A United European Foreign Policy on Afghanistan, speech at the International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy, Institute of Cultural Diplomacy, Berlin, 28 May 2010

A UNITED EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY ON AFGHANISTAN

The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy 2010, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, Berlin, 28 May 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to express my great pleasure to address such a distinguished gathering. It is indeed a privilege for me to make this presentation. I would also like to express my appreciation of the organization of this Symposium. Institute for Cultural Diplomacy is making an important contribution to the debate on Afghanistan and Central Asia by means of this timely event.

Introduction

I would like to congratulate the organizers of this meeting for the choice of the subject, because the most important aspect of the conflict in Afghanistan and in various countries of Central Asia is the cultural dimension. The Institute of Cultural Diplomacy is, by definition, one of the most appropriate institutions to deal with a subject that has a direct bearing on cultural differences.

A United European Foreign Policy on Afghanistan

The title of this panel, namely “A United European Foreign Policy on Afghanistan”, suggests that Europe does not have such a policy at present. However there is a fragment of it within the framework of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) operating in Afghanistan since several years. The major contributor of ISAF is the United States with more than 60 000 soldiers. Next big contributors are the European allies of NATO with troops varying between a few thousands.

The idea of developing a United European Foreign Policy 0n Afghanistan has several aspects that have to be discussed thoroughly. For the sake of closing more closely on some of these aspects,  I will pick only two of them and confine my observations on them.

One of them is whether this united foreign policy should be developed within the framework of the ESDP, that is to say European Security and Defense Policy of the European Union or independently.

The second one is the lessons that we have to draw from ISAF experience where major European countries are partly involved.

ESDP or Independent?

The direct question is whether such a policy will be the EU policy or a European policy, in other words, whether it will be shaped according to the ESDP rules or according to new rules that will be worked out exclusively for this purpose. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of using the ESDP framework is that the ESDP rules are already developed and tested. The disadvantage is that some EU member countries that are not involved in whatsoever manner in Afghanistan and that do not contribute neither militarily nor financially will be able to use their voting rights stemming from the EU acquis.

If new rules have to be worked out exclusively for this purpose, the disadvantage is that it will drag the debates for sometimes on procedural issues. The advantage is that, they will be specific rules that will take into consideration the intricacies of situation in Afghanistan and it will circumvent the difficulties stemming from the right to vote of EU member countries that have no stake in Afghanistan.

Lessons to be Drawn from the ISAF Experience

The hard power of ISAF did its best in Afghanistan to achieve its mission. The task of ISAF is, I quote,

-“to conduct operations in Afghanistan, in support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in order

– to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency,

– to support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National  Security Forces (ANSF), and

–         to facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic  development,

in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population”.

As it could be seen from this mandate, the sole task of ISAF is not to carry out military missions against the insurgents. “Improvements in governance and socio-economic development” are also part of the mandate, but this latter task is almost invisible against the background of massive military action.

Without denying the limited success achieved from time to time in some military combat missions by ISAF, I do not see yet the light at the end of the tunnel.

 When the political masters have to assess the success of the ISAF mission as a whole, they have to take into account several factors:

One of these factors is the cost of the military missions.

The second is the damage caused on the targeted physical infrastructure used by the terrorists such as the roads, civilian buildings, facilities, sewage etc.

The third is the loss of life of innocent civilians as a result of wrong targeting of the bombing, such as mistaking a rural wedding ceremony as a gathering of terrorists. The fact that the damage caused to the innocent civilians was not intentional will not relieve its perpetrators from the moral responsibility that it entails.

The forth is the physical injuries, casualties, amputations etc.

The fifth and perhaps the most important factor is the feeling of alienation and revenge that the military operations cause in the mind of the victims of the war, because the use of hard power and the collateral damage caused by the bombings contribute also to the alienation of the civilian population.

The sixth is the suffering, frustration and anger of the people who lose their loved ones. Let’s try to put ourselves in the shoes of those who lose their father, their mother or those who supported them to stay alive. After such losses they become easy prey for recruitment by the terrorists.

The seventh is the collateral damage. The collateral damage destroys the life of countless innocent people who have done nothing wrong in their life that could damage our interests. Yet they are victims. It will not be fair to consider these collateral damages as a natural disaster or as an act of God. They are entirely man-made and they are the result of military missions planned and carried out by our soldiers.

