100 Years on, Ambassador of Afghanistan Said T. Jawad says a vision of modernity and independence has been realised in his country
ONE BRISK DAY IN MARCH 1928, King Amanullah Khan and Queen Souriya of Afghanistan– both immaculately dressed: the King in a silver blue tunic of golden braids and scarlet trousers, complemented by a long, undulating cape of greenish-grey; the Queen in a Siberian fur coat and golden hat – stepped off the train at London’s Victoria Station to greet their British counterparts. Having already been escorted into Dover by destroyers and airplanes, they were personally greeted by King George V and Queen Mary in what one observer said was “a royal scene on the stage.” Between a jungle of daffodils and lilies, the two kings greeted by way of the universal language of a handshake. Though the crowd was steeped in excitement to see the romantic guests, they were also keen to catch a glimpse of the other notables on the red carpet, among them Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Sir Austen Chamberlain with Home Secretary and Lord Birkenhead, Air Marshal Trenchard, the Duke and Duchess of York and Prince Henry. After Queen Souriya introduced Queen Mary to the Afghan delegation, the Crowns set off to Buckingham Palace to inspect the guards, again greeted by many cheering crowds.
This was the scene described by reporters almost a decade after King Amanullah had negotiated the Treaty of Rawalpindi, regaining Afghanistan’s independence and setting forth the vision for a new Afghanistan: progressive, educated, and most importantly, independent from foreign rule. Sheltered from the warm summer day in August 1919, Amanullah had negotiated the Treaty of Rawalpindi to restore Afghanistan’s independence.
One hundred years on, as Ambassador to Afghanistan to the Court of St James, I am delighted to pursue King Amanullah’s plans and dreams for a prosperous, peaceful, and self-reliant Afghanistan.
At a recent event to celebrate this milestone, I bore witness to those agents that have helped realise King Amanullah’s vision. Cardinal among those that attended our Centennial Independence Day were British military, development and government officials, each one a testament to the UK’s long and continued commitment to work with us to make Afghanistan, the region and the world a better place for our children. From the tens of thousands of Britons that served in combat, to the more than £2.2 billion in assistance provided by DFID since 2003, the UKhas been a reliable partner, especially in provinces like Helmand. It should be noted that their contribution – like all our NATO partners – goes beyond quantification: numbers cannot possibly measure the intensity and sacrifice of each person involved. As we proudly assumed the full responsibility of war against terrorists or Taliban, and as NATO forces continue to train and support the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), it should not be forgotten than the past 18 years of joint efforts in Afghanistan have contributed not only to stability in Afghanistan but also to safety and security in the region and the world.
With significant help from our international partners, a new Afghanistan has emerged over the years with over 386 new universities and higher educational institutions, a free press, the highest number of women in government and parliament ever (exceeding even those in the West), enhanced connectivity with the world, improved infrastructure, and responsive democratic institutions. In business, Afghanistan leads South Asia in trade and economic policies, and its modern investment laws ensure that its free market economy benefits local Afghans the most. Its economy is complemented by Regional Cooperation Platforms that streamline its exports through many corridors to the South and Central Asian markets. Speaking of connection, Afghan mobile-phone subscription has expanded tremendously since 2002, with 90 per cent having access to mobile communication services. In education, 9.3 million children are in school, 39 per cent of whom are girls. Ultimately, Afghanistan – with Afghans at the helm – is well underway to fulfill King Amanullah’s dream of building a pluralistic, prosperous and peaceful society.
We are realistic about the challenges. Afghans still have much to build and defend and bring closer to a peaceful resolution the war imposed upon us. Nonetheless, the ANDSF have been the frontline for preserving the established order envisioned by King Amanullah a century ago. In recent months, the ANDSF has dedicated significant resources to ensure the countrywide presidential election takes place successfully. While terrorists and groups like the Taliban, ISK (Daesh), and the Haqqani network continue to pose a threat to the lives of innocent Afghans, they do not pose a significant threat to government control of provincial capitals. The struggle for an Afghan-led peace process requires strategic patience and calculated and coordinated joint efforts with our neighbours and international partners, especially the USand UK.
One hundred years after Afghan independence, and 18 years after its reclamation from the Taliban, it is incumbent upon us to preserve an idea whose strength will not falter under duress.