Foreign relations of Afghanistan
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Foreign relations of Afghanistan are handled by the nation's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is headed by Zarar Ahmad Osmani. He answers to, and receives guidance from, the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani.
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has close and friendly relations with a number of countries around the world, including: Turkey, United States, Japan, Germany, India, China, Canada, Russia, United Arab Emirates and many others.
Before the 1980s Soviet war, Afghanistan pursued a policy of neutrality and nonalignment in its foreign relations, being one of a few independent nations to stay neutral in both World War I and World War II. In international forums, Afghanistan generally followed the voting patterns of Asian and African non-aligned countries. During the 1950s and 60s, Afghanistan was able to use the Russian and American need for allies during the Cold War as a way to receive economic assistance from both countries. However, given that unlike Russia, America refused to give extensive military aid to the country, the government of Daoud Khan developed warmer ties with the USSR while officially remaining non-aligned. Following the Marxist coup of April 1978, the government under Nur Muhammad Taraki developed significantly closer ties with the Soviet Union and its communist satellites.
After the December 1979 Soviet invasion, Afghanistan's foreign policy mirrored that of the Soviet Union. Afghan foreign policymakers attempted, with little success, to increase their regime's low standing in the noncommunist world. With the signing of the Geneva Accords, President Najibullah unsuccessfully sought to end the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan's isolation within the Islamic world and in the Non-Aligned Movement.
Most Western countries, including the United States, maintained small diplomatic missions in the capital city of Kabul during the Soviet occupation. Many countries subsequently closed their missions due to instability and heavy fighting in Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Many countries initially welcomed the introduction of the Taliban regime, who they saw as a stabilizing, law-enforcing alternative to the warlords who had ruled the country since the fall of Najibullah's government in 1992. The Taliban soon became alienated of those countries' positive feelings with knowledge of the harsh Sharia law being enforced in Taliban-controlled territories spreading around the world. The brutality towards women who attempted to work, learn, or leave the house without a male escort caused outside aid to the war-torn country to be limited.
Repeated Taliban efforts to occupy Afghanistan's seat at the United Nations and OIC were unsuccessful. By 2000, only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. However, all three countries withdrew their recognition in the months following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Following the October 2001 American invasion and the Bonn Agreement the new government under the leadership of Hamid Karzai started to re-establish diplomatic relationships with many countries who had held close diplomatic relations before the communist coup d'état and the subsequent civil war.
The Afghan government is focused on securing continued assistance for rebuilding the economy, infrastructure, and military of the country. It has continued to maintain close ties with North America, the European Union, Japan, Australia, India, China, Russia and the Greater Middle East as well as African nations. It also seeks to establish relations with more South American or Latin nations. In late 2011, relations between Afghanistan and Dominican Republic were established.
The September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. prompted Canada to re-evaluate its policies toward Afghanistan. The Minister of National Defence Art Eggleton advised Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to authorize more than 100 Canadian Forces members serving on military exchange programs in the United States and other countries to participate in U.S. operations in Afghanistan. Although not participating at all in the opening days of the invasion, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced on 7 October that Canada would contribute forces to the international force being formed to conduct a campaign against terrorism. General Ray Henault, the Chief of the Defence Staff, issued preliminary orders to several CF units, as Operation Apollo was established. The Canadian commitment was originally planned to last to October 2003.
Afghanistan is represented in Denmark, through its embassy in Oslo, Norway. Denmark has an embassy in Kabul. Denmark has 760 soldiers in Afghanistan, operating without caveat and concentrated in Helmand province. Relations between the two countries are friendly. About 9578 Afghans live in Denmark.
Since 2001, the Royal Danish Army has been involved in the War in Afghanistan as part of the ISAF. The Royal Danish Army with the British Army have been involved in clashes with the Taliban in the Helmand Province. Denmark had two of their F 16s in the Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan to support their forces in Afghanistan.
Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees is an organization, working in Afghanistan. The organization was created to support the Afghans, who had fled to Pakistan and Iran. Danish assistance to Afghanistan amounts $80 million each year. Since the fall of the Taleban in 2001, Denmark has supported Afghanistan with education and democratisation. In 2005, the Folketing approved 670 million DKK, to the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
On 28 January 2006, the Afghan president Hamid Karzai visited Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Marienborg, the summer residence of the Danish Prime Minister. In September 2009, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Camp Bastion. On 23 June 2010, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen visited Afghanistan, where he met Hamid Karzai. On 10 January 2011, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul visited Denmark, to discuss bilateral relations.
