The European-based think tank in the Afghan President’s sights for possible expulsion from Afghanistan has not received any official word from the government, while the Nato chief has come out in defense of it.
International Crisis Group (ICG), which published a damning report on the state of Afghan politics last month, told TOLOnews in an email that it has not been officially notified by the Afghan government of its disapproval of the ICG’s findings.
“We have seen the press reports, but we have no direct word of anything from the government. Therefore, we can’t really comment on our potentially being investigated or reviewed,” ICG communications director Andrew Stroehlein wrote from Brussels on Monday.
In the meantime, Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he discussed the ICG report with President Hamid Karzai in his recent trip to Kabul and that although he did not agree with the report’s conclusions on Afghanistan, he supported freedom of expression.
“First of all, I don’t share the pessimistic views expressed in the report from the International Crisis Group and I think the main weakness in the report from the group is the fact that they don’t take into account that the international community is committed itself to assisting in Afghanistan after 2014,” he said in a Brussels press briefing on Monday.
“I am also a strong supporter of freedom of expression, [so] although I don’t agree with the ICG, obviously the ICG has the right to express its views and I think any democracy including Afghanistan profits from an open, transparent and critical debate from how we could possibly make governor better and make the provision of basic services more efficient,” he added.
The Presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi raised the issue of ICG’s possible expulsion in a televised interview on Sunday saying that the group’s report was contrary to Afghanistan’s national interests and such activities by a foreign organization should not be allowed.
Janan Mosazai, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, confirmed that ICG’s presence in Afghanistan was being assessed.
“The government of Afghanistan is monitoring ICG’s activities. In the end, a final decision will be made regarding its activities in Afghanistan,”.
However, if ICG is expelled Karzai is likely to face backlash from civil society groups who regard the government’s claim of the report going against national interests as a means of silencing freedom of speech and stifling debate.
“If the government of Afghanistan decides to expel this group from the country, it will basically stop people from accessing information, which is the right of the Afghan people,” Siddiqullah Tawhidi, chief of media watchdog Nai, said Tuesday.
Afghan Civil Society Forum chief Azizullah Rafiee said that if ICG is expelled, the government will have to put forward a strong case of its reasons for doing so.
“If the government of Afghanistan honestly believes that the accusations [ICG] has made and the matters it has stated have no base in Afghanistan, it is necessary that they put together a document describing or dismissing it, so that not only public minds are calmed down but also the government of Afghanistan would sit rested,” he told TOLOnews on Tuesday.
ICG warned in the recent report that after the presidential election and withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the government will face a political crisis and outright civil war if strict reforms – which the report details – are not implemented.