Waheed Omar, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Italy, Visits JCU

Waheed Omar, Afghanistan's Ambassador to Italy (left) and IR Society President Mihail Iotov

Waheed Omar, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Italy (left) and IR Society President Mihail Iotov

On January 31, 2017, the International Relations Society welcomed Waheed Omar, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Italy. Mr. Omar gave a presentation on Afghanistan, focusing on the effects the 2001 war had on the country, Afghanistan’s strategic position in the region, and how US-Russia relations affect Afghanistan.

The Ambassador begun by commemorating the long-standing friendship between Afghanistan and Italy (95 years). He mentioned the 950 Italian troops currently deployed in Afghanistan for support, help and security, as well as the  30.000 Afghan citizens that have come to Italy since 2014.

The effects of the war

The American invasion following 9/11 changed the country. Before 2001, Afghanistan’s social and living conditions were difficult. Women were not accepted in society, the government had collapsed, there were no schools and no basic health care. Now 9 million people are in school and 28 of the country’s MPs are women (more than in the UK or France). Afghanistan has a booming civil society (protests, music, cinemas, rights to women, etc.) Without the American intervention, none of these changes would have been possible, said the Ambassador.

Afghanistan’s strategic role

Afghanistan is historically an intersection of people and interests.  “A transit,” where the situation is most complex in that multiple players are interested in it. As a result, Afghanistan has been the stage of rivalries between opposing powers over the last few decades. The geopolitical situation in the region is delicate as well. Iraq is in a cold war with Saudi Arabia due to their religious discrepancies, while Pakistan is fighting its war with India on Afghan soil. Russia, on the other hand, wants to re-introduce itself at the world stage and it is not happy with the American advance.

US-Russia Relations and Afghanistan

The state of US-Russia relations heavily affects Afghanistan. Much of the trouble Afghanistan had in the past 40 years was a result of the rivalry between Russia and the US, the Ambassador said. Now Russia is trying to be directly involved in solving the regional chaos and it is going to be an influential global actor in the dramatic escalation yet to come. Therefore, Afghanistan would welcome warmer and more friendly relations between the US and Russia, said Mr. Omar.