Following is the text of a letter from the Public Diplomacy Council and the Public Diplomacy Association of America to members of congressional foreign affairs committees regarding public diplomacy on the situation in Afghanistan.
The Public Diplomacy Council and Public Diplomacy Association of America are non-partisan, non-profit organizations committed to promoting the professional practice, academic study, and advocacy for public diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy. Many of our members have devoted years to work in and with Afghanistan and are saddened by the chaos that has enveloped that country.
Moving forward, we offer the following recommendations to our leaders and institutions:
- Press: We urge that the U.S. and international media and their Afghan staff seeking assistance be included among those protected and evacuated from Afghanistan. For those remaining in Afghanistan, we urge that the State Department provide support for respected international NGOs that advocate for press freedom and journalist protections, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists.
- Education: We urge that the United States provide protections for the evacuation and support for Afghan scholars and educators seeking refuge through respected independent organizations such as the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund. Higher education institutions operating in Afghanistan, including the American University of Afghanistan, if permitted to continue operation without interference are deserving of continued support.
- Cultural Heritage: We urge the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs take emergency action to close U.S. borders to illegal imports of Afghan antiquities as authorized by the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. The Bureau should also engage reputable international partners to assist in the protection of Afghanistan’s threatened cultural heritage from destruction or looting for overseas trafficking.
- Diplomacy: The President has underscored the importance of our diplomacy in going forward, both in our relationship with Afghanistan and in our broader counter terrorism efforts. We strongly recommend that when the current emergency mission is substantially complete, the United States return to our Embassy in Kabul as conditions permit. This will require leadership and bipartisan support, but we have confidence in the bravery and abilities of our diplomats. The closing of our Embassy would pose grave challenges for urgently needed U.S. engagement, communication and intelligence operations. Our competitors and adversaries are not leaving the field.
- State Department Messaging: Our Department spokespersons and Embassies must emphasize our commitment to supporting the desire for everyone in Afghanistan for safety, for our gratitude and efforts to assist evacuating nationals of our Coalition and NATO partners who have supported the United States the past two decades and the NGOs who have assisted our efforts. We also have a responsibility to assure the safety of our locally employed staff.
- Counter Terrorism Engagement: Public affairs messaging must underscore the President’s repeated desire to work with like-minded nations in continuing counter terrorism efforts. Many of our partners in the Gulf region and beyond are watching our words and deeds with important future stakes at risk. We will need to work beyond governments to vigorously engage public and private partners resisting the empowered advocates of Taliban ideology.
The letter bears the signatures of Sherry Mueller, PhD., President of the Public Diplomacy Council and Joel Fischman, President of the Public Diplomacy Association of America.
Joe B. Johnson consults on government communication and technology after a career in the United States Foreign Service and seven years in the private sector. He is an instructor for the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, where he teaches strategic planning for public diplomacy. Read More