On Wednesday, September 30, 2015, the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and the Atlantic Council hosted a sold-out public program titled Afghanistan One Year On: Progress Made and Challenges Ahead.
The NCAFP and Atlantic Council were excited to host His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive Officer of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in conversation with Ambassador James B. Cunningham regarding the state of affairs in Afghanistan in the first year of the Unity Government.
Ambassador Cunningham engaged Dr. Abdullah with a series of questions underscored by the ongoing crisis in Kunduz, beginning with a question of whether the fall of the city is a litmus test for the status of the political and military transitions faced by Afghanistan. Dr. Abdullah repeatedly stressed the importance of national unity across Afghanistan, in addition to the necessity of continued international support following the 2014 withdrawal announcement.
Subsequent questions from Ambassador Cunningham heard Dr. Abdullah emphasize a hopeful outlook for Afghanistan in which the perseverance of the unity government in the face of adversity bodes well for the 2016 elections and the prospects of peaceful conflict resolution despite the fall of Kunduz.
A lively session of Q&A with the audience saw Dr. Abdullah openly address the waning popular support for the Taliban across Afghanistan, the "politically-based" decision to withdraw U.S. troops and the government's support for education. In a particularly remarkable moment, Dr. Abdullah addressed a representative from Women for Afghan Women, whom he thanked enthusiastically for their hard work in aiding at-risk women and girls across the country.
The last few questions dealt primarily with ongoing programs to end corruption and boost economic development. He assured the audience that the political will existed to combat corruption and build long-term economic prospects, but vast institutional work was necessary first. Dr. Abdullah admitted that fundamental reform was needed in the law enforcement and judicial systems, in addition to a great expansion of domestic infrastructure.
As the program came to a close, Dr. Abdullah's staff informed him, and subsequently the audience, that Afghan security forces had retaken the city of Kunduz. While later reports have varied, it was an exciting moment on which to close an especially intimate evening with Dr. Abdullah.