Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Afghan nation-building: Learn from mistakes
Kinichi Komano / former ambassador to Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Iran

November 16, 2021
20 years after the 9/11, US troops withdrew from Afghanistan and the President of Afghanistan fled the country. Shortly after I arrived in Kabul to oversee the implementation of Japan’s aid to the country as ambassador, I met Dr. Ashraf Ghani, who was about the same age as myself. As Finance Minister, he was actively discharging his responsibility to coordinate the receipt of such aid. In the government just established, he was one of the few leaders who had a vision of development based on his own experience at the World Bank. He was a man who spoke his mind. He was elected as president later and was at the helm of Afghanistan’s nation-building. It must have been heart-breaking for him to have to leave the country with his goals unfulfilled. He had to throw everything out halfway probably because he knew better than anyone else how fragile the system was.

I was one of the people in Kabul, where everything had been reduced to rubble, who worked in the initial stage of Afghan reconstruction assistance with toil and sweat, dreaming with the Afghan people and the international community of reconstruction to come. With these memories in mind, I will cite below three lessons for the future of Afghanistan.

The first is that we need to look at the current situation in the light of Afghanistan’s history. Afghanistan has experienced direct intervention by the major powers three times; the so-called “The Great Game” by Great Britain and the Czarist Russia in the 19th century, the Soviet invasion in the 20th century, and the U.S. intervention in the 21st century. Great powers intervene for their own reasons, and eventually withdraw, again for their own reasons. That was the history of Afghanistan. Although the time gap between the Soviet Union’s withdrawal and the US intervention was surprisingly short, given the weight of these experiences, any major power would feel little inclined to intervene directly in Afghanistan for some foreseeable future. Having said that, if major powers had intervened and withdrawn at their whim, there is no guarantee that such history would not repeat itself. A certain period of time starting now may provide a window of opportunity for Afghanistan’s nation-building and development. If they fail to make use of it, history may repeat itself.

The second point is that nation-building and development must be led by the Afghan people, i.e., it will never succeed if it is predicated on foreign support. When I was teaching at a graduate school after retirement, there was a student from Afghanistan. He argued with conviction that if foreign countries stop intervening and leave it to the Afghan people, “we will do just fine on our own”. My response at the time was to think about the fact that civil war broke out there after the Soviet withdrawal. However, he may be right, if we take into account the fact that the long-term efforts by the international community led by the U.S. have ended up in failure. In order to build the nation successfully, there is no other choice but for the Afghan people to take the lead and go forward of their own volition, no matter how hard it may be. The Taliban will have to be the centre of it, but there is no other alternative.

The third is the current and future role of the international community. Afghanistan’s nation-building and development will not be successful without cooperation from the international community, but only in the sense that it supplements the efforts of the Afghan people. Afghanistan consistently produced the greatest number of refugees in the world since the Soviet invasion. Although the ranking has steadily declined over the past 10 years, it will likely return to number one. It is the responsibility of the international community to extend a helping hand to the people in need in and outside of Afghanistan. In addition, in supporting Afghanistan’s nation-building and development, we should constantly and strongly encourage the Taliban government to promote interethnic reconciliation for nation-building and seriously seek cooperation with the international community. At the same time, we should make persistent efforts to provide assistance.

If we waste the precious period from now in the coming years, the cost of the lost opportunities can be extremely high to Afghanistan as well as to the international community.

Lastly, let me mention my memory of Sadako Ogata, who served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR). As the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconstruction Assistance, Ms. Ogata was very passionate about the reconstruction of Afghanistan. I had the opportunity of accompanying Ms. Ogata on four occasions in Afghanistan, which coincided with the time she put together the concept of “Human Security” as a starting point of assistance based on her experience as UNHCR. For her, it was a journey to confirm her own thoughts as she saw the harsh reality on the spot.

Kinichi Komano was Japanese ambassador to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2004.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

駒野 欽一 / 元アフガニスタン・エチオピア・イラン大使

2021年 11月 16日
米国における9.11同時多発テロ事件から20年、アフガニスタンから米軍が撤退し、アフガニスタンの大統領も国を逃げた。筆者は、現地における日本の支援実施責任者としてカブールに着任して程なく、ほぼ同世代のアシュラフ ガニ氏と知り合った。氏は、援助受け入れ調整責任者として活躍した。発足したばかりの体制の中では、自らの世界銀行での経験を踏まえ、開発のビジョンを持つ数少ない指導者であった。はっきりとものを言う人であった。その後大統領となり、国造りの中心として遣って来たが、志半ばにして国を去らざるを得なかったのは、大変無念であったろう。途中で放り出さざるを得なかったのは、体制がいかに脆弱なものか、誰よりも身をもって承知していたからであろう。アフガニスタン復興支援の初期段階、文字通りすべてが廃墟と化していたカブールで、アフガニスタンの人々や国際社会の関係者とともに、復興を夢見て汗を流してきた一人として、今後のアフガニスタンを考えるに当たって3つの教訓を記しておきたい。

アフガニスタンは、19世紀の大英帝国と帝政ロシアによる、いわゆる“グレート ゲーム”、20世紀のソ連、そして21世紀の米国と、3度も大国の直接の介入を経験している。大国は、自国の都合で介入し、そしていずれ自国の都合で撤退する。それがアフガニスタンの歴史であった。ソ連の撤退と米国の介入との間は驚くほど近いが、これだけの経験をすれば、今後しばらくは、大国がアフガニスタンに直接介入することもなかろう。しかし、大国の都合でなされてきた介入と撤退の歴史であれば、繰り返えされないとも限らない。現在とこれから暫くの期間が、アフガニスタンの国造りと開発のチャンスともいえる。それを生かせなければ、歴史は繰り返えされかねない。





一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Afghan nation-building: Learn from mistakes