Dobbins retiring this month
Dobbins, 72, is retiring when Afghanistan is struggling to determine the results of its presidential election, a process that has been undermined by fraud allegations and following a tumultuous year in which the Obama administration settled on a plan for withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan but ran into a roadblock in trying to pursue peace talks with the Taliban.
In an interview with New York Times, Dobbins took a hopeful, if somewhat guarded, view of the troubled political situation in Afghanistan.
The sizable turnout in the Afghan elections initially raised hopes of a smooth political transition, but allegations of fraud in the runoff between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have cast a cloud over the political process.
“I think this election impasse at the moment is serious and could present a real danger of a division in the country,” Dobbins said. “It is not unusual for countries at this level of development. They don’t tend to have a tradition of good losers.”
But Dobbins asserted that Afghanistan was “better positioned” to deal with its political crisis because its religious, linguistic and ethnic tensions were not as sharp as those that once divided Yugoslavia or that now threaten to splinter Iraq.
“But wending our way through this and getting a clear result that everybody acknowledges is legitimate and acceptable is the proximate and probably most important variable for Afghanistan’s future,” said Dobbins, who added he was “hopeful that it will be brought to a conclusion in the next few weeks.”
During his long career, Dobbins served as special envoy on Somalia, Haiti and the Balkans. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the Bush administration appointed him as a special envoy for Afghanistan.
Dobbins helped forge the consensus at the Bonn conference in 2001 that settled on Hamid Karzai to serve as Afghanistan’s first president, before leaving the State Department for the Rand Corporation.
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