USIP on April 14 held an event with Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the Coalition for Change and Hope political party in Afghanistan. He told the group that despite the fact that stereotypes exist about Muslim countries and democracy, there are many in Afghanistan who support a democratic country.

April 18, 2011

AFGHANS WORKING FOR DEMOCRACY – USIP on April 14 held an event with Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the Coalition for Change and Hope political party in Afghanistan. He told the group that despite the fact that stereotypes exist about Muslim countries and democracy, there are many in Afghanistan who support a democratic country. “Eventually, I have no doubt in my mind that those people will achieve their goals,” he told a packed audience at USIP headquarters in Washington. Abdullah is a former spokesman for the Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan as well as a veteran of a number of other senior government posts. He ran in the presidential elections in 2009 under the slogan of “Change,” and received the second highest number of votes cast.

THE POLITICAL PROCESS IN AFGHANISTAN – As Abdullah sees it, the political process in Afghanistan includes a democratic process, women’s rights, education for the people and making peace and stability across the country. Part of the process is talking to the Taliban, Abdullah says, but that process should be very clear to the Afghan people. “They can see a common vision and unite around it,” he says. “Then isolate those people who want to fight to the end.”

NO BLIND DATES – Abdullah says the peace process is important, but everything must be transparent: “We need to leave the door open for talks, and encourage people to work for a peaceful process – but not as a blind date.”

MET WITH USIP STAFF – Before his U.S. visit, Abdullah had met with USIP staff in Kabul this month. He met with Andrew Wilder, USIP’s director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Programs, and Shahmahmood Miakhel, USIP’s Afghanistan country director who is based in Kabul, to discuss the current political situation in Afghanistan and USIP programs there.

WHO SPEAKS FOR THE OPPOSITION? – One questioner stood to challenge Abdullah’s billing as the “voice of the opposition,” even though he collected so many votes in 2009. “Abdullah has legitimacy,” said another speaker at the event who identified himself as an Afghan-American and said Abdullah appeals to all ethnic groups in Afghanistan. “He represents the best of what Afghans have to offer.”

WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR U.S.-AFGHAN RELATIONSHIP? – Abdullah was asked about the withdrawal of American forces expected to begin this summer. But a precipitous withdrawal would not be good: “Premature withdrawal without leaving an environment behind that can sustain itself… will have consequences,” he says.

DON’T SQUANDER THE OPPORTUNITY – Abdullah fears that the Afghan government will miss the opportunity to seize the day. “Indeed, in the history of nations, opportunity is in short supply,” he says.

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