Objectives, Strategy and Structure of Decision-making in Afghanistan’s foreign policy; from the Perspective of the Constitution and the President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani
Successful approach in interacting with the world and region is one of the achievements of the National Unity Government; and critics acknowledge that Afghanistan's foreign policy has gained favorable results over the past two years.
“Foreign Policy” means following the course and practices set for interacting with the affairs and issues related to outside the country in order to preserve its soverignity, defend its survival and ensure its interests. Foreign policy may include political, economical, military, legal and cultural areas.
Afghanistan’s foreign policy, like any other country, is consisted of two parts, constant and variable. “Constant” and “variable” are two main dimensions of foreign policy. The constant dimension of the foreign policy represents the element of continuity in foreign policy and the variable aspect demonstrates the transformations and changes. The goals and principles of foreign policy enshrined in the Constitution are changeable, therefore, government is responsible for their realization.
However, the objectives of foreign policy constantly fluctuate between the maximums and minimums and with little moderation it is usually placed on the axis of "minimum of maximums" or "maximums of minimum".
Ensuring national security, preserving independence and unity, reaching self-reliance and economic prosperity, improve country’s international status and…are considered constant objectives of the foreign policy.
Curbing country’s geo-political and geo-strategic challenges and transforming them into the opportunities for interaction with regional and trans-regional countries; based on the commercial and economical rules, utilizing the geo-economic location as geographical highway of energy and as connector of regional countries; staving off geo-cultural threats as connecting hub of regional and trans-regional cultures, [national] identification and independence are considered as tools for achieving the abovementioned objectives by National Unity Government.
This article only focuses on explaination the Constitution and the perspective of the President of Afghanistan regarding the foreign policy’s objectives and principles of the country.
Key words: Foreign policy, regional integration, human rights, good neighborliness and multilateralism
Fundamental lines of Afghanistan’s foreign policy according to the Constitution
Articles enshrined in the constitution clearly explain the fundamental lines of the foreign policy. Some of the articles listed as following:
Afghanistan shall be an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state.
The state shall observe the United Nations Charter, inter-state agreements, as well as international treaties to which Afghanistan has joined, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The state shall regulate the foreign policy of the country on the basis of preserving the independence, national interests and territorial integrity as well as non-interference, good neighborliness, mutual respect and equality of rights.
No citizen of Afghanistan accused of a crime shall be extradited to a foreign state without reciprocal arrangements as well as international treaties to which Afghanistan has joined.
The State shall guarantee the rights and liberties of foreign citizens in Afghanistan in accordance with the law. These people shall be obliged to respect the laws of the state of Afghanistan within the limits of the provisions of international law.
Taking into consideration the above principles and several other instances, which play key role in forming foreign policy- for the sake of brievity is not mentioned here- it can be said that the fundamental lines (Doctorine) of foreing policy of the country according to constitution are consisted of:
1. Inseparability of freedom, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the country
2. Refrain from interfering in other countries’ affairs
3. Maintain good neighborliness with neighboring countries
4. Keep peaceful and good relations with regional and global countries
5. Respect international treaties and agreements
6. Participate in international affairs and issues
7. Support and protection of human rights
According to the above principles, government is required to consider them while formulating foreign policy strategy of the country and for their realization take necessary measures.
Decision making structure in Afghanistan’s foreign policy
The relevant institutions in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy are completely clear and the decision-making process is primarily within the authorities and responsibilities of the following institutions:
1. The President: The President as the head of the State, is the upmost authority according to Article 64 of the Constituion, has the authority to supervise the implementation of the Constitution and determine the fundamental lines of country’s policy (including domestic and foreign), however, after the approval of the National Assembly.
According to Article 64 of the Constitution, the recommendation of ministries, including minister of Foreign Affairs (Art.64/Chpt.11), dispatching of armed forces units outside of Afghanistan endorsed of the National Assembly (Chpt.6), appointing the heads of political representatives of Afghanistan to foreign States as well as international organizations (Chpt.14), accepting the credentials of foreign political representatives in Afghanistan (Chpt.15), issuing the credential letter for concluding intergovernmental treaties in accordance with the provisions of the law (Chpt.17) All the abovementioned instances can be considered President’s authorities and responsibilities in the foreign policy’s affairs.