The German-Afghan relationship is long and has been mostly cordial. In 1935 under prime minister Muhammad Hashim, Afghanistan established a close relationship with Germany, a distinct change of relations in comparison to its usual position between the Russian and British spheres of influence. Under this relationship, Afghanistan received German foreign aid and technical assistance, and also developed closer ties with Germany's allies, Italy and Japan.
Many Afghan academics studied in Germany, many more sought refuge in Germany during the years of civil war. There has been significant cultural exchange over the years. Several of the best secondary schools in Kabul are founded and supported by the German government. The number of Afghans in Germany is about 90,000 but many others have been deported from there in the last decade.
Germany remains one of the most significant donors of foreign aid and partners in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. The Bonn agreement for the post Taliban governance of Afghanistan was debated and signed in the former seat of government of Western Germany.
India has traditionally enjoyed friendly relations with Afghanistan. Despite that, India supported the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Relations deteriorated after the Taliban took power in 1996. India "unofficially" supported the Northern Alliance minority groups against the Pakistani-backed Taliban. During the course of the hijack of Indian Airlines Flight 814 in 1999, the Taliban requested recognition by India in exchange for help in negotiations. The request was not acted upon by the Indian government. After the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, India strengthened ties with the Islamic republic of Afghanistan by establishing consulates in most major Afghan cities. The Embassy of India is located in Kabul.
India has participated in multiple socio-economic reconstruction efforts, including power, roads, agricultural and educational projects. Some of these include building dozens of dams and reservoirs, a number of hospitals or clinics, schools and government institutions. The long road from Bandar-Abbas in southern Iran to highway 1 in southern Afghanistan is carried out by state-owned Border Roads Organisation (BRO), the mission statement of which states that the BRO is India's "most reputed, multifaceted, transnational, modern construction organization committed to meeting the strategic needs of the armed forces." The killing of a BRO employee by the neo-Taliban in 2005 prompted the Indian authorities to dispatch approximately 200 Indo-Tibetan Border Police commandos to in 2006 to provide security for Indians working in various construction projects in Afghanistan.
Political contacts between India and Afghanistan have increased in 2011, especially after the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. During Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's May 2011 visit to Kabul, it was announced that India's total aid to Afghanistan reached $2 billion after a package of $500 million was added. There are also military ties between Afghanistan and India, which is expected to increase after the October 2011 strategic pact that was signed by President Karzai and Manmohan Singh. India's the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan.
Afghanistan's relations with Iran have fluctuated over the last decades, due to the thousands of illegal Afghan immigrants and refugees in Iran causing many problems for the Iranian government and people, and with periodic disputes over the water rights of the Helmand River as two of the main issues of contention. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution, relations deteriorated. Iran supported the cause of the Afghan resistance and provided limited assistance to the ethnic Hazara rebel leaders who pledged loyalty to the Iranian Revolution. After the emergence of the Taliban, Iran stepped up assistance to the Northern Alliance minority ethnic groups. Iran did not have any form of relations with the Taliban. In 1998, when the Taliban captured the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, several Iranian diplomats were executed on espionage charges.
Since 2002, the new Afghan government has engaged in cordial relations with both Iran and the United States, even as relations between Iran and the United States have grown strained due to American objections to Iran's nuclear program. While Iran is helping to develop the Afghan Shia communities, the NATO officials have been accusing Iran of secretly arming and training the Taliban insurgents. Iran is accused of playing a double game in Afghanistan, a helper to the Afghan Shias and a destabilizer for the larger Sunni Afghans. In 2010, several high-level Iranian officials openly voiced for a failed Afghanistan.
Ties between Afghanistan and Iran became strained in recent years due to Iran's toughened immigration policy, hastening the repatriation of many Afghan asylum seekers. Although Iran has hosted large numbers of Afghan refugees since the early 1980s, it is seeking to repatriate the remaining ones back to Afghanistan as soon as possible. A number of Afghans were executed by hanging in the streets of Iran, which sparked angry demonstrations in Afghanistan. Between 2010 and 2011, Afghan and Iranian security forces were involved in border skirmish in Nimroz Province of Afghanistan. In July 2011, Iran decided to cut off electricity exports to Afghanistan's Nimroz Province. There are constant reports about Iran's Revolutionary Guards training Afghans inside Iran to carry out terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.
