image of Ambassador Mohib, Mrs. Lael Mohib, and Dr. Marion Creekmore

Afghan ambassador visits Emory, speaks to students

His Excellency Dr. Hamdullah Mohib, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and his wife, Mrs. Lael Mohib, visited Emory University on Wednesday, April 6, 2016.  They came to campus to engage with a Halle Institute-sponsored luncheon for faculty and with students in Dr. Marion Creekmore’s South Asian Politics course.

The South Asian Politics course, with its focus on real-world practice, is a unique offering in Emory College.  Creekmore, formerly U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, draws heavily on his personal experience and connections in his teaching, offering students a combination of academic and practical expertise.

“Afghanistan, as well as India and Pakistan, are playing increasingly important roles in regional and global affairs,” says Creekmore, Distinguished Visiting Professor of History and Political Science.  “Students interested in global work need to develop a solid understanding of these countries’ current political, economic, and security concerns as well as how their policy decisions of the past are influencing their present thinking and action.”

The Ambassador and Mrs. Mohib translated students’ studies into the real-world framework of a country focused on managing a successful transition to self-reliance in the wake of the drawdown of U.S. and NATO troops.  They stressed that the new Afghan government is rebuilding its citizens trust by tackling internal corruption and taking actions to create a unified and peaceful political future.  The majority of Afghanistan’s citizens are under 35 – a generation that grew up with war and is deeply invested in peace.

After 40 years of continuing war, “being an ordinary country is what has escaped us.” The Ambassador referenced Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s address to the U.S. Congress last year while emphasizing to a group of faculty earlier in the day: “Ordinary has escaped us, but it’s what we desperately want.”

Students in the South Asian Politics class focus on the relationships among Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.  For their final project they are working in small groups, simulating the role of policy advisers to the leader of one of the countries, and recommending the policy objectives and supporting initiatives that should be pursued toward another of the countries over the next five years.

Students asked detailed questions covering security concerns, the repatriation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, bilateral relations with Pakistan and India, bilateral and multilateral trade and investment, women’s rights, multiculturalism and other topics.  The Ambassador engaged candidly with the students, briefing them on the larger issues and context even as he answered their specific questions.

For his part, Ambassador Mohib wanted to better understand how the students perceive Afghanistan and expressed the desire for a mutual learning process.

“Afghanistan is talked about in the media quite a bit, but it’s in the abstract.  We want to bridge the gap between what is being done in Afghanistan and what is being perceived.”

“The challenges impacting the new Afghanistan are often missing from the global conversation.”

Throughout the day, Mrs. Mohib, who most recently served as Chief of Staff at the American University in Kabul, emphasized the centrality of the women’s empowerment agenda to the country’s goals for self-reliance.

“We currently have four female cabinet members, three female ambassadors, and two female governors,” noted the Ambassador, in answer to a student’s question.  He also pointed out that President Ghani had recently nominated a woman to the country’s Supreme Court, and said of Mrs. Ghani, “We haven’t had a first lady this active since the 1920s.”

During their one day on campus, the Mohibs also met with Vice President and Deputy to the President Gary Hauk, spoke to Dr. Carrie Wickham’s class on Islam and Politics, and consulted with Karin Ryan of The Carter Center.

Interested in learning more about present day Afghanistan?