YPFP Brussels: From stateless entity to responsible statehood: An Interview with the Afghan Ambassador to the EU & NATO

Posted on February 18, 2013

Afghanistan has seen more than its fair share of conflict during the last hundred years, but it was after witnessing the Russian invasion of his homeland in December 1979, that Humayon Tandar decided it was his duty to contribute to the struggle for Afghanistan’s independence.

In 1980 he moved to France and joined the anti-Soviet resistance as its diplomatic representative. “As a young Afghan studying abroad, I felt it was my duty to contribute to the struggle of my fellow countrymen, and this formed the basis of my diplomatic career,” says Ambassador Tandar, Afghan Ambassador to the European Union and NATO.

Today, after a career spanning two decades, and positions including Afghan Ambassador to the United Nations, European Communities and a period as Deputy National Security Advisor, Ambassador Tandar is tasked with managing the complex coordination between Afghanistan and the EU and NATO.

“Politically, we are facing a very complex situation,” he explains. “NATO and the EU are involved in multisectoral activities in Afghanistan. Our difficulty sometimes lies in obtaining and putting together information from the various institutions and levels of decision-making concerning the Afghanistan policies of these two international actors. Making sense of this huge body of information is not always easy, especially when we have to make things clear for our colleagues in Afghan government institutions who rely on our mission in Brussels to gather and interpret the data.”

As security in the country transitions from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to the Afghan National Security Forces in 2014, Afghanistan faces some of its greatest challenges yet.

“At this moment we should focus on trying to change the outlook and behavior of our neighbors with respect to Afghanistan. Our whole region would benefit in terms of cooperation if some of our neighbors gave up their hegemonic tendencies and acknowledged Afghanistan as an equal partner,” says Ambassador Tandar.

“The progression of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is a responsible act, stretching over a long period of time so as to avoid any brutal breakdown. The downward trend of international troop withdrawal is compensated by the upward trend of the growing size, professionalization and equipment of the Afghan National Security Forces,” he explains, adding that the NATO mission will continue after 2014 under the formula train/advise/assist.

The EU has also faced some of its biggest changes and challenges since 2002, when he was first posted as Ambassador to the European Communities. The signing of the Lisbon Treaty enhanced the role of the European Parliament and the creation of the European External Action Service gave the Union its own foreign service. Added to this the financial crisis has significantly affected many of Afghanistan’s largest aid donors.

 “In this context, Afghanistan remains a priority for the European Union and creates consensus among European actors,” says Ambassador Tandar. “The situation has also changed in Afghanistan, as we have moved from a stateless entity to responsible statehood, from humanitarian necessity to the stage where we need smart growth. This changes the nature of our relations and our cooperation with the EU, Afghanistan now requires from its partners more action and a better coordination in order to achieve sustainable development. “

Beyond 2014, Ambassador Tandar sees political relations between Afghanistan and the EU moving to a more regional dimension. “As key to the region, Afghanistan will need the expertise and support of the EU in order to create the solid foundation of bridging and cooperation, our ultimate aim being sustainable regional economic development,” he says.

He adds that future foreign policy leaders working on these issues “should always take into account the aspirations of the people in developing countries, who wish to evolve from the position of objects of international affairs into subjects and actors of their own fate.”

H.E. Ambassador Humayon Tandar, Afghan Ambassador to the European Union and NATO will address YPFP Brussels on February 21st 2013 at the European Parliament as part of their monthly Ambassador Series, which is available to paying members only.