—Syed Kamal, a self-confessed agent for Iran's Revolutionary Guards and member of Sipah-i-Mohmmad
Italian-Afghan relations have generally been positive, and Italy has served as a place of exile for two former Afghan kings, Amanullah Khan (deposed 1929) and Mohammed Zahir Shah (deposed 1973). Italy was among the first nations to recognise Afghanistan's sovereignty, along with Germany, Turkey, France, and Iran, following the 1919 recognition by the Soviet Union.
Italy began to take on increased involvement (although on a relatively small scale) in 1935, as Afghanistan established closer relations with Germany, a key Italian ally. Afghanistan maintained these ties throughout much of World War II, though it came under strong pressure from Moscow and London to expel the German and Italian diplomatic corps.
Afghanistan began diplomatic ties with Pakistan in 1947, after the Partition of India and when Pakistan was created as a new state. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and Balochistan have long complicated Afghanistan's relations with Pakistan. Controversies involving these areas date back to the establishment of the Durand Line border in 1893 which divided the Pashtun and Baloch tribes. Although shown on most maps as the western international border of Pakistan, it is unrecognized by Afghanistan. From September 1961 to June 1963, diplomatic relations, trade, transit, and consular services were suspended by Pakistan.
The April 1978 Marxist revolution further strained relations between the two states. Pakistan took the lead diplomatically in the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in opposing the Soviet invasion. It feared that after Afghanistan the Soviets would then enter Pakistani territory, especially the Balochistan region next to the oil-riched Persian Gulf. The United States was more fearing that Soviet reach to the Persian Gulf would threaten or suspend Arab oil supply so it began Operation Cyclone to provide billions of dollars to Pakistan for the training of Mujahideen against the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The United States and Saudi Arabia provided as much as $40 billion to Pakistan. Supported and funded by the UNHCR, about 3 million Afghan refugees were allowed to stay in Pakistan, most of them in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistan developed closer ties with the Taliban government in 1996, which it believed would offer strategic depth in any future conflict with India, and extended recognition in 1997. Following Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001, when the Taliban government was toppled, Pakistan recognized the new Karzai administration and offered around $250 million in aid for reconstruction of the war-torn country. This includes the rebuilding and expansion of the major roads linking Afghanistan with Pakistan, the construction of Jinnah Hospital in Kabul and the Allama Iqbal Faculty of Arts building at Kabul University.
Much of Afghanistan has long relied on Pakistani links for trade and travel to the outside world, and Pakistan views Afghanistan as its primary route for trade with Central Asia. In late 2010, the long awaited Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Act (APTTA) was finally signed by the two states. It took effect in June 2011, which is intended to improve economic ties. As of 2011, Afghan-Pakistani political ties continue to decline from bad to worst. This is mainly due to the recent Afghanistan–Pakistan border skirmishes, escalating Taliban insurgency which is alleged to be supported and guided by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy network, and the growing influence of its rival India in Afghanistan. Despite all of this, Afghan President Hamid Karzai labelled Pakistan as Afghanistan's "twin brother".
Afghanistan and Russia have shared a highly varied relationship from the mid-19th century to the modern day. For decades, Russia and Britain struggled for influence in Afghanistan, strategically positioned between their two empires, in what became known as "The Great Game". Following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the new Soviet Union established more cordial relations with Afghanistan, and in 1919 became the first country to recognise Afghan sovereignty.
Relations between the two nations became complicated following the 1978 communist coup known as the Saur Revolution. The new communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was highly dependent on the Soviet Union, and the Soviet support for the widely-disliked communist regime, and the ensuing Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, led to a great hatred for the Soviets in much of the Afghan population. The Soviets occupied Afghanistan in the face of a bitter ten-year insurgency before withdrawing in 1989. Even following the withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Soviet Union provided massive support to the embattled DRA government, reaching a value of $3 billion a year in 1990. However, this relationship dissolved in 1991 along with the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself. On 13 September 1991, the Soviet government, now dominated by Boris Yeltsin, agreed with the United States on a mutual cut off of military aid to both sides in the Afghan civil war beginning on 1 January 1992. The post-coup Soviet government then attempted to develop political relations with the Afghan resistance. In mid-November it invited a delegation of the resistance's Afghanistan Interim Government (AIG) to Moscow where the Soviets agreed that a transitional government should prepare Afghanistan for national elections. The Soviets did not insist that Najibullah or his colleagues participate in the transitional process. Having been cut adrift both materially and politically, Najibullah's faction torn government began to fall apart, and the city of Kabul fell to the Mujahideen factions in April 1992.
In 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that he wanted to be more involved in Afghanistan, supporting development of infrastructure and the army. This came as relations between Afghan President Karzai and American President Obama reached a low.
