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Grossman on Afghanistan and Pakistan Diplomacy

grossman“America needed not only policy in Afghanistan but also the future of diplomacy. We tried to approach key matters as a whole, deal with them comprehensively, and help lay the foundation for a better future for Afghans, for the region to move forward,” Ambassador Marc Grossman explained during his talk on the diplomatic campaigns conducted in the region from 2011 to 2012, for the inaugural Jackson Institute Fellow Lecture on September 16 at Luce Hall Auditorium.

Ambassador Grossman served for nearly three decades as a U.S. Foreign Service officer and in 2005, he retired from the State Department and ended his career as the department’s third-ranking official, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. He then served as a vice chair of the Cohen Group until 2011, when former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton appointed him as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP). He recently was appointed a Kissinger Senior Fellow to the Johnson Center for Study of American Diplomacy.

In the last two years, President Obama and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton promoted a diplomatic surge in Afghanistan, adding the missing piece to the existing strategies for Afghanistan that previously focused on military and civilian efforts. Under the leadership of Grossman, the diplomatic surge has developed into even more proactive “diplomatic campaigns” that aim to create a regional structure to support Afghanistan’s peace process, sustain a dialogue with the Taliban and other insurgencies, and engage the leadership of Pakistan to encourage their cooperation in the peace process.

Ambassador Grossman outlined four international meetings that took place between 2011 and 2012 as milestones of the U.S. efforts to engage regional partners in Afghanistan’s peace process. The Istanbul meeting in November 2011 brought together Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and India to create action plans to support the peace process. At the Bonn conference in December 2011, 85 nations, 15 international organizations, and the United Nations reviewed the progress of the last ten years and set a time line for beyond the year 2014, in which NATO has chosen to end combat missions in Afghanistan and presidential elections will be held. At the Chicago NATO summit in May 2012, the international community pledged $4.1 billion per year for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017 to support Afghan national security forces so that they would eventually take the lead everywhere in their territory. At the Tokyo conference, the international community adopted Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (MAF). Within this framework, the international community pledged $16 billion in development aid, and in return, the government of Afghanistan pledged itself to the specific reforms, especially in governance, women’s rights, and economic development.

Assessing the overall progress that the diplomatic campaigns have made for the last two years, Ambassador Gross stated that Afghans will continue to fight for a good cause and move forward with the support of collective efforts and mutual accountability. 

In addition to the four meetings, the diplomatic campaigns also put more emphasis on economic development, such as increasing private sector involvement and launching the “New Silk Road” initiative to connect the Central and South Asian economies to increase trade and investment in Afghanistan. He added that economic development could eventually provide alternatives to insurgency, referring to the existing challenges that the U.S. faces in sustaining the dialogue with the Taliban. The “New Silk Road” also requires active involvement of Pakistan in transporting Afghanistan’s exports to India.

 “Neighbors matter. Everybody has contributions. Without Pakistan, there is no capacity to move forward in the peace process of Afghanistan,” the Ambassador emphasized.

Despite the current state of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, the SRAP team saw improvement in Pakistan’s attitude. The country has played an important role, especially in the U.S.-Pakistan-Afghanistan Core Group, facilitating direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

After two years of diplomatic campaigns, Ambassador Grossman stepped down from the position and came to Yale as a Kissinger Senior Fellow of Johnson Center for Study of American Diplomacy, made possible by generous contributions from Charles B. Johnson ’54 and Nicholas F. Brady ’52, and former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s recent donation of his papers to Yale. This semester, Ambassador Grossman teaches a seminar titled “Creating a Twenty-First-Century Diplomacy” at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, and shares his invaluable experience and insights with the Yale community.

“When I was SRAP from 2011 to 2012, not everything went perfectly. Not everything went really well sometimes. But what you learn from the diplomatic side is that you’ve got to start something,” Grossman explained. “You’ve got to start where you can start. Somebody has to say it doesn’t have to be this way, it can be another way, and move forward. That was a great thing about being an American diplomat.”