BEHIND THE SCENES: Visionary Leadership: A Week in Ambassador Jawad`s Diplomatic Life
M. Ashraf Haidari «View Bio

While the international community is committed to Afghanistan`s reconstruction, the country`s success in nation-building will ultimately depend on the visionary leadership of Afghans who can effectively harness international assistance and manage the country`s scarce human resources to rebuild Afghanistan. Today`s Afghanistan is blessed with the emergence of committed leaders working extremely hard to maximize the effectiveness of international aid in rebuilding Afghanistan so that the country quickly can stand on its own feet.

One of this new breed of leaders is Afghanistan`s ambassador to the United States, Said Tayeb Jawad. He has exhibited exemplary leadership with a strong work ethic helping drive his country`s nation-building agenda. Observing his work as a diplomat over the course of a week reveals a model for a new generation of Afghans who share his vision of building an efficient state and a vibrant civil society in Afghanistan.

Here, then, is a snapshot of a recent week in the diplomatic life of Ambassador Jawad.

In the third week of January this year, the ambassador flew to Buenos Aires to present his credentials as non-resident ambassador to Argentina. On January 19 he met Argentine Vice President Daniel Scioli for this purpose. Knowing that Argentina is a major energy provider in South America, he also met with Argentine Deputy Foreign Minister for economic affairs to seek his country`s assistance in rebuilding and investing in Afghanistan`s energy sector. He also welcomed Argentina`s participation in peacekeeping operations and invited the country to contribute forces to the International Security Assistance Force for maintaining security in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Jawad returned from Argentina just in time to attend President Bush`s inauguration ceremony later the same morning. Although jet-lagged and fatigued, the ambassador used every opportunity to discuss his country`s multiple rebuilding needs with international diplomats over lunch at the White House. A long day of official events ended at 6:30pm, after which he headed back to the embassy, which also serves as his residence. Work waiting for him there kept him busy until 1am the next morning. Ambassador Jawad returned to his office and residence both housed in the same building.

The ambassador`s January 22-25 program was jam-packed. He was scheduled to inaugurate a new Afghan Consulate in Los Angeles, speak to the Afghan community in the Bay Area, give interviews to numerous media, and give a talk on `Building Afghanistan: The Struggle for Freedom` at the World Affairs Council (WAC) in San Francisco.

On January 22 he caught a Jet Blue flight from Dulles Airport to the West Coast, foregoing luxury and convenience to save precious funds Afghanistan needs for rebuilding the country, and showing his staff how to avoid excessive spending at the government`s cost.

While inaugurating the new Consulate, Ambassador Jawad delivered an emotional speech, pointing to the Afghan flag, which, he noted, had not existed three years ago. And, of course, there had been no Los Angeles Consulate to serve Afghans working there. Sharing his inspired vision to rebuild Afghanistan, the ambassador said, `I am a servant of this flag and you, and I am honored to inaugurate with you our Consulate today. Now you have a home in Los Angeles.` Afghan participants were moved, bursting into tears from happiness that their country was again peaceful and moving towards sustainable security and prosperity.

Gratified by his countrymen`s happiness and national pride, Ambassador Jawad spent the evening with General Consul Atifmal discussing ways to serve Afghans in California and find ways that they can help their homeland. On arrival in Fremont the next day, the ambassador dispensed with the customary limousine, opting for a $45/day rental car instead.

At Fremont events, the ambassador thanked Bay Area Afghans for having never abandoned their dream of rebuilding Afghanistan. He expressed appreciation for the work done by Afghan civil society organizations to keep Afghanistan in the political and media spotlights. He called upon wealthy Afghans to invest in Afghanistan`s emerging markets and encouraged Afghan professionals to take advantage of the Return of Qualified Afghans Programs to help build institutional capacity in the Afghan government.

On January 24, Ambassador Jawad discussed the possibility of a fiber optics project in Afghanistan with an Afghan entrepreneur. Then he met with Nadia Tarzai, Vice President of the Afghan Archaeology Association, discussing the Association`s endeavors to unearth and preserve Afghanistan`s rich artifacts and Buddha sculptures in Afghanistan`s Bamyan province.

The ambassador took his staff to lunch in Chinatown, and then gave an interview to Anchor Dana King of CBS at his hotel. In the interview he stressed that Afghanistan`s achievements could be undone if the problem of narcotics was not solved. He singled out social underdevelopment, reintegration of 3.2 million refugees, and disarmament of militias as major difficulties which the government needed to overcome with international assistance.

After speaking at the World Affairs Council, the ambassador did an 8:00-9:30PM radio interview and responded to numerous phone calls to explain Afghanistan`s steady reconstruction progress.

On January 25, he boarded an economy flight back to Washington, ending another of his ever-busy weeks as his country`s senior envoy to the United States.

Like other good leaders, Ambassador Jawad is quick to acknowledge the team effort of his Embassy staff members who work diligently to provide him with the support he needs to accomplish Afghanistan`s national objectives. A staunch supporter of reform in the civil administration, Ambassador Jawad has challenged recruiters to find and employ professional Afghans with deep national commitment. Working closely with his staff, the ambassador enables them to act on his behalf and initiate projects of national importance. The Embassy`s newsletter, a new website, and the Afghanistan Business Gateway website are among such projects initiated by the Embassy staff.

A week of routine business reveals some personal qualities that distinguish the ambassador`s leadership and reveal his character: showing the way, inspiring a shared vision, calling for excellence in government, and enabling others to act. These are the characteristics of visionary and capable leaders. The cause of the Afghan people is their country`s reconstruction with peace and democracy. Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad has set the leadership model that merits emulation by Afghans of similar vision aspiring to play a valuable role in the process of rebuilding Afghanistan.

M. Ashraf Haidari is Peace Scholar in International Security & Development at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C.