The 11th Herat Security Dialogue (HSD- XI), held under the theme “Reimagining Afghanistan: Ways Forward,” concluded in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, organized by the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS). Participants in this two-day session deliberated on various aspects, including the future of Afghanistan, the international community’s engagement with the Taliban, gender apartheid, the rise of extremism and fundamentalism, regional consensus-building, and global support for political forces opposing the Taliban.
Discussions also revolved around the formation of a national dialogue for the democratic future of Afghanistan, regional identity conflicts, the approach of Persian-speaking countries towards the Persian language, and the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism. The Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) reported that participants in the 11th Herat Security Dialogue (HSD- XI) hailed from 25 countries, including representatives from the United Nations, the European Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and several governmental and non-governmental organizations. These participants extensively reviewed the future pathways for Afghanistan, centering discussions on global policy shifts.
The 11th Herat Security Dialogue (HSD- XI) concluded in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, after two days. During the first day of these discussions, officials from the previous government, opposition political figures to the Taliban, analysts, and experts from various fields engaged in a series of talks, addressing the situation in Afghanistan. The focus was on the nature of interactions with the Taliban and the global and regional policies regarding engagement with this group.
On the first day, participants deliberated on the possibility of the Taliban acquiring tactical nuclear weapons and the destructive consequences of the irresponsible withdrawal of the United States and NATO from Afghanistan. Inherent differences between the perspectives of the Afghan people and the Taliban, as well as the struggle against gender apartheid, were among the other key topics of the initial discussions. Additionally, participants discussed the role of media in promoting human rights values, the Taliban’s access to humanitarian aid, and the whitewashing of the Taliban’s image in the reports of the United Nations Secretary-General’s spokesperson.
Furthermore, on the first night of these discussions, Farishta Sama, one of the renowned singers of Afghanistan, enhanced the atmosphere by performing patriotic songs, adding joy and cheer to the participants of this session and reviving memories of the diverse and vibrant Democratic Afghanistan. Additionally, the film “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” directed by Sahraa Karimi, was screened.
Mohammad Ismail Khan, the former Jihadi leader and Minister of Energy and Water of the previous Afghan government was one of the special guests of this session, sharing remarks on the Taliban and political dialogues for two days. On the second day of this session, he stated that the Taliban not only haven’t changed but have become more stringent compared to the past. According to him, Afghanistan has endured countless hardships in the past two years. He reiterated that the world’s patience with the Taliban has worn thin.
Referring to the Taliban’s reluctance for political dialogue, the former Jihadi leader stated that the group insists on pledging allegiance to survive. Emphasizing that the Taliban’s tyranny will fortify the foundations of resistance in pulpits, mosques, and homes.
The second day of the Herat Security Dialogue commenced with the performance of a patriotic song by a group of young people. The first panel discussion of the second day, titled “Nuristan: Greater Iran and the Solidarity of Neighbors,” featured the participation of Habibullah Fazeli, a professor at the University of Tehran, Abdullah Rahnama, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic Research of Tajikistan, Nazif Shahrani, a professor at Indiana University, Afrasiab Khattak, a former Pakistani senator, and Javid Ahwar, a researcher at Nazarbayev University. Discussions among the participants covered Persian language issues, identity conflicts in the region, the stance of Nawruz region governments toward the cultural values of “Greater Iran,” and other detailed topics.
Habibullah Fazeli, a professor at the University of Tehran, has stated that the concept of “Greater Iran” is the oldest political concept in “Cultural Iran” and is mentioned in Avestan texts. He added, “In the Islamic period, Greater Iran naturally served as the essence of the Iranian world and a concept legitimizing a land. Greater Iran values such as justice and the Ahura Mazda narrative, inherent to Iranian life, have entered the Islamic era. The maturity of this idea dates back to Ismail I or Shah Ismail in the Safavid period, continuing through the Qajar era.”
Afrasiab Khattak, a former senator of the Pakistani Parliament, addressing the dangers and threats of extremism in the Greater Iran region, including the massacre of identities and values, stated that maintaining values such as the Persian language requires adaptability to diversity.
Nazif Shahrani, a professor at Indiana University, added that “the colonization of the Persian language region has disintegrated.” He emphasized that political and economic exploitation has taken place based on this identity. According to him, political culture has separated identities and created countries in the name of ethnicities.
Javid Ahwar, a researcher at Nazarbayev University, stated, “Throughout history, the Persian language and names have been systematically discriminated against and erased.” He emphasized that the histories of various periods of the Nawruz cultural region were written in Persian, but authorities have sought to weaken these roots. Ahwar, advocating for a shift away from nationalism and political biases, called for the connection of Kabul, Tehran, Delhi, and Peshawar.
Abdullah Rahnama, a Tajik writer, emphasized that naming the Persian language Tajiki in a historical period in Tajikistan was done out of compulsion to demonstrate that Tajiks have been present in the land of Tajikistan since ancient times.
