MFA is downsizing under new reform package

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, January 07, caretaker of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Idrees Zaman said that they have completed a reform package under which the ministry will undergo new reforms and changes in a wide range at different levels of the ministry.

The reform package addresses all problems in the country’s foreign policy and have proposed some solutions, Mr. Zaman stated.

Bringing reforms at the MFA was a matter of dispute between both leaders of the National Unity Government (NUG), President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, during the tenure of Sallahuddin Rabbani, an ardent supporter of Abdullah, as caretaker of the ministry. Resigning from the ministry on October 24, 2019, Rabbani accused the presidential palace of creating “parallel structure” under the pretext of administrative reform at the MFA.

After Rabbani’s resignation, the process of bringing reform in the ministry was kicked off under leadership of the Idrees Zaman as caretaker of the MFA, backed by President Ghani.

Restructuring MFA

The newly developed reform package is aimed at improving the ministry’s functionality at the following four areas: changes in foreign policy, including improving performance of Afghanistan embassies and consulates, changes in recruitment process, promotion and disciplinary rules, fundamental changes in performance and using information technology, and facilitating a standardized consular service.

The reform package also contains bringing amendments into the law applied for employees of the ministry, a substantial downsize plan in all foreign missions of Afghanistan, restructure of the ministry, developing new principles for foreign policy, redefining working process, and reforms in financial and administrative affairs of the ministry.

According to Mr. Zaman, as the MFA is a “specialized and security establishment” it needs a separate law for its employees.

A summary of the package shared with the media indicates that 100 official positions within the MFA’s missions abroad and 78 positions within MFA’s structure inside the country would be downsized as part of the reform plan. It further suggests that four directorates and two deputy ministries will be also integrated.

According to estimates of the MFA, the downsizing plan would save around 600 million afghanis from being wasted. The saved amount will be used to implement reforms within the ministry, provide a retirement fund for senior staff members of the MFA, and to purchase properties for Afghanistan’s foreign missions abroad.

With Mr. Zaman taking the charge in the ministry, a number of MPs claimed that he was implementing an ethno-centric agenda in the ministry, firing non-Pashtun employees from the MFA.

Rejecting the claims, Mr. Zaman underlined he was not aware of who would be harmed as the result of the downsizing plan. “I assure you that there is no ethno-centric and language issues (discrimination) neither in the current leadership of the ministry, nor in our directorates.”

Economy-centric foreign policy

Afghanistan’s presidential palace had previously stressed on developing an economy-centric foreign policy which required the MFA to be more proactive and focused on economic initiatives. It also noted that regional connectivity, promoting economic cooperation in the region and beyond are Afghanistan top priorities that need to be adhered into the country’s foreign policy.

“Developing and implementation of an economy-centric foreign policy, preparing certain plans for bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation, and setting certain goals and objectives in an accountable and responsible manner would prepare all the country’s political missions and consulates for more effective operations,” part of the reform package reads.

Deputy for Economic Cooperation at the MFA, Mirwais Naab, said that the reform package is mainly focused on how to change the existing confrontations and rivalries into cooperation, and increase cooperation between countries to ensure interests of Afghanistan and other countries.