2. National Assembly: According to Article 81 of the Constitution, the National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, as the highest legislative organ, shall manifest the will of its people as well as represent the entire nation. Every member of the Assembly, when voting, shall judge according to the general interests as well as the supreme benefits of the people of Afghanistan.
The National Assembly in direct and indirect approach works on formulation of the foreign policy:
A-Direct: Determine the fundamental lines of the policy of the country (Art.64/Chpt.2) and ratification of international treaties and agreements, or abrogation of membership of Afghanistan in them (Art.90/Chpt.5) are considered as the authorities of National Assembly.
B-Indirect: Approval of the State budget as well as permission to obtain or grant loans (Art.90/Chpt.3) and decide about elucidation session from each Minister, including minister of foreign affairs, about foreign policy in accordance to (Art.91/Chpt1) of the Constitution, the National Assembley can play effective role in country’s foreign policy.
3. Executive branch/Government: The Government shall be comprised of Ministers who work under the chairmanship of the President (Art.71). According to (Art.75) the Constitution, Execute the provisions of this Constitution, other laws, as well as the final decisions of the courts (Chpt.1), Preserve the independence, defend the territorial integrity and safeguard the interests and prestige of Afghanistan in the international community (Chpt.2) are the duties and responsibilities of this branch. In addition, the government for implementation of country’s fundamental lines of policy and regulation of its duties, in accordance to the country’s laws, issues and ratifies the regulations that include codification and implementation of foreign policy.
Particularly, the implementation of foreign policy is one of the fundamental duties of Ministry of foreign affairs. However, the Ministry of foreign affairs is not mentioned as the decision-making body of the foreign policy in the Constitution. Whatsoever comes under the domain of responsibility of Foreign Affairs Ministry are included controling, oversighting, establishing of relations and opening of representatives as well arranging and gathering of information for foreign policy decision makers.
Objectives of foreign policy from President’s perspective
The implementation of fundamental lines of foreign policy inshrined in the Constitution, in reality, should lead to the objectives and outcomes that provide and ensure welfare, prosperity, independence, unity and respect for the people of Afghansitan, and similarly, the government and country’s diplomacy are tasked with implementing these objectives.
According to the statements made by the President, the following topics considered as objectives of the current goveronment’s foreign policy:
1. National Security:
The ongoing proxy war, approaching Afghanistan as ‘Strategic Depth’ by some of the world powers and countries in the region, the geo-political location of Afghanistan, influx of several terrorist groups and organizations inside the country with different motives and goals, and… are the factors which have transformed the country’s national security one of the outstanding foreign policy goals.
According to the Constitution, providing of security in the country is one of the duties of security forces and institutions of the country but given the existing conditions, it requires global cooperation. Since the government has decisive determination to provide national security(1) Translated, besides enormous efforts put into the support for security institutions and defense forces, strategic agreements in the security, economic, technical and cultural spheres have been made with most of friendly and partner countries for providing national security.(2)Translated
2. Self-reliance and Economic prosperity:
Achieving self-reliance and economic prosperity seems unfeasible without cooperation and constructive interaction with the global community particularly with regional countries. Based on this notion, it is obvious that the country’s diplomacy has a significant role in achieving the goal of self-reliance therefore the government needs to prioritize the self-reliance and economic prosperity as one of its foreign policy’s objecectives. For this reason, in the earlier days of its formation, the National Unity Governmnet has put forward the economic plan of self-reliance, ways to achieve dynamic economy, introduction of comprehensive models that are effective for growth, support and development of country’s economy, in the senior official meetings of international donors. (3) Translated
On the other hand, the following of active economic diplomacy in the region is another initiative taken by the government; therefore, objectives, plans and extensive efforts have made in this regard, that led to the bright outcomes over the past two years. At the regional diplomacy level, the government goal is that Afghansitan “transforms from a point of discontinuity into a a point to continuity and a transit roundabout”.(4)Translated
Government strives to transform Afghanistan into an export nation and for this reason it follows and supports an economic integration policy in the region.(5)
The regional integration policy considered as a fundamental principle in the foreign policy and it can transform the geographical context of Afghanistan into a political-economic geography, based on that, the country can become a connecting point for East, Central, South and West Asia (6) Translated and can move rapidly towards economical growth and prosperity.
