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What Led Kabul To Sack Ambassador To U.S.?

  • Ron Synovitz

Is Said Jawad being removed for going against "mainstream political wisdom in Kabul"?

Is Said Jawad being removed for going against "mainstream political wisdom in Kabul"?

Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States has been ordered to resign, after seven years in the post.

Said Jawad said he was not given any reason for why he must step down by September 22.

He told CNN television on September 1 that seven years as the ambassador was a "long time" and that it was "fairly normal" for him to be leaving at this point. But he also complained about a "broad smear campaign" in Kabul -- including the publication of photos alleged to have been taken at the Afghan Embassy in Washington during Ramadan.

He also said Afghan newspapers and websites that have republished the pictures were guilty of spreading "completely false allegations and doctored photos."

The photographs purportedly show women in sleeveless dresses drinking alcohol at the embassy. Jawad says he was traveling in Colombia and Brazil at the time the photos were alleged to have been taken.

No Scandal In Kabul

Jawad has also charged that he and other Afghans are being "subjected to a broad smear campaign" by both an "opportunistic government" in Kabul and "fanatics outside of the government" who use misinformation and propaganda as political tools.

Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry rejected reports that suggest Jawad's sacking was the result of the controversial photos. Ministry officials in Kabul told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan the move was part of a "normal diplomatic rotation" and that Afghanistan's ambassadors to Moscow, Dubai, and Jordan had also been reassigned recently.

Jean MacKenzie, the Afghanistan bureau chief for the online GlobalPost news agency, says that there's no major domestic political scandal in Kabul about the photos that would make Jawad a liability in upcoming parliamentary elections.

"It's not something that people are talking about on every street corner," MacKenzie says. "So while it could be that there is a small contingent that regards Ambassador Jawad as a liability or is trying to smear him, as of now this has not reached critical mass in the consciousness of the Afghan people -- at least from the point of view of Kabul."

'Serious Differences'

Analysts say Jawad's outspoken opposition to Kabul's drive for peace talks with the Taliban may be the real reason he is being sacked.

Jawad has criticized the idea of negotiations with the Taliban leadership, arguing as recently as last year that the only "engagement" with senior Taliban leaders should be military confrontation.

Speaking to the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace in May 2009, he said that "the leadership of the Taliban" -- the Haqqani network, the Hekmatyar group, and Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shura -- "have been affiliated and associated with Al-Qaeda for a long time."

Jawad said that these groups "are conducting an ideological battle" and that for the "small group of the hard-core Taliban, the ideological Taliban, the type of engagement that is needed is military. We have to engage them. We have to take them out. There is no other option."

MacKenzie says that those views, at a time when Kabul is warming to the idea of Taliban peace talks, may be a reason for Jawad's dismissal.

She says that "Jawad's position would be at odds with the prevailing wisdom in Kabul now. Negotiations with the Taliban are on the table. They are being openly discussed. The United States, contrary to its previous position, is not rejecting out-of-hand the possibility of political negotiations with the Taliban."

She says there would be "serious differences" between Jawad's opinion as expressed in his 2009 speech and "what is now becoming mainstream political wisdom in Kabul."

Anti-Western Tide?

Ahmad Sayeedi, a former diplomat who served as Afghanistan's deputy council in Pakistan, says that many people in Afghan diplomatic circles think there has been a smear campaign to discredit Jawad.

Sayeedi says politicians and diplomats with long-standing ties to the United States have come under pressure from Kabul in the past year as relations between Washington and Karzai have soured.

"Currently, the political situation in Afghanistan is such that people who are close to the United States face all kinds of difficulties," Sayeedi says.

Indeed, Karzai in the last few months has forced the resignations of Afghanistan's interior minister and secret service chief, two of the most respected members -- at home and among Afghanistan's Western allies -- of Karzai's U.S.-backed government.

Both also reportedly had serious reservations about Karzai's approach to brokering peace talks with the Taliban. Karzai's office said in early June that the president lost confidence in the officials because of their handling of security at a "peace jirga" in Kabul that was targeted by a Taliban attack.

contributors to this report include RFE/RL correspondent Farangis Najibullah in Prague and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan

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