Saudi Arabia has exterted a strong influence on Afghanistan, and was one of the major provider of funds to the mujahideen fighters against the Soviets. Saudi Arabia was also the second of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government, extending official recognition on 26 May 1997, one day after Pakistan and shortly before the United Arab Emirates. After the removal of Taliban, Saudi Arabia is one of the major helpers in the Afghan reconstruction. For example, the main highway project is funded mainly by the US and Saudi Arabia. The largest mosque in Afghanistan was also financed by Saudi Arabia.
Afghanistan was the second country to recognize the Republic of Turkey, after the Soviet Union, establishing diplomatic contacts whilst the Turkish War of Independence was still being waged. Talks held in Moscow on 1 March 1921 resulted in the Turkey-Afghanistan Alliance Agreement and a period of intense cooperation. In 1937, shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Turkey signed the Treaty of Saadabad.
Official diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and the United States began in the 1920s, although contact between the two nations was made in the late 1830s with the visit of Josiah Harlan. Residing in Tehran, William Harrison Hornibrook served as a non-resident U.S. Envoy (Minister Plenipotentiary) to Afghanistan from 1935 to 1936.
The United States established its first official Kabul Legation in 1942, which was elevated to the Kabul Embassy in 1948. Louis Goethe Dreyfus, who previously served as Minister Plenipotentiary, became the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 1949 to 1951. The first official Afghanistan Ambassador to the United States was Habibullah Khan Tarzi who served from 1948 to 1953.
Since the 1950s the U.S. extended an economic assistance program focused on the development of Afghanistan's physical infrastructure which included roads, dams, and power plants. Later, U.S. aid shifted from infrastructure projects to technical assistance programs to help develop the skills needed to build a modern economy. Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Kabul in December 1959, becoming the first U.S. President to travel to Afghanistan. The Peace Corps was active in Afghanistan between 1962 and 1979. During the early 1960s former King of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, visited the United States and met with John F. Kennedy.
After the April 1978 coup, relations deteriorated. In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs was murdered in Kabul after security forces burst in on his kidnappers. The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated a small military training program. All remaining assistance agreements were ended after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghans in need. U.S. efforts also included helping Afghans living inside Afghanistan. This cross-border humanitarian assistance program aimed at increasing Afghan self-sufficiency and helping Afghans resist Soviet attempts to drive civilians out of the rebel-dominated countryside. During the period of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. provided about $3 billion in military and economic assistance to the Afghan Mujahideens.
Following the September 11 attacks, the United States launched an attack on the Taliban government as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Following the overthrow of the Taliban, the U.S. supported the new Karzai administration and continues to station 100,000 of U.S. troops in the country. Their aim is to help the new government of President Hamid Karzai establish authority across Afghanistan and hunt down insurgents that are launching attacks.
The United States is also the leading nation in the rebuilding or reconstruction of Afghanistan. It has been providing multi-billion US dollars in weapons and aid, as well as infrastructure development. In 2005, the United States and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement committing both nations to a long-term relationship. U.S. President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on 1 March 2006. Hamid Karzai is hailed as an example of a great leader by most U.S. politicians, universities and media outlets every time he visits the United States. Although, the U.S. military is to remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, U.S. officials have offered to remain permanently if the Afghan people wanted them.
During the Soviet occupation, the United Nations was highly critical of the U.S.S.R.'s interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and was instrumental in obtaining a negotiated Soviet withdrawal under the terms of the Geneva Accords.
In the aftermath of the Accords and subsequent Soviet withdrawal, the United Nations has assisted in the repatriation of refugees and has provided humanitarian aid such as health care, educational programs, and food and has supported mine-clearing operations. The UNDP and associated agencies have undertaken a limited number of development projects. However, the UN reduced its role in Afghanistan in 1992 in the wake of fierce factional strife in and around Kabul. The UN Secretary General has designated a personal representative to head the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA) and the Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA), both based in Islamabad, Pakistan. Throughout the late 1990s, 2000, and 2001, the UN unsuccessfully strived to promote a peaceful settlement between the Afghan factions as well as provide humanitarian aid, this despite increasing Taliban restrictions upon UN personnel and agencies.
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I am very proud to be part of such an important decision of the Danish people to support Afghanistan. Given the long-lasting and friendly relations between Afghanistan and Denmark, Denmark's broad public and political support to assist Afghanistan means that we now have a new strategy for our engagement in Afghanistan for 2008–2012
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- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of State (Background Notes).
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- Embassies and consulates in Afghanistan and Afghani missions abroad