Mr. Rahnama added that the main threat to Greater Iran and the Persian language comes from extremist groups and extremist ideologies. He categorized the rule of religious entities in two Persian-speaking countries as a threat to this language and cited the example of a translator present at the meeting between a Taliban official and Iranian officials in Tehran.
The second panel discussion of the second day of this session, titled “Regional Consensus; Global Support,” featured the participation of Said Tayeb Jawad, former Afghan ambassador to Britain and Russia, Asad Durrani, former head of Pakistani intelligence, Nicholas Kay, former British ambassador to Afghanistan, Vladimir Osef, a researcher at the Institute of CIS of Russia, and Ashita Mittal, a representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Uzbekistan.
Said Tayeb Jawad, former Afghan ambassador to Russia, has called for a pragmatic approach to Afghanistan’s issues and emphasized the necessity of a balanced international engagement and regional cooperation for a secure future. He questioned the global community, stating, “Why engage with the Taliban when they do not meet standards?” Mr. Jawad added that the efforts of Afghan politicians have been overlooked, revealing the apparent dual approach of global diplomacy towards Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Ashita Mittal, representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Uzbekistan, emphasized regional consensus in combating drug trafficking. She stated that a comprehensive security strategy needs to be implemented at the borders. According to her, the increase in illegal financial flows and the rising cost of narcotics significantly impact global and Afghan markets. She also pointed out that the patterns of drug trafficking have changed and emphasized the interception of methamphetamine smuggling and cybercrime.
Vladimir Osef, the head of the institute of CIS of Russia, continues to emphasize the importance of regional agreements and the key role of regional countries in solving Afghanistan’s issues.
However, General Assad Durrani, former head of the Pakistani intelligence agency, highlights the changing geopolitical landscape of Pakistan and underscores its significance in confronting extremist threats such as ISIS.
The third session, titled “National Dialogue: Toward a Democratic Afghanistan,” featured Ali Maisam Nazari, the head of foreign relations for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF), Shah Mahmood Miakhel, former deputy minister of defense of previous government of Afghanistan, Mohammad Karim Amin, senior member of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan, Bashir Ahmad Tahinj, minister of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD) of previous government of Afghanistan, Atifa Tayeb, women’s rights activist, Aref Dostyar, consultant at the Crook Institute in the United States, and Dr. Zakir Hussain Ershad, university professor. They presented their views and opinions on nation-building, governance, and the roadmap for the democratic future of Afghanistan.
Shah Mahmood Miakhel, the Deputy Minister of Defense of the former government of Afghanistan, emphasized that Afghan politicians have been unable to formulate a unified strategy to combat extremism over the past two years. He added that the current narrative, thinking, and outdated policies are not effective for present-day Afghanistan. In response to Amin Karim’s characterization of the Taliban regime as a “system,” Miakhel stated that a system has a specific definition, and the Taliban regime cannot be termed as such.
Dr. Zakir Hussain Ershad, a professor at the University of Bucharest in Romania, stated that today’s generation in Afghanistan must agree on principles and values and consider a structure and system that is not recognized as sacred.
Ali Maisam Nazari, the Foreign Relations Officer of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF), stated that achieving a legitimate government should not depend on the decisions of foreign countries. He added that one of the goals of this front is to challenge the Taliban to prove that this group is not the only option and it will be removed.
Bashir Ahmad Tahinj, the former Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD), expressed concern about the resettlement of migrants and Pakistani Taliban in the northern region of Afghanistan, emphasizing that this danger also exists for the province of Nangarhar and the Hazara people. He voiced concerns that with the resettlement of the TTP in the northern provinces, these areas will turn into another Gaza.
Aref Dostyar, an advisor at the Crook Institute in the United States, added in the continuation of discussions: “We need a process of creating a future perspective in Afghanistan, and all institutions and forces must prepare their plans to start this process.”
Dr. Dawood Moradian, the head of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS), has expressed gratitude for Tajikistan’s support for the people of Afghanistan. He stated that after the fall of the country to the Taliban, the world left the people of Afghanistan alone, but the President of Tajikistan supported Afghanistan, and he is a “hero”.
Mr. Moradian emphasized that the philosophy of the Herat Security Dialogue from its inception until now has been: “Give them bread, Do ask their faith.” He considered the presence of various political, security, cultural, and media figures as evidence of his claim.
The Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) has stated that during the two days of the 11th round of the Herat Security Dialogue, it hosted discussions with guests from 25 countries. The institution emphasized that, in addition to political and media figures, dozens of governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the United Nations, the European Union, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, participated in the 11th Herat Security Dialogue.
At the end of this session, the Zohra Orchestra, led by Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, the head of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), performed various songs and presented a delightful evening for the participants. Some attendees, by sharing performances of these songs, ignited a flame of nostalgia for the homeland in the hearts of all those in exile.