The hard power of ISAF did its best in Afghanistan to achieve its mission. With all due respect for what ISAF was able to achieve so far, one has to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is not yet at sight.

I am not underestimating the fundamental issue of security. Maintaining security and public order is the primary question and it is the basic prerequisite to be delivered. Nevertheless, security cannot be sustainable without simultaneous progress in other areas.      When these factors are taken into account, it will be reasonable to look for a framework other than ISAF to draw up a united European foreign policy for Afghanistan, because an autonomous European foreign policy within the framework of ISAF is neither possible nor advisable. It is not possible because the mandate of ISAF is drawn up by the United Nations Security Council and it can only be modified by the same authority. It is not advisable either, because it will undermine the coordination within ISAF. Therefore a united European foreign policy for Afghanistan will be more appropriate if it is conceived outside the scope of the activities of ISAF.

The need to draw up a united European foreign policy for Afghanistan does not stem from the debate over the success of ISAF. Such a need exists with or without ISAF for several reasons:

– Europe has limited leverage on how ISAF missions have to be conducted.

– Military missions are only one part of the foreign policy. For the foreign policy  to be efficient, it has to be supported by a military force that has dissuasive capability.

– In Afghanistan, soft power is more likely to succeed than the hard power and the management of the soft power requires a precisely defined framework. This could be achieved only with a coordinated foreign policy.

Conclusion

When all aspects of the question are taken into account, soft power is likely to yield much more tangible results than the use of hard power. For This reason the united European Foreign Policy on Afghanistan should be based on soft power. Europe has both the culture and tradition of projecting soft power and the means to deliver it.

The framework of the soft power should not be drawn up in an academic gathering. The contributing countries and the recipient side may have sensitivities that an outsider of Afghan affairs cannot easily figure out.

The involvement of countries that are familiar with the Afghan culture or Central Asian culture is important. The United States and the West in general committed more than one mistake in Afghanistan because of their lack of sufficient grasp of the local culture. Several details that may look meaningless to a Western decision maker may destroy an entire project designed for Afghanistan.

Thank you for your attention.

A UNITED EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY ON AFGHANISTAN

The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy 2010, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, Berlin, 28 May 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to express my great pleasure to address such a distinguished gathering. It is indeed a privilege for me to make this presentation. I would also like to express my appreciation of the organization of this Symposium. Institute for Cultural Diplomacy is making an important contribution to the debate on Afghanistan and Central Asia by means of this timely event.

Introduction

I would like to congratulate the organizers of this meeting for the choice of the subject, because the most important aspect of the conflict in Afghanistan and in various countries of Central Asia is the cultural dimension. The Institute of Cultural Diplomacy is, by definition, one of the most appropriate institutions to deal with a subject that has a direct bearing on cultural differences.

A United European Foreign Policy on Afghanistan

The title of this panel, namely “A United European Foreign Policy on Afghanistan”, suggests that Europe does not have such a policy at present. However there is a fragment of it within the framework of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) operating in Afghanistan since several years. The major contributor of ISAF is the United States with more than 60 000 soldiers. Next big contributors are the European allies of NATO with troops varying between a few thousands.

The idea of developing a United European Foreign Policy 0n Afghanistan has several aspects that have to be discussed thoroughly. For the sake of closing more closely on some of these aspects,  I will pick only two of them and confine my observations on them.

One of them is whether this united foreign policy should be developed within the framework of the ESDP, that is to say European Security and Defense Policy of the European Union or independently.

The second one is the lessons that we have to draw from ISAF experience where major European countries are partly involved.

ESDP or Independent?

The direct question is whether such a policy will be the EU policy or a European policy, in other words, whether it will be shaped according to the ESDP rules or according to new rules that will be worked out exclusively for this purpose. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of using the ESDP framework is that the ESDP rules are already developed and tested. The disadvantage is that some EU member countries that are not involved in whatsoever manner in Afghanistan and that do not contribute neither militarily nor financially will be able to use their voting rights stemming from the EU acquis.

