Factors of Foreign Policy

Posted on: 01-06-2017

Amrullah Saleh

Former Director General of National Directorate of Security (NDS)

I would like to thank the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) for conducting the national dialogue on foreign security. In the timesof neglect that Afghanistan is facing, such initiativescan be very important for our foreign policy. I recently attended a conference where one of the speakers suggested that some of titles and praises that were conferred on Afghanistan were false and incorrect. He added that in order to analyze Afghanistan in a right way, we needed to do away with these misconceptions. Although the patriot in me refuses to accept his statements, the following points summarize his thoughts:

  1. Afghanistan is an unconquerable country. However, the history shows that, directly or indirectly, expansionists have conquered Afghanistan. But the condition that they chose to keep the country in was more because of external factors than internal factors.
  2. They say, Afghanistan has defeated many external powers. This is also a relaxing factor for the nerves of Afghan people because poor countries have no ability to defeat super powers without external assistance.
  3. They say Afghanistan is a united nation! However, Afghanistan has a diversity of tribes and these tribes have links with neighboring countries which could bring about a dispute among them easily.
  4. The Afghan Government cannot function at length without external financial and military assistance. Both the state and insurgents rely on external financial aid. But, there comes a question on the status of internal resources and inherent values which have not been calculated yet.

These are serious and bared analysis of international commentators about Afghans. Such analysis bring Afghanistan volubility as people’s state during international reviewing. However, these factors hinder in our dealing with others, like Pakistan.Therefore, it is much needed that we edit alternative conceptions and present logic during such argumentations. This will enable us to construe our sustainable and permanent values in people’s thoughts and to build relations based on such facts. But, what does our foreign policy stands for? What elements, values or discussions shape our foreign policy?From my prospective, the following factors establish the bedrocks of our relations with the world:

  • Religion
  • Sect
  • Shared borders
  • Ethnicity
  • Commerce
  • Language
  • Shared values
  • Strategic importance
  • Strategic resources and mines
  • Short-term cooperation based on security needs

All the above ten factors require explanation which cannot be included in this paper. All our external relations are based on these factors. Or maybe,what we are discussing here will not be considered while taking serious decisions for Afghanistan’s foreign policy. But it is God’s instruction that we should make efforts as we do:
The friend likes this complexity
Vein efforts better than dormancy

5. Some people have nostalgic thoughts and think past was better.
I do not remember the past, because I am the offspring of crisis and conflict. Of course, once the world was not much connected as it is now.At that time we lived in isolation which had both positive and negative effects.We had peaceful nerves and perhaps none of the external factors could worry us as they do now. Our greatest poet Ferdawsi has well explained that time:

Neither the enemy had any nest in this land
Nor there was a place for a foreigner
From that day enemy dominated us
That we lost wisdom and contemplation
From that day this house was destroyed
That a foreigner become the breadwinner
When an ignoble lead the village
The farmer will be begging
In the name of God if we had wisdom
We wouldn’t have such a bad destiny

Now, one of the annoying facts about our foreign policy is that the breadwinnersare foreigners and those who give bread will give orders too. The village leaders are ignoble people, not that I am pointing our government leaders but I am calling a layer of our politicians who were opportunists during internal tensions and lost many opportunities for our country’s history. We should consider these two factors and we should make efforts to resolve or remove them in the course of time.
6. After 9/11 Afghanistan found opportunities that could have been exploited in a positive way and we would not have had to face our current bad condition. However,certain men in power found these opportunities
cheap commodity. They did not struggle to get these opportunities, did not make efforts for the country and came to power by complicated political calculations and hence they wasted this commodity. Instead of
bargaining with external powers, suppressing internal competitors was the priority for these men in power. In most cases, they wasted time and energy on suppression of competitors instead of state building and in
major circumstances used international aids in their endeavor.
7. Another important factor in foreign policy is the language of diplomacy and delivering diplomatic messages which is mostly sidelined by our politicians. It means that beside the content, the way we talk is also
important. In most cases where we should keep silent, we keep raising our voices.And, where there is a need to raise voice we keep silent. We, in execution of our foreign policy, need to control few centimeters of our body which is called tongue. In the past years, unwise statements by some of our people in power have caused significant harm to our national interest.It can be said that no bomb has ever had such devastation as the imprudent statements from those in power. Foreign policy of Afghanistan had some setbacks because of uncontrolled statements of some of our diplomats. Afghan people have continuously expressed their anger towards such statements and condemnedthem. These statements have caused enormous damage to our country’s critical situation and it is hard to rectify the damage caused.

I saw many people remorseful
But nobody become regretful of being silent

Both Imam Ghazali and as well as Rumi have said that an incorrect spoken word is like leaving a fire in a stack of cotton. These two great thinkers of all time believe the tongue is the reason for 15 evil acts and it is relatively linked to 150 criminal activities. But if we use our tongue in a good manner, it can create and leave various positive and constructive outputs.
Lastly, it is regretful that there was less listening and seeing in our culture by those who have been in power. If we could change this culture and create a layer of committed knowledge which is called Strategic Community, and exploit these committed individuals’capacity, we could facilitate the execution of our policies. In western and eastern countries where the strategic community has a strong influence, giving priority to the opinions of the elites has enabled their foreign policy to be based on people’s demand. It has also furthered foreign policy out of complexity and elite-based agenda. However, it is important that in major national agendas, especially foreign policy, the strategic community must be united. Or at least they should hold frequent discussions to reach a firm conclusion in their analysis. I end my remarks with a poem by Rumi:

No stone will be green by spring
The flower rise from soil in stunning colors
In years you were a stone, you the irritant
Test and be a soil once in your life

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