The National Security Council (NSC) is a body that works to improve decision-making in the national interest and the protection of national values, territorial integrity and national sovereignty under the chairmanship of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, H.E. the President. In most countries, including Afghanistan, the NSC makes the most important decisions in the field of foreign policy, defense and security, and other matters. The members of this council are high-ranking political, military and security officials of the country.
In order to advance the administrative and secretarial affairs of the NSC, most countries have an institution known by various names such as the Secretariat or the Office of the National Security Council, usually headed by a National Security Adviser (NSA).
In our country, the NSA is the head of the Office the National Security Council (ONSC), whose most important function is to coordinate among the defense and security institutions, monitor and evaluate the affairs of those institutions, and provide secretariat functions for the meetings of the National Security Council.
Recently, contradictory discussions have been initiated by certain quarters about the role of the Office of The National Security Council, its functions and authorities and how it interacts with the country's defense and security institutions. These discussions are either mainly aimed at undermining this important and effective office or are rooted in a lack of awareness by those who instigate them.
The ONSC, as part of the Office of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is responsible for following through on the instructions of the President. The laws of the country, particularly of the Constitution, do not preclude the creation or operation of this office; rather, certain laws, such as the Anti-Money Laundering Law, entrust specific responsibilities to this office.
The National Security Adviser is also a position created pursuant to the laws of the country; several of these laws refer to the position.
The right and freedom to express one's opinion is one of the most fundamental rights of citizens. If these opinions are constructive and based on facts or expertise, they are undoubtedly necessary and helpful. But if the views are misleading or express ulterior motives, they would likely lead public opinion in an unknown direction.
The purpose of sharing the information in this piece is only to clarify the operation, authorities and responsibilities of the Office of the National Security Council and those of the defense and security institutions so that citizens can both know more and make up their minds about their public officials. In order to eliminate any misunderstanding, the important and fundamental features of this office are mentioned briefly.
First: Distinction Between the National Security Council and the Office of The National Security Council
1. Established pursuant to Article 64 of the Constitution, the National Security Council is the highest decision-making body on important issues related to national security;
2. The provisions of Article 64 of the Constitution, which enshrine the President’s authority as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, also designate him as the chairman of the NSC;
3. Alongside the Vice Presidents, the ministers of defense and security institutions, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Finance, the NSA is a member of the NSC;
4. The Office of the National Security Council, which was first established by a decree of the then-president of the Transitional Government, still plays the role of the "secretariat" of the NSC, even after necessary amendments to the decree have been made through the years;
5. The National Security Advisor to the President is entitled "National Security Advisor of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan." In other countries, various titles are used for this role, such as National Security Advisor, Secretary of the National Security Council, and National Security Advisor to the President;
6. The NSA carries out his duties in light of the instructions of the chairman of the NSC, its members and the decisions of the body; and
7. The ONSC has a consolidated organizational structure consisting of highly competent employees and experts appointed only on the basis of professional necessity.
Second: Executive Mechanisms
1. The ONSC undertakes its duties in accordance with a set of regulations named Regulations for the Functions of Office of the National Security Council;
2. The aforementioned regulations become enforceable upon the National Security Council’s approval following each presidential election;
3. Coordinating, expediting and facilitating the implementation of security and defense affairs is one of the key responsibilities of ONSC. In our workplace, we also refer to these responsibilities as the “basic working principles”;
4. The resolutions of the NSC, orders from the chairman of the NSC, and the national security priorities of the country are the guiding principles that shape the framework of the ONSC’s responsibilities;
5. The ONSC uses the following modus operandi to carry out its functions in accordance with the aforementioned basic working principles:
1) Meetings of the National Security Council chaired by the President and attended by other members of the NSC;
2) Meetings of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, chaired by H.E. the President and attended by relevant ministers from the defense and security sector;
3) Meetings of senior security leadership, chaired by the NSA and attended by relevant ministers from the defense and security sector;
4) Meetings of the Deputies’ Committee, chaired by the Deputy National Security Adviser and attended by deputies from relevant ministries;
5) Technical inter-ministerial meetings to follow up on affairs relegated to the Office of the National Security Council, track their progress and ensure they are carried out in a timely and proper manner;
6) Drafting and evaluating important security documents before they are reviewed and approved during the aforementioned meetings;
7) Coordinating, monitoring and enabling the implementation of tasks among defense and security institutions and other relevant sectors; and
8) Carrying out other affairs that the President and other institutions – in light of national security priorities – relegate to the ONSC.
Third: Key Responsibilities and Achievements
Since its inception, the ONSC has had many achievements in the political, security, military and other spheres. The most important ones are highlighted below:
1. Drafting and approval of key documents pertaining to national security and foreign policy;
2. Maintaining and strengthening foreign relations with friendly countries;
3. Negotiating with friendly countries to seek their support for the national defense and security forces;
4. Coordinating and facilitating political, military, security and technical affairs with relevant local and international institutions; also, overseeing the implementation of agreements on security cooperation with the United States of America and NATO;
5. Supporting relevant institutions to establish and strengthen relations with neighboring countries;
6. Facilitating the establishment of frameworks and mechanisms for security and governance in order to strengthen the defense and security sector and improving local governance. For example, the resolutions from the Kabul-Bamiyan Senior Security Meetings served to create an inter-ministerial mechanism for national-level security policy.
7. Working closely with defense and security institutions to help develop their future defense and security plans. For example, organizing a three-day conference on "Future Forces" under the direct guidance of the President;
8. Overseeing and facilitating services for the wounded members of the Defense and Security Forces and the families of the martyred;
It is worth noting that the leadership of the ONSC is fully committed to carrying out its responsibilities of coordinating, expediting and facilitating security and defense affairs in compliance with the established “basic working principles” of this office. The ONSC has no intention or desire to interfere in the affairs of other institutions, particularly those dealing with security and defense.
The ONSC’s relations with other institutions, particularly those in the security and defense sector, are clearly defined and there is no ambiguity. The progress and achievements of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are a source of pride for our servicemembers and for the Afghan nation. The challenges that brave ANSDF servicemembers face also cannot be denied, and security ministries are paying due attention and have undertaken serious efforts aimed at tackling these challenges. The leadership of the ONSC recognizes the constitutionally designated role of the ministers and other officials of the defense and security ministries.
Finally, it may be made clear that the leadership of the defense and security sector at all levels is committed to accountability. As is evident, the NSA regularly conducts press briefings and interviews with different media outlets where he engages the journalists and addresses their questions; he also answers questions from security officials, tribal elders and members of ANSDF during his provincial visits. He has also reached out to, and engaged extensively with, various political leaders, members of the parliament, members of civil society, journalists and tribal elders.
From top to bottom, the Office of the National Security Council believes in the principle of accountability. But to imagine that the Office of the National Security Council is accountable for matters beyond the ambit of its responsibility is misplaced.
Abdul Moqim Abdulrahimzai is the Chief of Staff -- Office of the National Security Council of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Prior to that, he worked as Director-General of Secretariat of the Office of National Security Council, Director-General of Plan and Operations, Chief of Staff for Deputy-Ministry of Security Affairs, and Director of Foreign Relations for the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs.
Mr. Abdulrahimzai holds a Bachelors degree from the Afghan National Police Academy and has pursued graduate studies at the Royal College of Defense Studies in the United Kingdom. In addition, he has participated in advanced training programs for senior government officials in leadership development, strategy and policy design and implementation, diplomacy, and counter-terrorism in institutions such as the University Leicester, National Defense University in Washington D.C. and Harvard University. Twitter: @AbMoqim
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