul Process conference statement can be found here:
Declaration of the Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan (2 November 2011)
The statement of Karzai at Istanbul conference can be seen here:
Statement by President Hamid Karzai in Istanbul Conference for Afghanistan
Publish Date: Nov 02, 2011
The Heart of Asia concept, while poetically great, was received with caution by analysts and commentators.
A comprehensive commentary on Heart of Asia can be found here:
Afghanistan Conference in Istanbul: The clogged arteries of the ‘Heart of Asia’ by Thomas Ruttig
An excellent paper, dealing with the issue was published by the PRIO project ‘Afghanistan in a neighbourhood Perspective’
The paper, written by Ms. Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh was titled ‘Central Asia and Afghanistan: Insulation on the Silk Road, Between Eurasia and the Heart of Asia’
The paper by Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh can be found here:
The Istanbul conference decided that the next meeting of foreign ministers will take place in June 2012. The Kabul meeting in February and the Ashgabat meeting yesterday were building blocks for finalizing the Kabul Declaration.
Deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Turkmenistan, Reshit Meredov, said, “The process [of finalizing Kabul Declaration] is becoming more dynamic.”
He praised the continuity of endeavor and expressed confidence for the support of the member countries and observers.
Meredov highlighted the importance of the economic component of the all-inclusive Istanbul Process declaration.
He repeated the offer of Turkmenistan to provide its political space for the Afghan peace dialogue.
Jawed Ludin, the deputy foreign minister of Afghanistan, thanked Turkmenistan for its generous support of Afghanistan.
“Turkmenistan has very significant role in shaping the agenda of cooperation in the region. We will be your friends in this direction,” said Ludin.
He emphasized the role TAPI can play in strengthening the peace and prosperity in the region.
Ludin pointed out that ‘the region is very deeply interdependent’ and added that ‘lasting peace and stability can only be achieved through regional cooperation.’
He thanked Turkmenistan for the offer of its political space for Afghan dialogue and said that ‘we look forward to working with you.’
The frustration caused by the recent developments in Afghanistan was just beneath the surface when he said, “We would like to introduce a new agenda for regional cooperation – the key question is confidence and trust.”
He said, “Afghanistan has suffered because of failure of confidence and trust. We don’t want other countries to suffer the way we have suffered.”
The deputy head of UNAMA, Dr. Nicholas Haysom, said that any effort to bring peace to Afghanistan was ‘not an act of charity but of self interest.’
He added that UNAMA has a new mandate to assist in the peace process and called for quick confidence building measures.
The information related to UNAMA mandate can be found here:
The driving force of the Ashgabat conference is also propelling another process called RECCA (Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan)
More about RECCA can be found here:
Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA)
Fourth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference On Afghanistan (RECCA IV)
(Istanbul, 2-3 November 2010)
The Ashgabat conference was a great success in the sense that it will definitely lead to a wonderful Kabul Declaration in June 2012.
However, the Kabul Declaration would be just the starting point of the actual process of something tangible. Who would translate Kabul Declaration into reality and how, is the question that cannot be answered right away.
Between now and June, some new challenges may arise, some new obstacles may appear. Will be dwindling material and human resources match the political promises contained in the Kabul Declaration?
Some of the countries that are part of the problem, are also supposed to be the part of the solution. The United States and the Great Britain stand out among the observers in the Heart of Asia group as major impediments to peace in Afghanistan:
- Turkmenistan has been offering its political space for Afghan dialogue but the offer has fallen on deaf ears. Instead, the USA and Great Britain decided, of all places, to take the process to Qatar. It is ridiculous to assert that Qatar, the action Headquartes of Centcom, the force that is actually fighting Afghans, is a neutral place. Moreover, the political stability of Qater is also in question; there are rumours of an attempted coup in Doha.
- In the guise of bringing Taliban to the table, the USA and Great Britain have actually been working on dividing them.
- The United States and Great Britain have presumably been looking at the prospects of splitting Afghanistan into two, probably three countries. Amrullah Saleh is one of the apparent candidates to do the hatchet job on their behalf.
Then, there is the slightly awkward matter of who represents Afghanistan. In the chic hall of the foreign ministry yesterday there was not a single face that could be called the true representative of the Afghan people.
If we agree that Taliban cannot be invited to the table until sufficient numbers of them have been sent to the grave, what about the rest of the Afghans? Does everyone who is not a Taliban, support Karzai? Are there only two points of view in Afghanistan – Krazai and Taliban?
With the knowledge we have about Afghanistan – and we have first hand, current knowledge on Afghanistan – the vast majority of Afghans wants neither Karzai crooks nor Taliban fanatics. — Who was on the table to represent that vast majority?
And, for those on the table, was their tongue in synch with their heart.
The Afghan mess is the granddaddy of all muddles. Interaction between countries in situations like Afghanistan is not a mono-block apparatus. The diplomats run in one direction, the soldiers run in the other. The business people run in every direction, following the scent of money. The ordinary people, in whose name these games are played, have nowhere to run.
Another thing that was a byproduct of the conference was that the Americans seem at the end of their wits – and resources. That is why they have brought in the Gulf countries to do what they are not able anymore to do themselves.
During the last ten years literally hundreds of conferences have taken place. If the total material produced by these conferences is printed on 80 g recycled paper, it will outweigh the total gold in the Afghan treasury.
Everything should be done to make sure that the Kabul Declaration doesn’t joint the other, equally beautiful documents in the dustbin.
To end with a bit of black humour, let’s mention that the only Afghan who has made it to the Time list of 100 most influential persons this year is Mulla Omar. He is in the rogue category but we don’t think he will mind it very much:
Time: The 100 Most Influential People in the World