3. Improving Afghanistan’s Position in International System:
One of the objectives of the foreign policy is to regain the position and dignity of the country in the international system. Currently extensive attempts made in this area, which have turned into priorities in the foreign policy. Interaction, based on the principles of dignity, respect and mutual rights, is something that the President and the foreign policy officials of the country choose to follow as well as it is stated as the objectives of the foreign policy. Based on the President’s statement, Afghanistan has reached to a stage of working and operating in the international system “…[to] come together as a partnership of countries and international organizations united by a common perspective on the value of democracy and human rights, a shared vision of the great threats to world stability that terrorism poses, the need for leaders to unite in the common cause of respect for international laws and sovereignty of states, and the commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve the Social Development Goals.” (7) Translated
4. Preserving the Territorial Integrity and Unity of the Country:
Vast encroachments have taken place to disintegrate the country and undermine the unity. Currently relying on defence and security capabilities, extensive attemps will be made in the foreign policy so that the foreign encroachments can be prevented by international interactions inside the country.(8) Translated
5. National interests:
Protection of national interests is one of the fundamental principles of foreign policy; “Something that all Afghans have a consensus is that our relationship with the world is fundamental and essential for our interests and for this reason, and therefore, the administration has taken extensive measures to strengthen international relations during this period”.(9) Translated
In its foreign policy, Afghanistan consistently emphasizes that the regional stability and prosperity is not feasible without taking into considereation the national interests of Afghanistan.(10)Translated Therefore, the regional interactions require to be conducted based on mutual interests.(11)Translated
6. Tranforming Afghanistan from Arena of Confrontation to Field of Cooperation:
The bitterness of the past, resulting from the inappropriate attitude followed by the region and world towards Afghanistan, that had inflicted on the nation, whereas now “Our [Afghan people’s] proposal is to see and use Afghanistan as a platform for cooperation, not as a place of competition.” (12)
“For not just centuries, but for millennia we were a central node for world trade, culture, entrepreneurship, and the exchange of ideas with the world at large. Our cities were the hubs where the caravans of Asia rested before continuing their journeys through Iran and Turkey on their way to Venice. Even as late as the 1960s, Afghanistan was the tail end of a young people’s discovery route that connected Europe to Asia.” (13) Unfortunately, according to the worldview “Afghanistan is a conundrum. At the moment, there are two opposing views exist about Aghanistan; the first one, reflects a country full of dangers, challenges, terrorosim, drugs and administrative corruption; the other one is-where the government tries to achieve- the transformation of Afghanistan into Asia’s roundabout that connects East Asia to West Asia and North Asia to South Asia and eventually turns into a conncting point of Central Asia with all of directions. According to this view, Afghanistan is rich country with valuable natural resources and reserves.” (14)
Over the past two years, “the foreign policy of NUG is concentrated on transforming the first view with the second one” (15) “the focused efforts aimed at solidifying the role of Afghanistan as the Asia’s roundabout.” (16) The country had extensive achievements in this regard.
President Ashraf Ghani’s Perspective on Foreign Policy’s Strategies and Principles
Given the fact that “Afghaninstan is the heart of Asia and the history has transformed this land into main field of collision of powers and opposing ideas, whereas the President considers that the foreign policy of the country is natural interwoven with the domestic policy.”(16)
The President, assuming that Afghanistan is located at the intersection of five circles of international relations, has stated that “the objective of our foreign policy is to establish a platform of cooperation among States, organizations, powers and networks”. The foreign policy strategy of Afghanistan- as directed by the President-divided the global countries in 5 circles:
- First circle: Six neighboring countries;
- Second cirlcle: Islamic countries;
- Third circle: North America, Europe, Japan, Austerlia and the NATO and ISAF member countries;
- Forth circle: Asia;
- Fifth circle: International development organizations, UN, multi-national corporations, international civil societies and several other NGOs (17)
The foreign policy strategy of the country, which is already under implementation, is formed on the principles of developing and deepening of relations and facilitating of cooperation with these five circles, caused by the complexity, which is “… the result of history, we have no choice but to grasp it conceptually and lead and manage it in a principled yet pragmatic manner.” (18)
For establishing cooperation, strengthening and developing of such strategy, there are principles in place by foreign policy of Afghanistan. These principles stated from the President’s perspective as following:
1. The Principle of regional integration:
The foreign policy of Afghanistan based on the principle of regional cooperations; it is due to “our geopolitical location provides from one side, an unavoidable passage between Central Asia and South and South East Asia, from other side, our neighborhood to Middle East offers most favorable location for the country.
