Tonight’s event is a good opportunity to update you on the security, political, social and economic situation in Afghanistan, as we in the National Unity Government work hard to build on our collective achievements over the past fifteen years, through our strong partnership with our many friends and partners in the international community.
Since the United States’ engagement in Afghanistan, following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the United States of America has been a trusted and strategic partner of Afghanistan. Therefore, this is a fitting opportunity to extend the gratitude of the people and Government of Afghanistan to the United States Government, and the American people for their continued and unwavering support.
We are grateful to the families and loved ones of the many brave military and civilian personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice to help stabilize Afghanistan. It goes without saying that these efforts have not been in vain, since they have helped us to improve the lives of our people, and to put us on the path of stability and Self-Reliance, in spite of the many challenges we still face.
I have every confidence that our allies will remain by our side to help us see through our shared journey for success.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As most of you may know, the National Unity Government was formed in a spirit of partnership, consensus and collaboration, with a view to preserving Afghanistan’s national interest and unity. In spite of the challenges facing any coalition government, the NUG represents the absolute majority of the people of Afghanistan, who defied violence and cast their vote to consolidate democracy and pluralism in our country.
This past week, the Unity Government reached its two-year mark. Over this period of time, President Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah have worked hard to implement a comprehensive reforms agenda, in the political, economic and social sectors to overcome the threat of corruption, and to re-invent the image of our institutions, so that they are deemed more effective and credible in the eyes our people.
To that end, we have taken the initiative to appoint competent and capable officials, who place Afghanistan’s best interest above personal motives. It is only with such measures that we will be able to effectively implement projects and policies, to bring “real and tangible change” in the lives of our people, who, regrettably, have suffered from war, violence and poverty for over three-decades.
Step by step, and initiative-by-initiative, we are working to embolden our people’s trust and confidence in our State-institutions, knowing that the rule of law is a fundamental component for stability and prosperity in any society.
As part of a major overhaul of our court-system, we have begun the process of appointing capable judges and lawyers, in place of individuals who were implicated in corruption and illegal activities. In that effort, more than 600 judges have already been replaced, with investigations of many cases now being conducted. In the broader context, our overall goal is to instill a culture of genuine public service in the Government.
Aside from judicial reform, we have also taken a series of measures to manage our public finances more effectively. A lack of transparency in the issuance and approval of government contracts over the past several years exacerbated the problem of administrative corruption. As a measure to change this dangerous trend, the Unity Government established the National Procurement Commission, co-chaired by the President and Chief Executive, to ensure that different stages of the process adhere to clear guidelines and regulations, to avoid corruption. Thus far, we have approved over a thousand contracts valued at more than 2 billion dollars. In that effort, we saved more than 200 million dollars, and blacklisted 70 companies for malpractice.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The people of Afghanistan, along with the many military and civilian personnel from the United States and our other partners, have made enormous sacrifices for the restoration of democracy in our country. To that end, the Unity Government is also focused on reforming our electoral institutions, in order to ensure the credibility and transparency of our future elections. We consider our democracy to be a strategic asset for our stability. We will, therefore, make every effort to consolidate the democratization process.
From a security standpoint, our army and police are leading combat operations against a dangerous and sophisticated network of terrorist and extremist groups, who continue their brutality against our security forces, as well as our public officials and ordinary civilians alike. Our forces are confronting and degrading enemy combatants on different fronts. Recently, we have foiled their efforts to capture and maintain control of key districts in Kunduz, Helmand and Uruzgan. Overall, the Taliban and their affiliates are significantly weakened in terms of morale, and operational capability. As a result, they have resorted to asymmetrical attacks, focused on soft targets, such as educational institutions, aid agencies and public gatherings.
Early last month a group of extremists attacked the American University in Afghanistan in Kabul, killing 7 students and 5 other faculty and university staff. The attack was seen as an attack on our enduring partnership with the United States of America, our key ally and partner.
We don’t expect the violence and terror to subside anytime soon, as the Taliban and affiliate groups are sustained with logistical, financial and material support from elements in Pakistan. As we have stated time and again, terrorism will not be defeated in Afghanistan or elsewhere, as long as the distinction between “good terrorist” and “bad terrorist” continues, coupled with the lingering problem of terrorist safe-havens and sanctuaries, which remain unaddressed.
Despite their attacks, the enemies of Afghanistan’s peace and stability could never overcome our people’s determination to achieve a peaceful and prosperous country. Afghanistan remains in the frontline of the global war against terrorism. We will continue the fight against our common enemy, until its eventual defeat.
In that context, it will be critically important that the international community remains invested in building the operational capacity of our army and police, as we move forward. We welcome the outcome of the successful NATO Warsaw Summit in June, where our NATO partners renewed their support for our national security forces until the end of 2020, with the provision of approximately one billion dollars on an annual basis. That pledge of support resonates strongly with our brave young soldiers and officers standing in harms way to defeat extremists, for the benefit of peace and security in Afghanistan, and the world at large.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As our fight against terrorism will continue, we have not closed the window of opportunity for peace and reconciliation with elements of the armed opposition ready to give up violence. Yet, we know that any prospect for success is strictly contingent on the extent to which the Government of Pakistan is willing and ready to clamp down on extremist groups, while persuading other groups and individuals ready to renounce violence, to engage in direct peace talks.
In this regard, we still believe the Quadrilateral Coordination Group composed of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States can be a useful platform “if and only if” Pakistan adheres to its commitments made, in the context of the QCG’s “Road Map.”
We also believe that the United States, among other relevant stakeholders can play a role in persuading Pakistan to change course, and act in “good faith.”
Despite the fact that our peace efforts with the Taliban “have so far failed to gain any traction” we are optimistic about progress in the High Peace Council’s dialogue and outreach with the Hezi-Islami Group of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. This is an important development in our overall efforts to end the continuing violence and conflict plaguing our country.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As one of the significant achievements of the Unity Government over the past two years, we have elevated Afghanistan’s standing as a credible and trusted partner to the international community. In less than two weeks from now, as a follow-up to the London and Warsaw Conferences, Afghanistan and the international community will come together in Brussels to review the full range of our collaboration, in the areas of security, governance, economic development, and regional cooperation.
We will present to the international community, the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework, which provides our 5-year Strategic Plan to achieve Self-Reliance.
We look to our allies to match their security assistance, with new pledges of development aid to help us achieve our Self-Reliance Strategy, during the Transformation Decade, and beyond.
Despite our many challenges, we are confident about the future. The significant achievements over the past fifteen years should be a source of pride for not only our people, but also the people of the United States of America and of other friendly countries. It was with your support – the general public – that enabled the continuation of US support and assistance for Afghanistan.
As we look ahead, we fully understand that the future path ahead of us is – by no means – void of difficult challenges. Having said that, we are confident about our future. The many achievements of the past fifteen years in various domains of society have had a profound impact on the lives of our people. In that spirit, we look forward to continuing, and deepening our bilateral cooperation and partnership with the United States, on the basis of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, and the Bilateral Security Agreement.
Before concluding my remarks, I would to thank the Council on Foreign Relations for the opportunity to be here with you this evening, and most importantly for your continued interest in, and support for the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan.