Ashraf Haidari, political counselor at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., made a final request to Mary Washington students while concluding his speech in a crowded Jepson 219 on Wednesday, Oct. 21. He asked for students “to research and write about Afghanistan.”
Hosted by the department of political science and international affairs, Haidari came to talk to UMW students and faculty about the present state of Afghanistan, the upcoming presidential election and the importance of an active relationship between the United States and Afghanistan.
According to a biography of Haidari found on the Embassy of Afghanistan Web site, Haidari and his family took refuge out of the country in 1990. After attending Wabash College as an undergraduate student and receiving a master’s degree from Georgetown University, Haidari has held positions with the United Nations, Georgetown and the Embassy of Afghanistan. He currently serves as the political counselor of the embassy, directly assisting the Afghan ambassador to the U.S.
In his presentation, Haidari said that the biggest concern for Afghanistan right now is its lack of security, institutionalized law making and law enforcement.
“Security has been declining in Afghanistan since 2004, when the first presidential elections were conducted in the country,” Haidari said.
He went on to say that the United States plays an important role in the country’s institutional goal of security, and that security was lacking during former President Bush’s final term as president.
“Because the last administration took its eye off Afghanistan and increasingly focused on the Iraq war…the Taliban and Al Qaeda began regrouping and resurging in much of the south and east of Afghanistan,” Haidari said.
With an introduction by Assistant Professor of Political Science Surupa Gupta, Haidari’s presentation was followed by a panel of questions by Assistant Professor Nabil Al-Tikriti of the department of history and American studies, and Associate Professor Jason Davidson and Assistant Professor Ranjit Singh, both in the department of political science and international affairs.
Gupta, who was involved in bringing Haidari to the school, stressed the importance of his presentation at UMW.
“It is important because this is a critical juncture for the United States with Afghanistan,” Gupta said. “It’s really important that students hear something new from someone who they deem an authentic and credible source.”
Haidari also stressed the importance of students actively informing themselves about Afghanistan.
“To succeed [in Afghanistan] it takes commitment from the American people,” Haidari said in an interview the following day. “It is important that students do research to understand what needs to be done.”
Recommendations Haidari made for sources of research include projects by major think tanks on Afghanistan and speaking engagements in Washington D.C.
“There has not been a day for the past three months in Washington where there have not been events on Afghanistan,” Haidari said.
He also recommended looking at alternative international news sources, “not just CNN and BBC.”
When asked about the upcoming Nov. 7 runoff elections between incumbent President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, Haidari said that democracy is necessary in Afghanistan.
“My personal opinion, based on international experience, has been that at the end of the day, holding elections is just a democratic exercise that must happen,” Haidari said.