Asian continent will be the main hub of competitions in the 21st century. The extensive natural resources of Asia, such as gas, oil and drinking water as well as huge investement with rapid technological development have resulted in highly competitive opportunities in this continent. "(19) For this reason, “Our approach to regional cooperation is through development of clusters.”(20)
In addition, according to regional policy outlook of Afghanistan, “Deeper integration for peace and prosperity, our theme, is an imperative. Threats to our daily routines and national security come from networks of violence without passports. And constraints and opportunities conditioning the life chances of our citizens are defined by the ability of leaders in government, business and civil society to shape the regional and global environment for collaboration and cooperation. The test of leadership is, therefore, to change the rules of the game and the playing field among the nations from confrontation to cooperation.” (21)
On the other hand, “Deeper integration for prosperity is an even more of an imperative for our countries.”(22) Whereas, “Having been plunged into conflict in 1978, we are determined to create a virtuous circle of peace, stability and prosperity [in the region].”(23) The President has consistently pointed out that “As the President of Afghanistan, I am committing our country to deeper [regional] integration for peace and prosperity.”(24)
2. The Principle of Non-Interference in the Affairs of other Countries:
Afghanistan’s foreign policy towards its neightbors, region and world rests upon the principle of good neighborliness, non-interference in each other's internal affairs and respect for national sovereignty. In addition to our regionalism approach, this policy is of significant structural importance due to its close relation and more direct impacts on political, economical and security issues. As long as it relates to Afghanistan, we are bound to continue and strengthen the existing context for achieving our national interests.
Unfortunately, on the contrary, some regional countries are not sincere, in compliance with these principles, towards to Afghanistan. As it should, they have not blocked the passage route of terrorists from their soil to Afghanistan. Whereas the President explicitly reiterated and emphasized to the heads of these countries during a regional summit that “First, many terrorists come to our country and use our territory to destabilise your countries and other countries in the region.”(25)
“The relation becomes lethal when state actors embrace and sponsor these non-state actors, providing them with resources and sanctuaries, and use them as proxies in their competition against other states.”(26)
Preventing these strategic threats in the region, Afghanistan believes that “political disagreements must be dealt with politically” (27) and no country is allowed to interfere in the affairs of other countries.
3. The principle of Strengthing Relations with Islamic Countries:
The foreign policy of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan based on stregtheing the bond between Islamic countries by resorting to bilateral and multilateral relations.
Having historical and civilizational links with the Islamic countries is a fact that unavoidably had formed one of the ‘invariables’ of our country's foreign policy. Thus, the unbreakable bond with the Islamic civilization will be one of the sustainable factors of our foreign policy.
In this regard, the President declared after taking the office that “Afghanistan is joining a new consensus that is emerging in the Muslim world – a consensus that rejects intolerance, extremism, and war.”(28) In the wake of this strategic nature, the Muslim world's Ulema Council for the first time issued a statement condemning terrorism which can be considered as “…a historic turning point in acknowledgement of the shortcomings of Muslim majority country governments…”(29)
4. The Principle of Friendly Interaction with Global Major Powers:
The foreign policy of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is orientated towards reducing and avoiding tensions in the bilateral and multilateral international relations. The government strives to keep Afghanistan from confrontation and tensions between regional and international powers; the foreign policy of Afghansitan is a multilateral policy. The policy supports strengthening of a global security system based on extensive international and multilateral cooperation. (30)Translated
Afghanistan has the potential to establish cooperation between major world and regional powers, as good example is the cooperation between Russia, America, China and India.(31)
Accordingly, the Afghan foreign policy as far as possible, maintains balanced relations with the global and regional powers.
