H.E.Mohammed Daud Yaar, PhD. has not had your typical diplomatic career – he’s been a dissident, political fugitive, exile, insurgent, academic, high-ranking government official, and now Afghanistan’s new Ambassador to London.
As a US-educated, pro-Western economics professor hailing from one of Afghanistan’s old noble families, Yaar was forced to flee Kabul after the 1978 Soviet-backed coup. He escaped execution by mere chance. His father-in-law, the Governor of Jalalabad, was shot and the members of the underground movement, of which the Ambassador was a part, were jailed and brutally tortured. Tanks surrounded Yaar’s house and his wife and son were put under surveillance for over a year until they escaped to Germany.
Yaar made it to Pakistan where he obtained a fake passport that got him into Germany. There he spent six months a year as an academic, and raising funds for Afghan refugees; and six months in Afghanistan fighting with the mujahideen.
“I used to have to grow a big beard,” he grins, recalling sharing a bunker in Herat with Ismail Khan, (now Afghanistan’s Minister of Energy and Water).
With Gorbachev assuming power in the Kremlin, Yaar predicted a Soviet withdrawal. He had also become disillusioned by infighting in the resistance movement and decided to move to the US where he continued to work with the exiled King Zahir Shah while watching as Afghanistan imploded.
“Between 1992-94 thousands were killed,” he says. “So when the Taliban came and began disarmament we saw them as harbingers of peace. But we soon realised it was the peace of a cemetery.”
Then came 9/11 and the subsequent Nato-led campaign to oust Al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts. “But military success happened too quickly and our politics was left behind,” remarks the Ambassador. “The Taliban were left out in the cold and with their foreign supporters they were soon able to come back.”
In 2008, Yaar returned to his homeland. He was quickly recruited as adviser to President Karzai’s chief of staff and later transferred to the National Security Council in 2009 where as Director of Policy and Oversight he helped draft Afghanistan’s new security policy.
In 2010, Yaar transferred to the Foreign Ministry as Director of Economic Affairs. What he found was an economy riddled with distortion and sustained by aid money. “We have a huge balance of payments deficit which at the moment is being bridged by aid and unfortunately illicit activity,” explains Yaar.
In an attempt to put the economy on a firmer footing, President Karzai has recently established a High Economic Council to produce a sound regulatory framework for the markets to work efficiently.
These measures are part of the Ambassador’s calls for the transformation of Afghanistan. “The first ten years after 9/11were all about transition; the next decade has to be about transformation,” he says.
Key to that future is security. While some observers fear the return of the Taliban, the Ambassador is not willing to entertain the possibility. “How can you take this society that has come so far and has tasted liberty back to the dark ages? If it happened it would be an unimaginable catastrophe. I don’t think the Afghans and world will allow it.”
He is optimistic that Afghanistan will be able to meet its own security needs by 2014. “If foreign intervention ended – and those offering safe havens to the insurgents ceased to do so – peace would be achieved in a matter of months,” he says.
So reaching out to Afghanistan’s neighbours, particularly Pakistan, where many Taliban operatives are hiding, is crucial.
“We know that Pakistan has its own difficulties and limitations and we are not playing the blame game. Security in both countries is closely entwined and we must find common strategies to safeguard both nations. I am confident our Pakistani brothers know this very well,” he says.
Making peace with reconcilable insurgents is also crucial, adds Yaar.
“The majority of the Taliban have joined because of ignorance, economic motives, pressures, persuasion or grievances. So we hope to separate these from the hardline jihadists and bring them into the political process.”
But he is clear that any concessions to the Taliban should be within the parameters of the Afghan constitution. “After decades of tyranny and political exclusion, we now have a constitution that allows people – especially women – to live like human beings. To tear that up would be a tragic mistake.”
Protecting the hard-won rights of Afghanistan’s women is a priority for the Ambassador who plans to set up a gender unit at the Embassy. Afghanistan will need continued assistance with its socio-economic development and good governance and the Ambassador’s job in London is to ensure that the UK remains closely engaged.
“I want to make sure that Afghanistan and Great Britain trust each other,” he says. “Events of the past still seem to haunt us unjustifiably; I want to build confidence between our two countries.”
An ardent student of history, Yaar is writing a book on the impact of key thinkers in human development. And as Ambassador he is helping to draft the next chapter of Afghanistan’s history. Hopefully, it will be a happier one.
courtesy: Embassy Magazine