If new rules have to be worked out exclusively for this purpose, the disadvantage is that it will drag the debates for sometimes on procedural issues. The advantage is that, they will be specific rules that will take into consideration the intricacies of situation in Afghanistan and it will circumvent the difficulties stemming from the right to vote of EU member countries that have no stake in Afghanistan.

Lessons to be Drawn from the ISAF Experience

The hard power of ISAF did its best in Afghanistan to achieve its mission. The task of ISAF is, I quote,

-“to conduct operations in Afghanistan, in support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in order

– to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency,

– to support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National  Security Forces (ANSF), and

–         to facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic  development,

in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population”.

As it could be seen from this mandate, the sole task of ISAF is not to carry out military missions against the insurgents. “Improvements in governance and socio-economic development” are also part of the mandate, but this latter task is almost invisible against the background of massive military action.

Without denying the limited success achieved from time to time in some military combat missions by ISAF, I do not see yet the light at the end of the tunnel.

 When the political masters have to assess the success of the ISAF mission as a whole, they have to take into account several factors:

One of these factors is the cost of the military missions.

The second is the damage caused on the targeted physical infrastructure used by the terrorists such as the roads, civilian buildings, facilities, sewage etc.

The third is the loss of life of innocent civilians as a result of wrong targeting of the bombing, such as mistaking a rural wedding ceremony as a gathering of terrorists. The fact that the damage caused to the innocent civilians was not intentional will not relieve its perpetrators from the moral responsibility that it entails.

The forth is the physical injuries, casualties, amputations etc.

The fifth and perhaps the most important factor is the feeling of alienation and revenge that the military operations cause in the mind of the victims of the war, because the use of hard power and the collateral damage caused by the bombings contribute also to the alienation of the civilian population.

The sixth is the suffering, frustration and anger of the people who lose their loved ones. Let’s try to put ourselves in the shoes of those who lose their father, their mother or those who supported them to stay alive. After such losses they become easy prey for recruitment by the terrorists.

The seventh is the collateral damage. The collateral damage destroys the life of countless innocent people who have done nothing wrong in their life that could damage our interests. Yet they are victims. It will not be fair to consider these collateral damages as a natural disaster or as an act of God. They are entirely man-made and they are the result of military missions planned and carried out by our soldiers.

The hard power of ISAF did its best in Afghanistan to achieve its mission. With all due respect for what ISAF was able to achieve so far, one has to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is not yet at sight.

I am not underestimating the fundamental issue of security. Maintaining security and public order is the primary question and it is the basic prerequisite to be delivered. Nevertheless, security cannot be sustainable without simultaneous progress in other areas.      When these factors are taken into account, it will be reasonable to look for a framework other than ISAF to draw up a united European foreign policy for Afghanistan, because an autonomous European foreign policy within the framework of ISAF is neither possible nor advisable. It is not possible because the mandate of ISAF is drawn up by the United Nations Security Council and it can only be modified by the same authority. It is not advisable either, because it will undermine the coordination within ISAF. Therefore a united European foreign policy for Afghanistan will be more appropriate if it is conceived outside the scope of the activities of ISAF.

The need to draw up a united European foreign policy for Afghanistan does not stem from the debate over the success of ISAF. Such a need exists with or without ISAF for several reasons:

– Europe has limited leverage on how ISAF missions have to be conducted.

– Military missions are only one part of the foreign policy. For the foreign policy  to be efficient, it has to be supported by a military force that has dissuasive capability.

– In Afghanistan, soft power is more likely to succeed than the hard power and the management of the soft power requires a precisely defined framework. This could be achieved only with a coordinated foreign policy.

Conclusion

When all aspects of the question are taken into account, soft power is likely to yield much more tangible results than the use of hard power. For This reason the united European Foreign Policy on Afghanistan should be based on soft power. Europe has both the culture and tradition of projecting soft power and the means to deliver it.

The framework of the soft power should not be drawn up in an academic gathering. The contributing countries and the recipient side may have sensitivities that an outsider of Afghan affairs cannot easily figure out.

The involvement of countries that are familiar with the Afghan culture or Central Asian culture is important. The United States and the West in general committed more than one mistake in Afghanistan because of their lack of sufficient grasp of the local culture. Several details that may look meaningless to a Western decision maker may destroy an entire project designed for Afghanistan.

Thank you for your attention.

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