5. The Principle of Combining Foreign Policy with Economic Plans:
The President consistently emphasizes that “We intend to use all our key assets to create an economy that would answer the needs of both our security and the eradication of poverty. Engaging neighbors in a dialogue on peace, stability and prosperity is our fourth principle.”(32) “As well as with our other neighbors and the Arab world. We intend to produce a regional consensus that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is essential for regional security and prosperity and for the emergence and consolidation of an Asian continental economy.”(33)
Afghanistan believes that the creation of economic networks in the region is the key to solving many other disorders and amity between countries, “Each new connection produces a network effect but when these points are connected to each other, it produces a combined developmental impact that can lift our people from poverty to prosperity.”(34) For this reason, “Our [Afghanistan’s] economic strategy is inextricably bound up with our political strategy of building ties with our neighbors.” (35)
6. The Principle of Mutual Respect:
"We view our foreign policy as a bundle of relations, the thickness or thinness of which depends on mutual trust and respect for our sovereign right to make choices that serve the interests of our people, the region and the world.” (36)
Thus, Afghanistan’s cooperation with other countries is “…based on productive dialogues and mutual respect…”(37), according to the principle of mutual rights, Afghanistan expects from neighboring countries, region and the world to follow the normative relations in their cooperation; meaning State to State relations.(38)Translated
According to the pledges made by Afghanistan, which do not permit any individual or group to use its soil against any State or legitimate organization and in contrast, based on the principle of respect for national sovereignty and mutual rights, expecting full reciprocity in return. (39)
7. The Principle of Participation in the International System:
Afghanistan as part of global family is committed to its duties and responsibilities and deeply believes in and adheres to “Providing a platform for global cooperation.”(40) According to this view, “our national interests are combined with our international interests.”(41)
The President has explicitly stated in major regional and global conferences, “We, the people and government of Afghanistan, are committed and determined to overcome history and form value-based compacts with our partners and interlocutors.”(42) The statement shows that Afghanistan has the commitment towards accountability at global level. Because Afghanistan, according to its foreign policy, believes that the risks on the one hand and the opportunities on the other hand, requires multisided regional and global cooperation whereas the world is facing common dangers.(43)
8.The Principle of Joint Cooperation in Repelling Threats and Challenges:
Based on the principle of joint combat against serious and posing threats, Afghanistan believes in the principle of collective security through expulsion of regional and global security risks; because “The challenges that we confront are chain-linked, complex, and highly interdependent, requiring alignment of actions at the Asian, global, Islamic, national and regional levels.” (44) The President once elaboratly stated in one of Shangai conference that “We invite all members of the Shanghai Cooperation to join forces with us in defining the problem, bringing consensus in the intelligence community, the security community and the political community as to what are the dimensions.”(46) Particulary, in dettering the common challenges, namely, terrosim: “one of the topic that explicitly and clearly brought up was that, where terrorism is coming from?And Afghanistan had very clear answer to this. Terrosim is coming from these countries, Pakistan, China, Central Asia and Middle East, itself. Regionally, terrorism is not fighting with Afghans but with the State system. It strives to achieve its global agenda by destructing State system in the region.”(46)
It is certain that “… threats to global order in general and to the state system in particular are increasing, the response is too fragmented and episodic. Terrorist and extremist organizations are exploiting the uncertainty to create an ecological system that would allow them to create a fast-changing morphology and a more rabid set of pathologies.(47) And in the end this common threat requires a joint effort.(48)Translated
9.The Principle of Human Rights Protection:
Afghanistan both in its domestic and foreign policy, “… abides by international conventions and the rule of law. We are staunch supporters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is firmly embedded in our constitution, obliging the state to achieve these rights for our citizens”(49)Translated; because “Our Islamic values and our constitutional text have placed great value on human rights. Our religion and Constitution hold humandkind in high esteem, as humankind.”(50) Therefore, Afghanistan in its foreign and dosmestic policy adhere to this principle and strongly stress on its compliance and implemention.